Famed street artist Shepard Fairey was arrested in Boston over the weekend. The arrests stem from two warrants for instances of the  OBEY, Andre the Giant graffiti from earlier in his career. One of locations that Shepard supposedly tagged were  the railroad trestle by the landmark Boston University bridge over the Charles River.  Why the police arrested Shepard on the way to be a guest DJ at his show at the Institute of Contemporary Art  called “Supply and Demand” is beyond me. They could have just as easily served the warrant after the show. No stranger to being arrested, Fairey says that he has been arrested about 14 times previously and stated that if he had known about the warrants he would have taken care of them before heading over to the show.

This arrest comes hot on the heels of an AP story that the AP is looking into legal action against Fairey for misuse of an image in the iconic Obama Hope poster.  The image used as a base for the poster, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington.



The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees. FRom the AP story:

“The Associated Press has determined that the photograph used in the poster is an AP photo and that its use required permission,” the AP’s director of media relations, Paul Colford, said in a statement. “AP safeguards its assets and looks at these events on a case-by-case basis. We have reached out to Mr. Fairey’s attorney and are in discussions. We hope for an amicable solution.”

“We believe fair use protects Shepard’s right to do what he did here,” says Fairey’s lawyer, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University and a lecturer at the Stanford Law School. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to comment beyond that at this time because we are in discussions about this with the AP.”

Fair use is a legal concept that allows exceptions to copyright law, based on, among other factors, how much of the original is used, what the new work is used for and how the original is affected by the new work.

As a photographer, I think that the AP has a right to protect it’s images, but this poster has been around for a while now. It is probably one of the most copied images in the world. Why did it take the AP so long to come forward? 

Fairey was recently named of of USA Networks “Character Approved ” Awards recipients. The video clip actually starts with Fairey tagging a wall with the OBEY artwork and includes the line:

I love the challenge of doing something I’m not supposed to be doing and getting away with it.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Shepard Fairey during the summer of 2008. He was the artist responsible for the new Billy Idol album cover and he and Billy threw a party in Los Angeles during the “House of Billy” run at the Los Angeles House of Blues. 


Billy Idol and Shepard Fairey

For more on the AP story, go HERE

For more on the arrest, go HERE

For the USA Network award, go HERE