Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Copyright-Infringing Artist May do Hard Time

Obama Hope 2008




Is it possible to do jail time for copyright infringement?  If you destroy and falsify discovery information during your federal trial, the answer is yes.  You are probably familiar with the iconic Obama posters from the 2008 election.  The hugely successful posters were created by Los Angeles artist Shepard Fairey.  Fairey based the image off a copyright-protected image, owned by the Associated Press.  In 2009, perhaps in a preemptive move, Fairey sued the Associated Press in Federal Court, seeking a declaration that the poster constituted “Fair Use.”  The AP countersued.  Fairey claimed he had used a certain image of Obama with actor George Clooney, when in reality the image was based off a closely cropped solo shot of the presidential candidate.  As the proceedings rolled along, it was discovered that Fairey had created several fake documents and deleted others to try and support his claim.  This, of course, led to a criminal case, to which Fairey pled guilty on February 24th.  He now faces up to 6 months jail time, and $5,000 in fines.