Copyright Infringement vs. Artistic Freedom

In this clip, Shepard Fairey, artist of “Hope” poster fame, defends himself against the AP’s allegations that he stole the image on which the obsequious illustration was based. (For background, you can see our post from early February.)

Fairey, who seems to have never met a copyright he didn’t want to infringe, claims these type of lawsuits will hinder artistic expression. While he believes in intellectual property, he says, “Is it really fair for the AP to send a ripple of fear out to that entire community [of politically themed artists] that they will not make art for fear of having, you know, congress coming after them for copyright law? … This is something that I need to fight just for the sake of artists in general, not just for me.”

I am torn. On the one hand, the photographer deserves his due. But the AP asking for damages seems excessive – can’t they prove their point with him paying the original licensing fee? It’s a slippery slope, as they say. If the AP doesn’t defend its copyrights, especially in such a high-profile case, then does everyone have free reign to take photos and manipulate them as they see fit?

Does it matter?

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