As one of my students, Marc Larocque, puts it, “Shepard Fairey is a hypocritical scumbag.” That’s really the only proper reaction you can have upon learning that Fairey, who’s fighting a copyright complaint lodged by the Associated Press, has himself charged an Austin artist with copyright violation for doing exactly the same thing.
The artist, Baxter Orr, took Fairey’s iconic image of Andre the Giant and put a respiratory mask on it — precisely the sort of “transformative” use that Fairey is relying on in his own repurposing of the AP’s Barack Obama photo to make his Obama “Hope” poster. Boston Globe cartoonist Dan Wasserman has all the details.
Fairey is up to his neck in it at the moment, filing a pre-emptive lawsuit against the AP and defending himself against vandalism charges brought by the Boston police. I still think his Obama poster is protected under the fair-use exception, as I wrote last week. But so is Orr’s Andre the Giant image. These are nearly identical cases, and it’s amazing that Fairey doesn’t see it that way.
Update: Gee, Fairey’s problem with Orr couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Orr seems less enamored of Obama than Fairey does. Could it?