AP says artist lied about Obama poster


NEW YORK -- The Associated Press said Shepard Fairey concocted the story that he was mistaken about which photo he used to create the famous Obama HOPE poster.

The news organization also disputes Fairey's contention that he has not personally profited from the iconic red, white and blue image.

Days after Fairey acknowledged trying to destroy potentially damaging evidence in his legal battle with the AP, the news organization filed amended papers in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday accusing the poster artist of deliberate deception. Until recently, Fairey had claimed his image was based on a 2006 photo of then-Sen. Barack Obama, seated next to actor George Clooney. Fairey now says he used a solo, close-up shot of Obama, as the AP had long alleged.

"It is simply not credible that Fairey somehow forgot in January 2009 which source image he used to create the Infringing Works, which were completed only a year earlier in January 2008," according to the papers filed Tuesday.

"It also strains credulity that an experienced graphic designer such as Shepard Fairey misremembered cropping George Clooney out of a source image and making other changes ... when no such cropping or other changes were ever made."

Calls and e-mail messages to Fairey's lead counsel, Anthony Falzone, and Fairey's publicist, Jay Strell, were not immediately returned.

Fairey sued the not-for-profit news cooperative in February, arguing that he didn't violate copyright law because he dramatically changed the image and thus was protected by "fair use" guidelines. The AP countersued in March, saying the uncredited, uncompensated use of an AP photo violated copyright laws and signaled a threat to journalism.

"Fair use" is determined, in part, by how much a new work changes an older one. The photo that Fairey acknowledges using appears closer to the HOPE artwork than does the picture of Obama and Clooney.

Fairey has long contended that he did not make money off of the image, which has appeared on posters, buttons, shirts and stickers, in books and in museums, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. But the AP alleged Tuesday that Fairey, through his Obey Clothing store, has "generated substantial revenue from the commercial exploitation of the Obama posters on T-shirts and other merchandise."

In the papers filed Tuesday, the AP added Obey Clothing as a counterclaim defendant.

The photo of Obama and Clooney was taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia, on assignment for the AP, at the National Press Club in Washington. Garcia, who also shot the solo picture, filed his own suit in July claiming he owned the copyright.