Shepard Fairey Gets $25,000 Fine and Two Years Probation in “HOPE” Poster Dispute

This morning the Los Angeles-based street artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine by United States magistrate Judge Frank Maas in a Manhattan federal court, concluding a long legal battle between the artist and the Associated Press over a photo of then-congressman Barack Obama that served as the basis for his iconic “HOPE” poster.

“After spending a great amount of time, energy and legal effort, all of us at The Associated Press are glad this matter is finally behind us,” AP president and chief executive Gary Pruitt said in a statement quoted by the New York Times. “We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”

Fairey and the AP settled an earlier, civil case revolving around fair use laws, with both parties reaching an undisclosed financial agreement and planning to share merchandising rights to the image. The case that was decided today stemmed from Fairey’s guilty plea in February to criminal contempt, when he that he had destroyed and falsified documents pertaining to the case. Prosecutors originally sought a six-month jail sentence for the street artist, but instead he will serve two years of probation and pay a $25,000 fine.

“My wrong-headed actions, born out of a moment of fear and embarrassment, have not only been financially  and psychologically costly to myself and my family” Fairey said following the verdict according to the Times, “but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place — the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.”

— Benjamin Sutton