The saga of Shepard Fairey vs. the Associated Press finally came to a close today, as the LA-based street artist was sentenced to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine for committing criminal contempt of court. Fairey pled guilty to the charge earlier this year.

The legal drama all began back in 2009, when Fairey preemptively sued the AP in an attempt to prove that his appropriation of one of the organization’s photos as the basis for his Obama “Hope” and “Progress” images was fair use. At the time, he alleged that the picture he had drawn on was one of then Senator Obama alongside actor George Clooney at a National Press Club event.

That wasn’t true, however; Fairey actually used a different, very tightly cropped portrait of Obama, and he went to great lengths to cover his tracks, including creating false documents and deleting other incriminating ones. Today’s press release, from the office of United State District Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, explains:

In May and July 2009, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, to whom the copyright litigation had been assigned, entered various orders directing that there be discovery in the copyright litigation and setting deadlines for the completion of that discovery. FAIREY disobeyed and resisted these orders. FAIREY concealed his destruction of documents, concealed his manufacture of fake documents, suggested to an employee that a back-dated document retention policy be created to justify why documents had been deleted, and coached a witness in the civil case to give an account that FAIREY knew to be untrue.

Given his actions, it’s no surprise that Fairey was sentenced, and at least he doesn’t have to serve jail time. But $25,000 is a big sum, and more than the expected fine, which, according to our report back in February, was a maximum of $5,000.

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

6 replies on “Shepard Fairey Gets Two Years’ Probation and $25,000 Fine”

  1. My guess is that the fine is HUGE because of a plea bargain. I know his legal team was crying ‘health problems’ as they always do. Maybe Fairey should think about his health problems before breaking the law. That whole “I’m diabetic.” line will not work at some point.

  2. Jail time for lying and conspiring to cover up misuse of a photo? That’s a bit excessive considering the decidedly far more grievous and illegal things that the DOJ has decided shouldn’t be prosecuted.

    He knowingly and willfully broke a few laws and he was punished for it. This is actually called “justice” as his crime, as so many for which people are sent to prison, doesn’t rise to that level of jail time. We incarcerate far too many people for genuinely ridiculous reasons because the privatization of incarceration has created a tidy little prison-industrial complex. There’s no need to send another person who will not benefit or be reformed by his incarceration.

  3. Artists who ‘appropriate’ (read rip off) other creatives get what they deserve. If you cant create without the “help” from previously created works then get out and go become a

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