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.