AP and Shepard Fairey's Obey Clothing settle copyright suit

Shepard Fairey's Obey Clothing and the Associated Press have come to an agreement about the use of Fairey's iconic image of Barack Obama, which was based on a copyrighted AP photographer's work, on his apparel. According to the AP's press release, neither Fairey nor the news agency "surrenders its view of the law" regarding the longstanding copyright dispute.

Romensko has the press release:

AP and Obey Clothing settle copyright infringement lawsuit

The Associated Press and Obey Clothing, an apparel company and exclusive licensee of Shepard Fairey, have agreed to settle their high-profile copyright infringement lawsuit over Obey Clothing’s sale and distribution of apparel and other merchandise bearing the image of Barack Obama in the 2008 Obama Hope poster. Pursuant to that agreement, the AP and Obey Clothing will collaborate to create and sell apparel using Shepard Fairey’s graphics based on photographs owned by the AP. Obey Clothing has further agreed that it will not use another AP photo without obtaining a license from the AP. The parties agree that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Additional financial terms remain confidential. The settlement also amicably resolves claims that the AP filed last week against three retailers who sold T-shirts and other apparel distributed by Obey Clothing.

Mr. Fairey used an AP portrait photograph of Barack Obama in making the Obama Hope poster. Mr. Fairey did not license the photograph from the AP before using it. Mr. Fairey licensed the Hope image to Obey Clothing for use on T-shirts and other merchandise. The litigation involving Mr. Fairey was resolved according to a settlement that included confidential financial terms. The AP also brought claims against Obey Clothing, contending that its T-shirts and other apparel that depicted the Hope image obviously copied the AP’s photo. Obey Clothing claimed, among other things, that it did not appropriate any copyrightable material from the AP’s photo. The AP’s claims against Obey Clothing remained pending and were scheduled to be heard in a jury trial in New York beginning March 21, 2011, before Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“The Associated Press is pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against Obey Clothing,” said Tom Curley, president and CEO. “This settlement marks the final resolution of the disputes over our rights in the AP’s photograph of Barack Obama. While it was a long road with many twists and turns along the way, the AP is proud of the result and will continue to vigorously defend its copyrighted photographs against wholesale copying and commercialization where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use. The AP is particularly gratified that this settlement will benefit the AP’s Emergency Relief Fund, which helps AP staff and families worldwide cope with catastrophes and natural disasters.”

Don Juncal, president of Obey Clothing, said: “The Associated Press has an impressive archive of work provided by talented photographers. We look forward to working with those photographers, as part of our long-standing relationship with Shepard Fairey, to produce and market apparel with the new images that will be created. We have collaborated with other photographers and artists in the past, and hope that will be a successful endeavor for all parties.”

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