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Associated Press settles dispute over Obama 'Hope' image

A copyright infringement lawsuit over the use of an image of Barack Obama on Obey Clothing merchandise was settled with an agreement which will see the two parties "collaborate to create and sell apparel" using graphics based on photographs owned by AP.

Disputes over the use of an Associated Press photograph of Barack Obama were reported to have reached a final resolution this week, as a settlement was announced between the agency and clothing firm Obey Clothing.

AP and Obey Clothing, an apparel company and exclusive licensee of Shepard Fairey, 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, AP and Obey Clothing will collaborate to create and sell apparel using Shepard Fairey’s graphics based on photographs owned by AP. Obey Clothing has further agreed that it will not use another AP photo without obtaining a licence from AP. The parties agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Additional financial terms remain confidential. The settlement also amicably resolves claims that AP filed last week against three retailers who sold T-shirts and other apparel distributed by Obey Clothing.

Fairey used an AP portrait photograph of Barack Obama in making the Obama Hope poster. Fairey did not license the photograph from AP before using it. Fairey licensed the Hope image to Obey Clothing for use on T-shirts and other merchandise. The litigation involving Fairey was resolved according to a settlement that included confidential financial terms. AP also brought claims against Obey Clothing, contending that its T-shirts and other apparel that depicted the Hope image obviously copied AP’s photo. Obey Clothing claimed, among other things, that it did not appropriate any copyrightable material from AP’s photo. 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 US 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 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 commercialisation where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use. AP is particularly gratified that this settlement will benefit 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 that “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 longstanding 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.”

Date posted: March 18, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 130