On Friday, street artist Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic Obama ‘Hope’ poster, was arrested. This marks the 15th time the artist has been arrested for drawing on private property without permission. He was on his way to be honored with a solo exhibition at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art when he was taken into custody. He was out of jail a few hours later, but still faces arraignment.
This isn’t the only trouble the artist has faced recently. Apparently, he used an Associated Press photo as a basis for the ‘Hope’ poster without giving credit or financial compensation, resulting in a copyright dispute. Fairey maintains that the derivative work is substantially different from the photo and therefore does not infringe.
Fairey’s street artist roots and counterculture attitude continue to propel him into the spotlight. It was his intention that the image in dispute ‘go viral,’ which it certainly has. So, no matter what AP’s position, reproduction of the image is pretty much out of control.
Given that Fairey’s ‘crimes’ are misdemeanors, it’s interesting to look from afar and ponder just when it is that personal achievement trumps the public’s demand for ‘law and order.’