The AP just announced that it’s settled its lawsuit against Shepard Fairey. (Officially, legally: “The Associated Press, Shepard Fairey and Mr. Fairey’s companies Obey Giant Art, Inc., Obey Giant LLC, and Studio Number One, Inc., have agreed in principle to settle their pending copyright infringement lawsuit over rights in the Obama Hope poster and related merchandise.”)
The news isn’t a surprise — yesterday, the AP reported, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein filed an order dismissing both suits based on a “suggestion of settlement” — but the AP’s announcement does contain a rather fascinating little tidbit:
In settling the lawsuit, the AP and Mr. Fairey have agreed that neither side surrenders its view of the law. Mr. Fairey has agreed that he will not use another AP photo in his work without obtaining a license from the AP. The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs. The parties have agreed to additional financial terms that will remain confidential.
So the big copyright case ends with a juicy little irony that you can read generously (“work together”) or more cynically (“merchandise”). As Fairey previously put it, in an explanation echoed in much of the case’s media coverage, “This is about artistic freedom and basic rights of free expression, which need to be available to all, whether they have money and lawyers or not.”
Today, he said: “I am pleased to have resolved the dispute with the Associated Press. I respect the work of photographers, as well as recognize the need to preserve opportunities for other artists to make fair use of photographic images. I often collaborate with photographers in my work, and I look forward to working with photos provided by the AP’s talented photographers.”