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A photograph that symbolizes “Hope” causes a lot of legal drama!

by Shakeria Northcross, Esq.

(Photo owned by Associated Press, left. Poster created by Shepard Fairey, right.)

Who knew that a photograph that symbolizes “Hope” would also cause a lot of legal drama. The Associated Press had Mannie Garcia take a photograph of Barack Obama at an event. This photograph would eventually become well-known after being used by Shepard Fairey who created the famous “Hope” poster used by Obama's campaign.

Fairey failed to get a license to use the photograph from the Associated Press, then Fairey proceeded to license the poster’s image to other companies like Obey Clothing. The Associated Press brought claims against Fairey, Obey Clothing, and others who were using their photograph. The Associated Press agreed to confidential financial settlements with both Fairey and Obey Clothing and both parties agreed to not use the Associated Press’s photographs without licenses.

Things to remember about copyrights:

After an idea is put into a fixed tangible form (writing, recording, photograph, etc.), by law, the creator has a copyright in that work. However, the creator cannot sue anyone in court for copyright infringement unless the creator has a certificate of registration from the Copyright Office.

Mailing a copy of your work to yourself does not give you the right to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit because it does not prove you created the work.

You never know when your next photograph, drawing, or beat will catch someone’s attention and be copied. As a creative and entrepreneur, how are you making sure that your intellectual property is an asset that adds value to your empire?


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