It is still in its infancy but the lawsuit between Shepard Fairey and The Associated Press over Fairey's use of a photograph taken by an AP photographer to create his well-known "Obama Hope" poster (and other related works) has already generated some interesting reading. Specifically, the AP filed its answer to Fairey's complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and asserted several counterclaims against Fairey and related entities for copyright infringement, a declaratory judgment and violation of the DMCA.
The core issue is whether Fairey's use of the AP photo constituted fair use. Fairey contends that his use of the photo "as a visual reference" was fair use and emphasizes the transformative nature of his creation:
"Fairey transformed the literal depiction contained in the [AP] Photograph into a stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that creates powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message that has no analogue in the original photograph."
Fairey also alleges that he "did not create any of the Obama Works for the sake of commercial gain", that the AP photo was a "factual" work, that he used only a reasonable portion of the photo, and that his use did not impose any "significant or cognizable harm" to the value of the AP photo.
The AP's answer disputes Fairey's characterization of his use of the AP photo, claiming that Fairey's work copies "all the distinctive and unequivocally recognizable elements of the Obama Photo in their entire detail, retaining the heart and essence of The AP's photo[.]"
But the AP's counterclaims go on to say much more about both the AP and Fairey, apparently in order to paint a picture of the "equities of this lawsuit" as the AP sees them. For example, AP's counterclaim alleges that Fairey has shown "willful disregard for the property rights of others" but has acted "hypocritically and aggressively when it comes to the protection of Fairey's works and enforcement against those who make use of them." The AP also describes the parties' pre-filing discussions and alleges Fairey's counsel "reneged" on a "standstill agreement" by filing the lawsuit.