Thursday, September 6, 2012


Feds Seek Prison Time 
For Obama "Hope" Artist

Prosecutors want Shephard Fairey sentencing to serve as a warning


Federal prosecutors want Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, to serve time in prison following his misdemeanor conviction for destroying and fabricating documents in connection with a civil lawsuit over the iconic campaign image.

In advance of Friday’s scheduled sentencing of Fairey in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the Department of Justice has filed a memorandum arguing that a prison term for the 42-year-old artist would be “appropriate.”

Shephard Fairey, 42-year-old artist under fire

However, prosecutors did not specify how long Fairey should be incarcerated (though, statutorily, his punishment would not exceed six months). Additionally, government lawyers have contended that Judge Frank Maas could fine Fairey up to $3.2 million.

“A sentence without any term of imprisonment sends a terrible message to those who might commit the same sort of criminal conduct,” wrote prosecutor Daniel Levy in a September 2 memo. “Encouraging parties to game the civil litigation system…creates terrible incentives and subverts the truth-finding function of civil litigation.”

Fairey, seen in the above mug shot, has admitted destroying electronic records and creating fake documents in an effort to thwart a copyright lawsuit brought by the Associated Press, which contended that Fairey had based the “Hope” image on a photo taken by an AP lensman.

Levy stated that Fairey reaped significant reputational and financial benefits from the Obama “Hope” image, which was created in early-2008. The prosecutor specifically cited the escalating combined profits of three Fairey companies, which grossed $2.93 million in 2007, $4.59 million in 2008, and $6.08 million in 2009.

In a sentencing memo filed by Fairey’s lawyers, the artist is described as a devoted husband and father of two young girls who deeply regrets “the worst mistake of his life.” In dozens of letters to Maas, Fairey’s friends, coworkers, and business associates convincingly attest to his contrition, charitable giving, and community service.

Arguing that a prison term is not warranted, Fairey’s counsel claimed that, following his guilty plea earlier this year, he has endured an online “public shaming” that “will now be a permanent scarlet letter for Shepard to wear.” Fairey’s lawyers have also contended that the artist, a diabetic, might not receive proper treatment for his illness if incarcerated in a Bureau of Prisons facility.

In a letter to Maas seeking leniency for Fairey, former Obama for America official Scott Greenstein recalled asking the artist to create a work during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. Fairey agreed, Greenstein wrote, because he “was willing to stand up and announce his support for Obama” at a time when others did not want to choose sides.

Fairey was finishing up the “Hope” poster “while he was waiting for his wife to deliver their second child,” noted Greenstein. Amanda Fairey, the artist’s spouse, wrote Maas that she “feared that making the poster would not be good for Shepard’s career.” But, she added, her husband “looked me in the eye and said to me that the reason he would be doing this was for our daughter’s future, not his career." 


  1. I don't believe in incarcerating non-violent criminals who have not harmed others.

    What he did was wrong, so fine him and be done with it.

  2. That all you got out of it, SF?

    ~ FT

  3. If it is decided in court that he did in fact copy AP's picture rather than just use it as a guide to draw it, which I believe is the case, then his profits should rightfully go to AP. Why the feds are sticking their nose into it is questionable, and probably politically motivated. We all know what an ass holder is. I can see a hefty fine, but the prison part is only because the subject of the so-called "art work" is NOMObama.

  4. I am in complete agreement with Average American's take on the the prison term foolishness. It is highly politically motivated and has very ominous implications.

    If the picture is proven to have been in fact copied then yep he out the dough...

  5. I'm surprised he attracts so much hostility. I remember he came into Massachusetts and some dickhead state cop tried to arrest him on a graffiti charge.
    Lot of hatred for some reason.

    Now we have some plagiarism charge. Some B&W wire photo. The color scheme of the poster is what makes it artistic not the underlying commonplace portrait.

    This is the pure stinky cheese.

  6. That's exactly right, Ducky.

    "Art" is not determined by the raw material you use so much as what you make of it.

    Now if he used an original drawing or a painting fashioned by someone else's hand I might feel differently, but a lousy photo?

    Please! Give me a break.

    Hasn't the "art" in photography more to do with adjusting values of light and shade and cropping than merely pointing a clicking?

    I don't understand the hostility towards poor Fairey either, since his work essentially glorifies President Obama.

    Please tell us more about the "graffiti" charge.

    There must be more to this story -- something ugly and unpleasant about the artist -- to provoke such hostility.

    Of course MY point in posting this was to indicate the dangers of appointing libidiots to the "judishery," as some of the suhthun mushmouths call it.

    ~ FT

  7. I'd like to know why what Fairey did is considered "wrong?"

    Only Ducky seems to understand that it's what he DID with the photo that made it "original."

    Should Andy Warhol have been sued and persecuted because of the unusual USE he made of what-appear-to-be-stock photographs of Marilyn Monroe?

    ~ FT

  8. Finally! I've got a bit of time to blog! The first week of classes is always grueling and all-consuming.

    As for the plagiarism issue being brought by the feds (A prison sentence recommended!), I'm with Duck on his take on this matter.

    I will say that the AP is very strict about using excerpts from their items. I don't know if it's still the case, but their used to be a 25-word limit on copying and pasting excerpts from AP material. A few bloggers have come under fire from the AP.



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