It’s a sordid ending for an uplifting image: Shepard Fairey, the Los Angeles street artist behind Barack Obama’s famous “Hope” campaign poster, pleaded guilty Friday to criminal contempt for destroying and fabricating evidence in a copyright case with the Associated Press (AP).
The 2008 poster catapulted Fairey, 42, to international fame and reportedly earned his company $3 million in clothing and merchandise sales. In 2009, however, the AP claimed that Fairey’s poster was based on one of its photos. The artist pre-emptively sued the news agency, saying that his poster was based on an AP photograph of Barack Obama and actor George Clooney at a 2006 National Press Club event, and should be protected by the “fair use” doctrine. In actuality, he had used a different, cropped photograph of Obama taken at the same event by freelance AP photographer Mannie Garcia.