07 February 2009

Shepard Fairey arrested, but not for federal copyright violations

Shepard Fairey, America's more talented version of Banksy, was about to enter the kick-off event for his exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston last night when he was arrested on 2 outstanding Massachusetts warrants relating to graffiti.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist -- I don't think the AP put any pressure on the Boston police to harass Fairey -- but something's rotten in the state of Denmark. He's been in Boston for 2 weeks now working on the exhibit installation. But here's an interesting timeline. The photographer who took the photo that Fairey based his Obama candidate posters on recognized that his photo was the basis for Fairey's work on 21 January. (The photographer says he thinks it's "very cool" that Fairey used the image, but his opinion doesn't matter because it's a work-for-hire. That is, he took the photo but he doesn't own it since he was took it for the AP, so the AP owns it. See Section 201(b) of the 1976 Copyright Act.) The warrants date from 24 January, about the time that Fairey must have arrived in Boston to work on the exhibit. The AP started making noise about Fairey's use of its photo on 4 February -- the AP-written article includes phrases like "[a] longtime rebel with a history of breaking rules" and irrelevant facts about how Fairey's poster was used at events where people donated money to the Obama campaign. And then Fairey is arrested 2 days later, even though the police must have known where he was for the past fortnight and could have arrested him at any time.

Tagging public property is suddenly very important when there's an alleged copyright violation in play, I guess.

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