Shepard Fairey Gets 2 Years Probation in Obama Poster Coverup

Shepard Fairey, the artist who turned a generic AP photo of Barack Obama into an iconic painting, got a hefty punishment for lying to government investigators.

Shepard Fairey, the artist who turned a generic AP photo of Barack Obama into an iconic painting, got a hefty punishment for lying to government investigators.

WSJ (“Obama ‘Hope’ Artist Gets Probation in Copyright Dispute“):

The artist behind the “Hope” poster that became a symbol of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was sentenced on Friday to two years probation and 300 hours of community service for lying during a copyright dispute involving the iconic image.

Shepard Fairey, who was also ordered by the judge to pay a $25,000 fine to the government, in February admitted to fabricating documents and lying in a civil lawsuit he had brought against the Associated Press.

Mr. Fairey had faced as much as six months in prison after pleading guilty in February to a single misdemeanor count of criminal contempt. Prosecutors, who sought jail time in the case, said anything less would send “a terrible message” to people who might commit similar conduct in the future.

As far as I’m concerned, Fairey’s work was sufficiently transformative that AP should have had no copyright claims to a generic photo taken of a United States Senator in a public setting. That said, Fairey obviously shouldn’t have lied, much less fabricated documents, in the ensuing lawsuit.

Still, as Bill Clinton taught us, people—even incredibly intelligent people who graduated from the top law school in the country—reflexively lie when they’re caught doing something embarrassing. I’m not sure that doing so should be a crime.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Ah. A lighter sentence than that pedophile-shielding bishop got.

  2. Septimius says:

    Lying in a lawsuit shouldn’t be a crime? Really?

  3. Regardless of the merits of the claims against him, I’ve got to say that lying under oath is, and should be treated as, a serious offense. Perhaps not one meriting jail time, or impeachment to bring up the Clinton example, but also not something that ought to be ignored.

  4. 11B40 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Greetings, Mr. Matconis:

    Did you mean except for Scooter Libby ???

    I have to say that the many philosophical discriminations (No, not that discrimantion, my God.) that arise when politically correct people run afoul of what’s left of our Rule of Law reminds me very much of that old “How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?” saw.

  5. Yet another example of why you should never talk to a law enforcement officer about anything ever.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    Ah. He lied. You know, I read a “news” story about this and was left wondering ‘when did copyright infringement result in criminal penalties?’ They never mentioned the lying under oath.

  7. bill says:

    maybe a pardon is in order? lying to avoid a lie is something the feds really hate to deal with i guess, maybe because of all the time they waste investigating? oh well, not like he’s doing hard time or anything.

  8. Gustopher says:

    Perjury is a serious crime. He should have gotten some jail time.

  9. @Gustopher:

    It wasn’t perjury, because he wasn’t speaking under oath. Lying to federal investigator is one of the ways the federal government punishes people they try to go after but fail to build a case against. Even if they have no case for the actual crime they were investigating, they can usually find, among the hours of interrogations, that they can claim is a contradiction and then charge you with lying to them.

    The easiest solution is to just not say anything to them.

  10. Jeremy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:


    It’s all BS.