The Associated Press filed three new federal complaints on Wednesday against clothing retailers Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Zumiez, claiming copyright infringement over clothing emblazoned with the image from the iconic Obama “Hope” poster.
The photo used in the poster, which was taken by one of the wire service's photographers and manipulated by artist Shepard Fairey, is already the subject of a similar suit.
Fairey, who has created some of advertising’s most indelible guerrilla marketing campaigns, was himself sued by the AP in 2009 for misappropriating the Obama image. He settled in January and agreed to split the proceeds from merchandise using the “Hope” design, according to a joint statement put out at the time.
The artist continues to maintain that his work does not infringe on the wire service photo and is exempt from copyright protection under the “fair use” doctrine, according to his lawyer Geoffrey Stewart. Stewart said his client was not involved in the new lawsuits.
Fairey's clothing company, Obey Clothing, which is still being sued by the AP, supplied the three retailers with the clothing in question, according to the complaint. A civil trial stemming from the 2009 litigation is expected to begin at the end of this month.
The AP maintains that protecting its copyrights is important to its business.
“When a commercial entity such as these retailers, or the company that sold the shirts to them, gets something for nothing by using an AP photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the AP’s ability to cover the news and devalues the work that our journalists do, often in dangerous locations where they may literally risk life and limb to cover a story,” said Paul Colford, the wire's spokesman.
Urban Outfitters declined to comment. Nordstrom and Zumiez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.