Street artist Shepard Fairey lamented the “worst thing I’ve ever done in my life,” at an arraignment hearing where he admitted that he lied in court about the Obama photograph that inspired the iconic “Hope” poster.
“In January 2008, I created the Obama ‘HOPE’ poster to help then-Sen. Obama’s candidacy for president,” Fairey explained in court on Friday.
Reproduced on hundreds of thousands of stickers, posters and other merchandise, the image generally more than $3 million in revenue, which was shared between Fairey, Obey Giant and Obey Clothing.
About a year after its creation, the Associated Press told Fairey that the photograph that inspired the poster was taken by their photographer Mannie Garcia, and said that Fairey infringed on the AP’s copyright.
A month later, Fairey launched a preemptive strike against a possible lawsuit, asking the Southern District of New York to declare that his poster was protected by fair use standards.
Fairey said he believed at the time that he based his graphic on a cropped photograph of Obama and George Clooney, supporting his argument of transformative use.
At the Friday hearing, Fairey said that he learned on a blog, early in the case, that he was wrong, and he based in on a different photograph that would support the AP’s claims.
Instead of admitting his error, Fairey said he destroyed the documents, printed fakes supporting his claims, and misled his lawyers, his family, the AP and a federal judge.
“I made a terrible mistake,” Fairey said.
Fairey faces up to six months in prison and $250,000 in fines for contempt of court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas set a sentencing date for July 16.
DoJ press release via Courthouse News (pdf)