Was Shepard Fairey’s use fair?

Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey poses in front of the Barack Obama Hope artwork he designed in this 2009 photo. (Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press / September 8, 2012)

Last week Shepard Fairey was sentenced to two years probation and a $25,000 fine for tampering with evidence in his copyright battle with the Associated Press. Some, including prosecutor Daniel Levy, felt Fairey should have served jail time. Levy contends, “A sentence without any term of imprisonment sends a terrible message to those who might commit the same sort of criminal conduct.”

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Un-hate, or unethical?

Photoshopped image from Benetton “Unhate” ad campaign shows Pope kissing Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo.

Benetton’s recent release of the “Unhate” ad campaign has caused a firestorm of controversy. The goal of their campaign is a worthy one—to contribute to a new culture of tolerance and to combat hatred. The UNHATE Campaign is the first in a series of initiatives involving community.

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Does graphic design require a certain moral flexibility?

Ars moriendi, ca. 1460, Engraving by Master E.S.

In Thank You For Smoking the main character, Nick Naylor, a spokesman for a tobacco company, tells his son, “My job requires a certain… moral flexibility.” While every profession must deal with ethics in its particular field, graphic designers are trained to “make things look good.” The very nature of their core mission inherently lends itself to a certain “moral flexibility.” Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, England thinks that asking graphic designers not to persuade is like asking fishermen not to fish—it’s what they are trained to do.

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“Hope” Poster – Fair Use or Copyright Infringment?

On left, Obama “Hope” poster designed by Shepard Fairey. On right, original AP photograph of Barack Obama taken by Manny Garcia in April 2006.

One of the most celebrated works of campaign art in American history, Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster, was added to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. The poster has also been the focus of a copyright-infringement lawsuit between Shepard Fairey and the Associated Press.

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