So Fairey’s getting sued for the Obama poster. I have to say, I think the AP has a good case. If I believed that he used the photo as a source for an illustration, that would be one thing. And had he done that, it would’ve probably been nothing to get permission from the photographer, if not for the support of the candidate, then for some percentage commission. Which would be just plain fair – photographers gotta eat, too. And even if it is the AP which is suing, it’s good to remember that the AP is paying that photographer for his work (which is how we have the image in the first place – a photographer was getting paid to work).
But Fairey was kind of cheesy about the whole thing: grabbing the shot from Google, Live Tracing it, and then crapping out a poster for sale (remember, this was not a public service). That’s the thing – doing it honorably would not have taken much extra effort on his part. And presumably, Fairey’s making a decent living, so why not hire an illustrator? Why not shoot a percentage deal to the photographer? Think about the flip side – Fairey himself is hired by art directors, and he has been involved on the other side of the copying issue. It seems like he thinks compensating creatives doesn’t apply when it’s him.
Another update: This thing is really going crazy. Glaser weighs in here. Heller weighs in here. Even though Heller and Glaser are (for my money) a bit tepid, and there may be some schadenfreude in other critiques, I do think this is bad for the field of graphic design. With his complicity, he’s become a huge public face for design, and now we’re now just another fraud. First it was baseball, then the politicians, the newsmedia. And now we suck, too.