Shepard Fairey's legal battles with photographer Mannie Garcia and the Associated Press over his use of a portrait of Obama in his iconic HOPE poster are well-known by now. While Fairey admitted to deleting digital files to avoid a copyright infringement case, and agreed to pay a settlement, it may not be enough. The Department of Justice repeatedly seems to deny his claims of fair use:
[...] the Department of Justice has filed a memorandum arguing that a prison term for the 42-year-old artist would be “appropriate.” However, prosecutors did not specify how long Fairey should be incarcerated (though, statutorily, his punishment would not exceed six months). Additionally, government lawyers have contended that Judge Frank Maas could fine Fairey up to $3.2 million.
[...] Levy stated that Fairey reaped significant reputational and financial benefits from the Obama “Hope” image, which was created in early-2008. The prosecutor specifically cited the escalating combined profits of three Fairey companies, which grossed $2.93 million in 2007, $4.59 million in 2008, and $6.08 million in 2009.
Should Fairey be penalized based on financial gain for his artwork? We don't think so. Hopefully the case doesn't carry on any longer than it already has.