2 Live Crew's Supreme Court Win May Impact Shepard Fairey's Case

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Shepard Fairey, the graffiti artist behind that highly stylized Obama poster you saw just about everywhere last year is preemptively suing the Associated Press. The image he used as the basis for the poster was an AP stock photo, and the AP wanted recognition and money in return. So Fairey is taking them to court and claiming fair use (Fairey use?).

Naturally Miami's own 2 Live Crew may have been the brave legal scholars that could have helped blazed the trail for a win for Fairey.


Back in the '90s the Crew made a parody of Roy Orbison's hit "Pretty Woman," called "Oh, Pretty Woman." The case, Luther R. Campbell aka Luke Skyywalker, et al., Petitioners v. Acuff-Rose Music, Incorporated, made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Rehnquist court ended up ruling unanimously in Uncle Luke's favor.

Unlike the 2 Live Crew song, the Hope poster was not a parody, but the ruling may still be used to influence the outcome of the case. The court found that a parody does not diminish the commercial worth of the original, and it would be hard to prove that Fairey's derivative use of the image diminished the commercial worth of the original. In fact, it's probably elevated the original's worth (copies of the image are being sold in art galleries).

For a more in depth discussion of the topic check out this Wall Street Journal article and today's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Edit: Of course, the 2 Live Crew case is far from the only decision that could impact the Fairey lawsuit. For an explanation of a more relevant case involving Jeff Koons please see this comment.
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