Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the iconic Obama "Hope" poster, filed a lawsuit against the AP yesterday as a preemptive strike in their copyright dispute. The artist has asked a federal judge to rule that his work constitutes fair use of a copyrighted image. Fairey's suit comes after the news agency wrote to the artist and demanded payment and a share of the proceeds he earned from the poster.
As the New York Times writes, the fair use exception allows artists to employ copyrighted materials in a limited fashion, such as a critique or parody. The AP said it was "disappointed by the surprise filing," while Fairey's lawyers blasted the agency for "misguided threats." In a further complication, the photographer who took the original image has claimed that he, and not the AP, owns the copyright in question.