Artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to two years probation in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan Friday.
Known for the "HOPE" posters he created during President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, Fairey pleaded guilty in February to charges of criminal contempt, and admitted to destroying and fabricating evidence related to a civil lawsuit with the Associated Press. That lawsuit, which revolved around whether or not Fairey’s infamous poster based on an AP image violated copyright laws, was settled out of court in 2011.
In court on Friday, federal prosecutor Daniel Levy recommended prison time before the artist's sentencing. "Some deprivation of liberty is necessary," he said. "Anything else sends a terrible message to the world."
Fairey's defense lawyer argued against the recommendation, describing his client as a self-made artist who admitted his misconduct immediately. He emphasized that Fairey suffers from Type I diabetes and, if incarcerated, would not receive adequate care for his condition.
Fairey faced a maximum prison term of six months, however Judge Frank Maas sentenced the artist to probation and 300 hours of community service. He cited Fairey's history of charitable work and the letters of support submitted by friends and family of the artist.
Commenting on the public response to Fairey's case, Maas remarked that "public disgrace" will likely be the artist's greatest consequence, stating that he had never seen the press take such an interest in a civil case.
Fairey is not the first artist to have been involved in a high-profile copyright case, though the criminal charges brought against him were unprecedented. Years ago, Jeff Koons was taken to court by a professional photographer, Art Rogers, after the American artist used one of Roger’s images as the model for his 1988 sculpture, “String of Puppies.” Koons argued that the use of the image fell under fair use stipulations, but a court rejected this claim, requiring Koons to pay a settlement fee as well as ship one unsold sculpture to Rogers. Recently, Richard Prince was accused of inappropriately borrowing an image from photographer Patrick Cariou in 2011, further emphasizing the slippery slope of what is and isn’t acceptable reappropriation. During the trial, the prosecuting attorney asked Prince, "There's something about appropriating images from other people that helps you make a work of art that's more believable, is that right? Prince said: "I guess you can say that, yes."
And who can forget Elizabeth Peyton, an artist who has relied on magazine clippings and other photographs for her work?
So was the DOJ too harsh on Fairey, or do you think his case was an exception?
Shepard Fairey, center, arrives at Manhattan Federal court, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in New York. The artist who created the "HOPE" poster that came to symbolize Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign will be sentenced Friday, with prosecutors seeking a prison sentence for his criminal contempt conviction and his lawyers arguing that he should face no prison time for the misdemeanor charge. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A Bonhams auction house employee walks past a picture by British artist Banksy, entitled 'Kate Moss', left, and Shepard Fairey's print depicting U.S. President Barack Obama as they are displayed for a press preview prior to sale in London, Friday, March, 23, 2012. The Andy Warhol inspired 'Kate Moss' is expected to fetch between GBP 30,000 and 50,000 (US$ 48,000 to 79,000); the Fairey print is expected to sell for some GBP 1,500 to 2,000, pounds (US$ 2,400 - 3,200). (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Shepard Fairey, center, leaves federal court with his lawyers Abigail Rosen, left, and Dan Gitner, after he entered a guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. The creator of the Barack Obama "HOPE" poster said he made a "terrible decision" in 2009 to destroy and fabricate documents in a civil lawsuit pertaining to The Associated Press photograph he relied upon to make the poster. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2011 file photo, artist Shepard Fairey arrives at the MOCA Annual Gala in Los Angeles. Fairey, the man behind the Barack Obama "HOPE" poster, on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 will learn his sentence for criminal contempt after pleading guilty this year to destroying documents and fabricating others in a lawsuit pertaining to the Associated Press photograph he relied upon to make the poster. He faces up to six months in prison. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, File)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 16: Artist Shepard Fairey and wife Amanda Fairey attend the offcial unveiling of a wall that he donated to the USC Hospital through the art of Elysium's View Program on August 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Art of Elysium)
US contemporary graphic designer and illustrator, Shepard Fairey poses in front his work, a new piece on a section of wall in the 13th district of Paris, on June 17, 2012. Fairey is well known for his Andre the Giant-inspired Obey logo and his series of posters supporting Barack Obama's 2008 candidacy for President of the United States, including the iconic 'HOPE' portrait. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE VERDY (Photo credit should read PIERRE VERDY/AFP/GettyImages)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Director Antonino D'Ambrosio (L) and artist Shepard Fairey attend the 'Let Fury Have The Hour' - After Party during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the on April 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)