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The man who wants to make Shepard Fairey obey

Obey, now!

Booking photo courtesy Suffolk County District Attorney's office. Art via Obamafy Yourself.

The Herald talks to Boston's top graffiti cop (yes, of course Boston has one) about his arrest of the street-art guy:

... "He's always been a big problem," Kelley said. "He'd go from city to city to do this." ...

He's also the guy who brought down the tagger known as Spek.

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This is the sort of report that makes me rub my eyes in disbelief.

Note the chronology laid out in the column. On January 24, Kelley finds out that Shepard Fairey - a man he loathes - is in town for an exhibition glorifying his work at the ICA. Even worse, Fairey has gone to the trouble of getting pre-clearance to post his street art around the city. For Kelley, a man who views such works as simple vandalism, this amounts to the repudiation of his work over the last thirteen years. "He's always been a big problem," says Kelley. (Boston Magazine offered a droll interview with Det. Kelley-as-art-critic in November.) So he drives around the city, searching for any new examples of Fairey's artwork in non-authorized locations. He finds two.

And on that basis, he arrests Fairey. He knows he can't make the charge stick. The odds that Fairey, busily plastering his images at authorized locations around the city and making media appearances, took the time to slap a couple of stickers at two random points, are extraordinarily low. And even if he did, Kelley has no evidence of it. The whole point of the 'Obey' campaign is that it's viral; that Fairey himself has no control over who uses the images or where they're placed.

Jessica Van Sack, eagerly peddling her law-and-order storyline, observes that "for Kelley, it’s simple. The law is something everyone has to . . . obey." But of course, that's not what Kelley's after at all. Kelley's peeved that Fairey has ascended to iconic status, and frets that he'll inspire a new generation of street artists. So he arrests him on trumped up charges. That's not law and order; it's a deliberate abuse of police authority to intimidate. If there was justice in this city, Kelley would face departmental discipline for swearing out a warrant he knew, at the time, to be unmerited.

But it's also counterproductive. Fairey, after all, has gone largely legit. His art is being displayed in a museum. He took the trouble to get permission for his street-art displays, and has them up only in authorized locations. His success now rides on the vitality of his images, and not on their defiant placement. If Kelley had any sense, he would've seized the weekend to launch a sweep of other graffiti artists in the city, and called a press conference to trumpet his crackdown - offering a sharp contrast between those who obey the law and those who defy it, and stressing that it's not the artwork he finds objectionable but rather the vandalism. But Kelley is a crusader. Instead, he's added to the Legend of Shepard Fairey, and helped inspire another generation of taggers. And when Fairey beats the rap - and he will - they'll learn the wrong lesson.

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is what kind of warrant Fairey was arrested on. This could have happened several ways and Im suprised that the Boston police did not want to elaborate on this.

Cynic, was he arrested for this at the time? Someone in a courthouse decided that a warrant be issued.

The mininum the police could have done was set up a probable cause hearing. To do this, the police simply write a report, send it to the courthouse with a court complaint and the court would mail this hearing to Fairey where he lives. If Fairey does not answer to the hearing (by not showing up), the court would set up an arraignment. If Fairey does not show up for this, then the court puts out a warrant for his arrest.

-Other times when people have a history of not showing up for court dates and default on hearings, the courts will put out a warrant right away.

Its very unclear as to what really happened here.

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It seems like he was focusing on other things for the official displays, but the illegal ones were Andre the Giant ones. Do you find it that hard to believe that he would have taken the time out of his day to do some illegal ones as well? Look who were talking about after all... Its not like hes Picasso, hes a street artist, it was probaly a thrill and a break from the corporatness that must be his life right now due to being legit.

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Maybe Fairey will get bailed out by Golden Stash.

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This seems like a spite arrest, pure resentment of Fairey being celebrated. The point made above about a warrant was good - there was no reason not to have a summons to a probable cause hearing instead of an arrest on a warrant, unless Fairey has failed to appear in the past. Unfortunately, when a cop wants a warrant, the cop can find a clerk-magistate to sign one.

Is Fairey being charged for Giant stickers in Brighton? That is ridiculous.

That being said, I'm not that fond of Fairey as an artist. He has taken a modest idea and played it way beyond its worth. Also, aside from the Obama "Hope" poster being kind of creepy, didn't he appropriate Obama's power through the poster somewhat, and doesn't his recent surge in fame reflect power-worship? A court artist for the new government. Post-modern ironic propaganda, feel it!

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When he gets out, he'll simply appropriate Goldenstash into his work and never credit the original street artist ot Stash himself or whatever for the source.

By the way adam -- good job crediting your sources... something Fairey never does or will do.

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The Suffolk County DA's office reports that, in addition to showing up at Roxbury and Brighton district courts this morning, Fairey (legal name: Frank Shepard Fairey) may also be ordered to appear in South Boston District Court today.

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The Southie connection is merely that he was arrested there, specifcally, at the ICA.

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http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09037/947276-85.stm

Lawyers for The Associated Press and Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey are in discussions about compensation and credit from Mr. Fairey for his use of a copyrighted photo of Barack Obama to create a poster. The image has been used on hundreds of thousands of buttons and posters.

Mr. Fairey's attorney, Anthony Falzone, thinks his client is on solid legal ground.

I find it funny that Fairey is so all about appropriating other people's art and repackaging it as his own, and a guy in Pittsburgh takes a photo of Mike Tomlin and "obamaizes" it in black white and gold and now Fairey's lawyers are going after HIM.

This guy cracks me up. Completely.

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I like his art. I went to the show on Sunday and was glad I did. I don't see any contradiction in that most of the images he uses are derived from other media and he repurposes them. The viewer's recognition of the elements is essential to what he's doing.

The AP is going to lose their suit; it's utterly without merit. It would be humorous to watch anybody argue that he hadn't substantially transformed that photo.

That said, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Fairey suing other people for recycling his art is hypocrisy, pure and simple. It makes me respect him less as a person.

(But I still like his art)

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Read your own article - its about how the NFL stopped the Steelers shirts from being sold. There was a side note about how Fairey is under fire from the AP for modifying one of their images in his Obama poster. Nothing in there about any relationship between Fairey and the guy making the Steelers shirts... just the similarity in possible copyright infringement.

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You are correct. There are two unrelated stories there.

A better example of hypocrisy is Fairey's suit against Baxter Orr. Although it does seem Fairey is mad against Orr for other reasons.

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From what I understand, Mr. Orr fabricated the 'suit' and the 'cease & desist' letter & then called the newspapers.

Mr. Orr created his own publicity, the thing grew legs through blogs & word-of-mouth but Fairey was never involved.

I think Mr. Orr might be a scary obsessed person.

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That's utterly mad!
Do you have any links?

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But that Post-Gazette story is about the NFL sending a cease-and-desist order "stating use of the Lombardi Trophy design violates an NFL registered trademark and copyrighted design."

Looks to me like the citing of the Fairey-AP issue within that article is simply to compare/contrast another alleged copyright infringement.

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The article cites the NFL going after the vendor, and the vendor taking down some shirts plus other shirts including the one with the coach on it that looks like the Obama poster BECAUSE of that quoted excerpt. On top of the NFL issue, Fairey's lawyers are looking into going after the vendor for his shirt.

One thing is definately happening (the NFL c&d) and the other is a maybe happening.

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Kelley misses the mark, art school punks like Fairey are simple annoyances with no larger threat conveyed. Whats the message behind a Fairey sticker? Nothing really except an inside joke and some skater culture, unlike say the 1000s of gang tags that scar Boston's neighborhoods. Theres a little variety store on Florence St in Rosi that has big ugly tags on it, the nearby railroad overpass is also covered in gang tags. The store has been held up numerous times and the owner assaulted. In this case the vandalism means something that should attract the attention of Kelley. How about doing something about H-block tags on neighborhood stores instead of glory hogging in front of the ICA? I think its pretty obvious which is a greater threat to the quality of life. Wow, what great detective work, you arrested the guy at his well publicized show, you should be a process server.

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A tag is a tag is a tag. Honestly seeing the gusto that this guy seems to possess I would bet he would love to toss all of those gang taggers in jail. Its not either or, he was able to nab someone who was illegally tagging and got press saying that if you tag in the city you will be arrested wheter you are some punk in Roxbury or some punk with your own art show. If Shepard Fairey did indeed illegally tag outside of his official zones then it would be unfair and possibly racist/classist to not arrest the rich white guy but arrest a poor black kid tomorrow for what amounts to the same thing.

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A tag is not a tag, its the difference between something benign like "JN + MK 4EVER" and something clearly threatening like a gang tag that marks territory. A Fairey sticker means some hipster tagged the back of a stop sign, a gang tag means "we own this corner". A tag is only a tag if you fail to see its connection and meaning to its intended audience. The gang kids marking their turf around Boston actually shoot each other over their turf wars, its not the same at all.

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But its not the actual gang sign that is the most criminal, its the violence that comes afterward.

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This just in from the Suffolk County DA's office: Fairey's been on the lam since 2000.

He was arrested Feb. 6 on charges he put up some posters on a turnpike authority structure near Mass. Ave. and the Newbury Street extension. But:

At the time of the arrest, detectives were aware that Fairey had failed to appear in connection with a similar case in Brighton District Court and had been in default since 2000.

Shepard appeared first in Brighton court, where he was formally charged with placing a poster on an electrical box near 177 Brighton Ave. in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2000. Boston Police arrested him at the scene, seized several additional posters as evidence, and told him to appear in court the following Monday; he did not appear.

He's scheduled for a pre-trial hearing March 10 in Brighton on the older charge and a hearing March 11 in Roxbury on the newer charge.

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This should answer a lot of the questions regarding his arrest, and the timing of it.

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http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/art...

Sorry, law and order lovers, but this is a bit much to stomach. They did time the damned arrest to cause problems for the guy and for the museum... his wishing-aloud that he could have done it in front of the audience of 750 is pathetic.

hey, Boston Police, just do your jobs, ok? Sure, there are cops on TV. There oughtn't be. You're not heroes when you act like this. You're dicks.

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then this wouldnt have happened.

I mean, when he was released without bail and expected to show up to court on Monday, the "law and order lovers" apparently had enough love for Fairey to trust him and not hold him in a cell for the weekend.

I don't feel that bad for the guy. Even his lawyer should have known that he had warrants and should have expected him to have been arrested at some point.

Next time the police should call him up and see what time is convienent for him. It sure worked the other times.

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Exactly, he had warrants our for his arrest and he never took care of it. He continued to tag even as he got more famous and did not have to. He is a pompous moron who thought he was protected because the hipsters worship him.

I do not care what the message is, if you deface someone elses property you are contributing to an urban problem. Just because their is other crime in the area does not mean we should leave these visible crimes alone. I subscribe to the broken windows theory where things like broken windows, abandonded buildings, graffiti and garbage in the streets leads people to believe that the area is a safe place to do illegal activity and others to believe the area is not a safe place to be for the average person. Like it or not the Obey images attract other graffiti and when you add it all up you get buildings and signs covered in tags and stickers. It has a destabilizing force in the community and should not be tolerated just because he is friends with the president and mayor (hey super liberals ever since when did you think the friends of powerful people should be treated differently then the rest of us???)

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after this disgrace, i can honestly say that the boston police (lowercase intentional) have truly sealed their reputations as lardassed, donut munching, 100K+ per year, pothole-guarding PIGS.

I've never had so little respect for any organization as I have now for the boston police and their penchant for staged drama (not to mention that student-killin' spree).

I thought when the cop tried to knock me off my bike in a work zone near BU last year that they'd hit the lowest of the low. Obviously they were still a fair distance from the bottom.

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Shamrag isn't buying the protestations from the Artist Formerly Known as Frank:

... I bet a stack of flapjacks that the Artist Formerly Known as Frank dropped his own dime on his own bad self. Prior to his arrest on Friday, his show at the ICA was more of a "who? oh yeah that guy" shindig. But now it is a media hoopla. And who does that benefit exactly? I mean, Mr. Fairey is no Robert Mapplethorpe, so why would anyone even care unless he wanted them too. And anyway, he could have done what hundreds of other folks with default warrants do, send your lawyer over to court and arrange for a next court date to clear it up. That's what lawyers are for, that's how the system works. ...

Oh, hey, that reminds me: Whatever happened to Pixnit?

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Oh I like the second photo in his line up! Send someone over to paint that on my door, I will gladly pay for it lol (and that my friends is how it is supposed to work, your welcome to put a giant andre the giant face on my door if I give my permission and the city doesnt have a rule against it.)

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Dear Greg Selkoe,

Please take your trite and leave if you dont like the city and think its more dangerous then other major cities in the country (I wonder what your smoking.) Also take your ugly cafe press inspired clothing with you.

Thank you and god bless.

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you're definitely an asset to the city!
stay!
sit!
put chairs in parking spaces!
bitch about Menino!
every day, more and then still more of the same, as the physical infrastructure, as well as the bond ratings, crumble...
it's all good!

ah, what a lovely, lovely place
... to leave

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If he uses an Orr settlement to pay off a settlement with the AP, then maybe everyone calling him a hypocrite is just jumping the gun.

Not that I believe this to be the case; I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Also, look at it the gambler's way: If the AP wins their case then it supports his win against Orr, and he can rob Peter to pay Paul. If the AP loses their case then it supports him losing his case against Orr, in Art we Trust, all others pay cash. If the AP loses to him but he somehow wins against Orr, he doubles up cheap. Finally, if the AP wins, but somehow he loses against Orr in such a similar case, he's gone bust.

In three of these four outcomes, he either breaks even or wins. In the fourth, he loses to the AP without any support plan left. Since the "hypocrisy" comes from having two cases being so similar involving the same actor as both victim and thief, it's even less likely than even odds that he'd both lose to the AP AND lose to Orr. If he were to ignore Orr and go straight at the AP, it's a coin flip where he either breaks even (by beating the AP) or loses big with no chance at a win at all. He's just improving his odds by playing a second hand. If he has the cash up front to fund the second coin flip, then it makes total sense.

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I think the money is secondary, this is all about Fairey being a poser by promoting openess one second, to suing someone else for having fun of his work the next.

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But that's the point, isn't it? If he loses to the AP, then he should win against Orr. It's not hypocritical to say "well, hell, if *these* are going to be the way the rules are played, then you have to abide by them just as much as I am made to". If he wins to the AP but loses to Orr (or just gives up the case probably), then again, at least everyone's playing by the same rules. It's only hypocritical if he beats the AP case, but still presses on against Orr (putting his payday over the fair use precedent he just set against the AP)...and I'm not sure I'd see that happening but I also don't know Fairey that well to say for sure. But calling him a hypocrite now isn't necessarily true.

Let's say I'm a musician who breaks the DMCA by copying digital music over the internet from other artists. When I'm caught, I admit to it and pay the exorbitant per song fines. However, my ideal is that we would all share digitally, so I allow anyone to have my own music online for free from my website. I wouldn't be a very successful musician for very long because I'd be bleeding money out both sides: to the artists I was stealing from and to the fans who were getting my product for free from me.

It's not hypocritical to say "I think the fair use law allows me to use the AP photo just the same as Orr using my Obey image" and when the AP says "No, you're wrong" to then tell Orr "sorry, but we all have to play by the same rules for this to work out".

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I realize where your coming from, but this guy is constantly saying "but but but" "but Im Shepard Fairey" at some point you have to ask if he is in this for the ideals he is pushing or if he is in this for himself?

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If he loses to the AP, then he should win against Orr

So this is the lawsuit as hedge fund?

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Call it artbitrage!

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