Law Student Publishes Article in ABA's "Landslide" Magazine

Jo-Na Williams


Artist Shepard Fairey's legal battle with the Associated Press over his iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster prompted Law student Jo-Na Williams to write an article for the September/October issue of Landslide, the American Bar Association’s intellectual property law magazine.

Williams laid out both sides of the case in the article "The New Symbol of “Hope” for Fair Use: Shepard Fairey v. The Associated Press," cited relevant precedents, and argued that the case has the potential to yield a landmark decision.

“I am extremely interested in artists’ rights and fair use,” said Williams. “Artists can now be their own commodities, which means they need to have a better understanding of business and their legal obligations under copyright and trademark law.”

Fairey based his Obama “Hope” poster on a 2006 photograph taken by AP freelance photographer Mannie Garcia. After the AP demanded that Fairey pay a licensing fee for using the photo, he filed suit claiming fair use, an action that has resulted in a series of counterclaims.

“When I read about the case, it caused me to rethink my own ideas about which artists are protected under the law of copyright,” said Williams, a Michigan native and University of Michigan graduate. “Does Shepard have a valid fair use defense, or was he infringing? Who owns the copyright, the photographer or the AP? The case is so multilayered, and that was very intriguing.”

In her article, Williams drew out key points from prior cases about fair use, from a Supreme Court decision on 2 Live Crew’s use of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” to a case regarding the excerpting of former president Gerald Ford’s memoirs. She concluded by writing that Fairey v. Associated Press “could be crucial to the future direction of copyright law.”

Williams is president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Association at Suffolk Law and served as a student editor on the ABA’s Annual Review of Intellectual Property Law Developments in 2008. She plans to practice arts and entertainment law upon graduation and appreciates the recognition afforded her by the Landslide piece.

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