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October 30, 2009 4:59 PM

It's Official: Fairey Lawyers Want Off Case

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported when the parties are due back in court. The correct date is November 4, 2009.

In a motion filed in federal district court on Thursday, lawyers representing artist Shepard Fairey in the copyright fight with The Associated Press over his "Obama Hope" poster asked that they be allowed to withdraw from the case and that a Jones Day attorney and a pair of law professors be allowed to replace them. (Download Motion For Substitution of Counsel)

The move comes a little more than a week after Fairey admitted lying about which AP photograph he used as the basis for his iconic poster--and then fabricated and destroyed evidence to cover up the truth.

Fairey's present legal team--led by  Anthony Falzone, executive director of Stanford University's Fair Use Project--write in their motion that "it is no longer prudent or feasible for present counsel to represent plaintiffs in this matter, because these events present a potential for conflicts of interest between counsel and client. This is itself sufficient to justify substitution." The motion goes on to say that withdrawal "is also appropriate here because it 'can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client.'" Finally, the lawyers write that "there are additional grounds that for reasons of professional obligation present counsel could explain in camera if the court felt it was necessary."

The motion identifies the lawyers who would take over the case as Jones Day partner Geoffrey Stewart, William Fisher III, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and John Palfrey, a professor and vice dean at Harvard Law School.

The AP's outside counsel at Kirkland & Ellis have previously indicated in court filings that they will oppose any move by Fairey's current lawyers to withdraw from the case. The parties are due back in U.S. district court for a status conference on November 4.

The development marks the latest chapter in a legal saga that began in February when Fairey sued the AP in search of a court ruling that his Hope poster did not infringe the wire service's copyright of an Obama photograph taken by AP freelancer Mannnie Garcia. Garcia himself has asserted a copyright claim in the case.

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