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The time Shepard Fairey was accused of stealing my artwork

On this episode of the podcast with photographer Thann Clark we have a discussion about posting artwork online and how easy it is to have it used or copied. 

I put all of my artwork and music under a creative commons license so it's free to use and share as long as they give credit. And as we talk I share a story about a time that Shepard Fairey was accused of stealing my artwork.

Back in the '90s, one of the first album covers my band Lorenzo's Music did, was designed by the wife of a member who used to be in the band. She was a graphic designer. We were doing our first EP and she found this 1930s space-themed world's fair artwork from Chicago.

image of vintage poster artwork with planet and letters
Vintage 1933 Chicago World's Fair Poster

It was a picture of a planet with a ring that swooped around it. And she was like, I want to design the album just like this! And I was like, that's fantastic! So she did. 

Years went by, and then in the mid-2000s the band Bad Brains had Shepard Fairy do the artwork for the cover of their album "Into The Future".

I was listening to the album and looking at the cover and all of a sudden I'm like, wait a minute?! I turned it upside down and realized that's the design on our first album!

image of band cd cover artwork
Bad Brains and Lorenzo's Music Album Artwork

And I'm looking at it going holy crap! Did they use our album artwork? That's awesome! I thought it was cool and I posted it on the band's website. 

Next thing you know, it got picked up on Reddit and then a bunch of music and tabloid outlets started posting the story. All of a sudden these headlines were saying, "Did Bad Brains steal this artwork?" and all this kind of stuff. And I was like, I didn't say that. I just pointed out it was the same artwork.

screenshot of news website article
Lorenzo's Music/Bad Brains news article

All of a sudden all of the people who like Bad Brains came out and they're just like hating on us! 

And also this is what I didn't know. Shepard Fairey was actually going through the court case for the Obama hope artwork at the time and I had no concept that he was literally being sued for appropriating someone's photography and here I said this about him using our artwork. And everybody's like he's doing it again! 

So Shepard Fairey actually called me on the phone! We had a really nice conversation about it and I said I just thought it was cool that Bad Brains had the same artwork as us. But yeah, we got bashed online because of that. 

But also our listenership went up tons because of the exposure! We still got new band email list signups. So with the hating also brought people going, oh check out this band that's really cool! sort of thing.


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