Artist Shepard Fairey says he has distributed more than 300,000 copies of his iconic poster of President Obama with the word "Hope" written underneath and that it has inspired countless other versions. Now, the 38-year-old Los Angeles street artist, who says he used an Associated Press photograph as a "visual reference" for his piece, is in the middle of a copyright battle that goes to the heart of how media is made, remixed, and mashed up in the digital age, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Given the notoriety of Fairey’s iconic poster, "it is kind of the perfect storm," said Michael Kwun, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital advocacy organization. "It raises questions about what we as a culture and a legal society feel is proper." The question is "how much leeway do we give a second-comer when they want to use someone else’s original creation," said Michael Kahn, who teaches a course on censorship and free expression at Washington University School of Law and has represented artists and Fortune 500 companies in copyright disputes. "This would make a terrific question on a law school exam." The fear among artists and advocates is that too tight an interpretation of copyright law would stifle creativity and expressions of political dissent. But courts have long tried to balance that approach with the need to protect the value of the original work. New technology that makes it increasingly easy to combine different types of media is putting more people in legal limbo…

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