(File image) United States President Barack Obama

New York - The US artist who illegally used a copyrighted Associated Press photo in an iconic poster of Barack Obama during his 2008 election was sentenced Friday to 300 hours of community service for falsifying evidence.

The Manhattan federal court also ordered Shepard Fairey to pay a $25,000 fine. However, he escaped prison time demanded by prosecutors.

Fairey, 42, had pleaded guilty to manufacturing documents to support his claim that he had not stolen the AP image as the basis for his posters, which showed Obama gazing upward with the words “HOPE” or “PROGRESS” inscribed below.

After AP accused Fairey of copying the image for his hugely popular poster, the artist sued the US news agency in 2009, asserting that he had not infringed copyright law and was working under the “fair use” doctrine.

He then concocted “multiple false and fraudulent documents” to back his position, federal prosecutors said. Later in the litigation he destroyed documents and attempted to cover up his actions.

AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt welcomed the end of the saga.

“After spending a great amount of time, energy and legal effort, all of us at The Associated Press are glad this matter is finally behind us,” he said in a statement.

“We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.” - Sapa-AFP