Life in The Fast Lane: How Urban Car Ads Depicting 'Street Art' Can Backfire
National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 27
Vehicle manufactures and their ad agencies really love to show off their driving machines in action. Television commercials depict sturdy, reliable trucks hauling tons of cargo; four-wheel drive SUVs navigating perilous terrain in extreme weather conditions; and sleek sedans cruising through cityscapes of gleaming skyscrapers and funky urban streets.
It is on the funky urban streets where car manufacturers can sometimes steer in the wrong direction. Their commercials often feature street scenes that may include recognizable landmarks, historic buildings, public art installations like sculptures and wall murals, and even distinctive graffiti. Carmakers aren't the only retailers entranced by "street art." Makers of athletic shoes and apparel like to incorporate graffiti-like designs into their fashions and ads, as well. Filming other people's art, even when in public view, can result in copyright claims, litigation and attorneys' fees, not to mention potential damages. This article offers a brief roadmap for avoiding such claims.