Legal Information

Street Artists Threaten McDonald’s with Lawsuit

Six Street Artists Threaten McDonald’s with Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

ARTSY EDITORIAL
BY ANNA LOUIE SUSSMAN
APR 19TH, 2017

In another chapter of 2017’s incredible streak of “multinational corporation tries to appeal to the kids; mayhem ensues” episodes, McDonald’s stands accused of copyright infringement and false endorsement for using the work of New York City graffiti artists in a promotional video entitled “McDonald’s Presents the Vibe of Bushwick NY.”

On Wednesday, lawyers representing six street artists sent a letter to the burger chain threatening legal action and seeking “compensation for damages to their work and reputation, as well as profits derived from McDonald’s unauthorized use of their artwork,” according to a statement released by their lawyer Andrew Gerber of Kushnirsky Gerber PLLC.

The burger chain hired six Bushwick-based street artists to paint its new bagel sandwich in public spaces around the Netherlands while being filmed, using that footage for an ad alongside the “Vibe” video. While the four-minute-long video focuses mostly on the hired artists, who are part of the Bushwick Collective group, work by many other street artists appears in the video without permission.

117 Million Americans in Face-Recognition Databases

African Americans are more likely to be targeted by face recognition software

By Sidney Fussell, Fushion.net

On Tuesday, a 150-page report released by Georgetown University’s Center for Privacy and Technology found that an astounding 117 million Americans, nearly half of all adults in the country, have their images stored in face-recognition databases searchable by federal, state, and local authorities. The databases are compiled primarily from images like mugshots, driver’s license photos, passports and visa pictures. Georgetown found that 1 in 4 police departments use face recognition databases, more than 4,000 total departments. The FBI’s database, many times larger than those of local police departments, is also sourced largely from non-criminal images, meaning that inclusion in the face recognition database (unlike fingerprint and DNA databases) isn’t reserved for criminal suspects.

Titled “The Perpetual Line-Up,” the report finds that African Americans, who are arrested at higher rates and thus more likely to recur in databases, are disproportionately impacted because of the increased level of policing in black communities. The report notes that, in certain states, black Americans are arrested as many as three times that of their share of the population, over enrolling them in face databases. (For context, in 2013, Ferguson issued 1,500 arrest warrants for every 1,000 people in the mostly black city.) And the Maricopa County, Arizona police department “uploaded the entire driver’s-license and mug-shot database from the government of Honduras, a major source of immigration to Arizona.”

Copyright war: Street artists accuse big corporations of stealing their artworks

Copyright war: Street artists accuse big corporations of stealing their artworks
The family of the deceased artist Dash Snow have accused McDonald's of stealing Snow’s graffiti signature to decorate the walls of hundreds of their restaurants – and his case is not the only one

Enrico Bonadio Monday 17 October 2016 for the Independent UK

The family of late street artist Dash Snow say McDonald's stole his graffiti signature and put it on the walls of their restaurants

Fast food giant McDonald’s has its own, very recognisable logo, but it may soon need to defend itself against a copyright lawsuit for allegedly appropriating someone else’s, in this instance the stylised name of a street artist.

The family of the deceased artist Dash Snow recently brought the case to a Californian court. Also seeking to protect Snow’s anti-consumerist reputation, they claim that McDonald’s has committed copyright infringement by using a “brazen copy” of Snow’s graffiti signature and featuring it on the walls of hundreds of its restaurants. Snow started his career as a graffiti artist with the crew IRAK.

Justin Giarla flees SF, but not lawsuit

This story, where a gallery owner allegedly doesn't pay artists, is a good addition to the Stencil Archive legal feed. Before I saw this Vandalog post (with links to statements made) pop up on my social media streams, I overheard a reporter ask Shepard Fairey about it while I was watching his mural go up in Hayes Valley. Fairey replied, on the record, that he had heard about Justin Giarla's plight. "He owes me money too, but I don't really need it," Fairey said. "What makes me sad is all the money he owes to the artists that really need it." A few days later, a link showed up with more of the story, including past and future litigation over money owed to artists from Giarla's various galleries. Moral of the story: ARTIST BEWARE!

Justin Giarla closes galleries, moves to Portland, allegedly screws over his artists
by RJ Rushmore for Vandalog

There was a time not to long ago when Justin Giarla loomed large over the street art/graffiti/low-brow/Juxtapoz-friendly art scene in San Fransisco. He owned three galleries simultaneously: White Walls Gallery, Shooting Gallery, and 941 Geary. All three closed quietly earlier this year, with their final shows opening in February. The building was sold. Last month, Giarla and his girlfriend Helen Bayly packed up their things, apparently abandoned his truck on the side of the road, and skipped town for Portland. That’s when the truth finally became public: Giarla hadn’t been paying his artists.

Broken Windows Policing Doesn't Work

'Broken windows' policing doesn’t bring down felonies, study says

New York's police department believes that enforcing laws against petty crime helps with felony deterrence, but many departments are shifting away from this model.

By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press JUNE 23, 2016
Read the NY OIG report (PDF)

NEW YORK — A data analysis found no link between enforcement of low-level quality-of-life crimes and the felony crime rate, the office charged with overseeing New York City's police department said Wednesday.

The report took pains to make clear it was not commenting on the New York Police Department's overall "broken windows" policing approach, but critics of the policy said the findings were proof that going after low-level crimes as a way of deterring larger ones doesn't work. The NYPD called the report flawed.

The inspector general for the police, which is part of the city's Department of Investigation and independent of the NYPD, looked at data for offenses like public urination and public drinking from 2010 to 2015, as well as felony arrest data. In that period, the number of summonses and misdemeanor arrests issued for those acts decreased, but there was no increase in felony crime.

Tag a US Nat. Park, Redditors Will Find You

Graffiti artist banned from 20% of US after Reddit users' investigation

Casey Nocket banned from all US national parks and sentenced to 200 hours of community service after users on Reddit tracked her down through social media

The Guardian UK
Tuesday 21 June 2016 18.03 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 22 June 2016 17.00 EDT

A graffiti artist has been banned from all national parks and other federally administered land – that’s more than 20% of the US – for vandalism after Reddit users tracked her down on social media.

Casey Nocket was also sentenced to 200 hours of community service and a fine for drawing faces in acrylic paint in at least six national parks: Death Valley, Colorado National Monument, Canyonlands, Zion and Crater Lake.

Under each picture she left her tag “Creepytings”, which was also the name of her Tumblr blog and Instagram account.

After Nocket wrote in an Instagram post that she had used acrylic paint – which is very difficult to clean off – another user questioned her about it and she responded: “I know, I’m a bad person.”

Nocket’s devil-may-care attitude came back to haunt her, however, when outraged Reddit users tracked her down and reported her to the National Parks Service.

Nocket, a New York-based graffiti artist, first came to the attention of Reddit’s climbing and hiking community when a backpacker posted a picture of one of her works that they had found on a trail in Yosemite. Users quickly began talking about the “National Park Vandal”.

Rime v Scott: Arguing Graffiti Cannot be Protected

Graffiti Cannot be Copyright Protected, Claims Moschino, Jeremy Scott
(originally posted on The Fashion Law)
 

The latest update in the Rime vs. Jeremy Scott and Moschino graffiti copying case: The creative director and the Italian design house filed to have the Brooklyn-based graffiti artist’s case dismissed, arguing that he does not have standing to bring claims of copyright infringement because the work was an act of vandalism and should not be protected by law.

In a motion for summary judgment filed on Monday, Moschino and Jeremy Scott asked the court to dismiss the case because the artist, whose name is Joseph Tierney, is an "unabashed felon." According to Moschino and Scott, Tierney did not obtain permission from the building owner in Detroit, Michigan before creating his mural, known as "Vandal Eyes." According to their motion, "As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally.”

They continued on to note: "Brazen and willful violations of the law cannot, and, indeed, should not result in the award of copyright privileges," they said. [Note: Rime has previously alleged that he was invited to create the mural at issue on a building in Detroit in 2012].

A Lawyer Talks about Copyrights in Street Art

6 Things You Must Know About Copyrights in Street Art
Megan Ralstin for Art Law Journal

Artist’s rights in their street art, whether commissioned or guerrilla, has been in the news with some frequency lately, largely due to suits against American Eagle and Terry Gilliam. The slippery nature of copyright law has left many wondering where to draw the line between taking a photograph with street art in the background and taking a photo that infringes on a copyright. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. As we have pointed out before, artwork used without permission may not be considered an infringement. Rather, unauthorized use exists on a spectrum with clear infringement on one end and fair use on the other.

Miami’s Wynwood district has become a hotspot for street art. Recently, American Eagle used murals from one of Miami’s most well-known street artists, AholSniffsGlue, in its latest advertising campaign. Thanks to Ahol’s suit against American Eagle, many Miami artists have been wondering what rights they may have in the art that they have created on public walls on public streets. At the same time, many photographers, journalists, and bloggers have been wondering if they are exposing themselves to liability when they photograph street art.

To help clear up some of the confusion, LegalLink, a legal resource for artists organized by Cannonball, hosted a lecture with a question-and-answer segment in Miami, Florida on September 17th. As well as answering audience questions, the presenter pulled representative comments from news websites to illustrate come commonly held misconceptions about copyright in public art. You can watch the entire presentation and download the PDF here.

Who owns street art (UK)

Who owns street art?
21 September 2015 By Tim Maxwell, Becky Shaw, Andrew Bruce for Law Society Gazette

In a judgment handed down on 11 September in The Creative Foundation v Dreamland Leisure Limited [2015] EWHC 2556 (Ch), the High Court held that a tenant was not entitled to remove a Banksy mural from the wall of its leasehold property and must deliver it up to the claimant.

As well as being one of the first cases to consider the ownership of street art, it also raises points of general importance in landlord and tenant law.

The mural in question, ‘Art Buff’ (pictured), appeared on the back of an amusement arcade in Folkestone in late September 2014 during the Folkestone Triennial, a public art event organised by the Creative Foundation, a charity promoting the arts as part of the regeneration of the town. Art Buff quickly became popular locally, but just over a month after it first appeared, the tenant of the property, Dreamland Leisure Ltd, arranged for the mural to be cut out of the wall, without the landlord’s knowledge or permission, and then sent to the US where it was offered for sale.

San Francisco hitting up graffiti vandals with costly civil suits

San Francisco hitting up graffiti vandals with costly civil suits

By C.W. Nevius for the SF Chronicle
August 21, 2015 Updated: August 21, 2015 5:16pm

Everyone knows how difficult it is to stop the graffiti tagging epidemic in the city. First, it’s nearly impossible to catch anyone in the act. And if cops do, a criminal case in the courts often results in minor consequences, like a few hours of community service.

A walk down virtually any graffiti-tagged street in the city tells you criminal charges aren’t having much of an effect.

So, San Francisco is changing the game. We’re making it personal.

In an innovative and clever legal maneuver, the city attorney’s office is asking the courts to treat the city like any other property owner and allow it to sue for damages to pay for graffiti cleanup. It makes for some odd phrasing when the complaint says, “Plaintiff is . . . the owner of real personal property in San Francisco, consisting of Muni buses.”

But that’s how San Francisco has filed a civil suit against a woman officials say is an infamous serial tagger. The city alleges that Cozy Terry (her real name according to the complaint) tags as “Coze” and is responsible for 28 separate acts of vandalism on city buses. In all, the 41-page complaint lists 58 cases of tagging and adds up the cost of cleanup and repair. The total should get the attention of graffiti scofflaws.

“It is at least $53,788,” said Jill Cannon, one of the two deputy city attorneys who is making the case. “I don’t know what her assets are, but if we get a judgment we will seek to collect.”

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