Art Law Report

McDonald's Beats Graffiti Copyright Claims in California, But Faces New Threat over New York Street Art

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 26, 2017 at 11:50 AM

McDonald’s recently prevailed on personal jurisdiction grounds in a closely-watched case in California about the use of street art as décor for restaurants in the United Kingdom, but the issue has quickly arisen again.  As part of what the fast-food giant has clearly decided is a winning branding strategy, the chain’s use of graffiti from New York has now brought the threat of litigation from the so-called Bushwick Collective.  Where any such lawsuit gets filed will have a great deal to do with what happens next.

Read More

Topics: Joseph Tierney, Netherlands, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Rime, California, specific jurisdiction, 17 U.S.C. § 1202, general jurisdiction, Moschino, personal jurisdiction, Graffiti, New York, Dashiell Snow, McDonald's, Street Art, Daimler AG v. Bauman, Virus, NDA, Don Rimx, Beau Stanton, Himbad, United Kingdom, Atomik, Bushwick Collective

Is Coopting Graffiti Artist's Street Cred a Fair Use?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 1, 2016 at 5:17 PM

Estate of Graffiti Artist Sues McDonald’s Over Fast-Food Décor

The estate of Dashiell “Dash” Snow, better known as graffiti artist “Secret Snow”—has sued McDonald’s over allegedly infringing use of Snow’s street art in McDonald’s dining rooms.  The lawsuit in the Central District of California is the latest in a series of cases in which street artists are asserting their rights in copyright without any concession about whether the creation has other legal issues (i.e., trespassing or vandalism).  Based on the survival of other recent similar cases, this latest case could be a headache for the giant restaurant chain, though it may have interesting fair use arguments based on the contrasting nature of the street vs. corporate uses. 

Read More

Topics: Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Rime, Graffiti Art, 17 U.S.C. § 1202, Moschino, Dashiell Snow, Street Cred, McDonald's

Graffiti on the Runway: Street Artist Rime Pursues Lawsuit Against Moschino for Damaging His Street Cred

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 4, 2015 at 9:02 AM

The fusion of street art, high fashion, and the law is hardly new, but the Italian designer Moschino’s latest foray into this genre has landed the company in court. Joseph Tierney, a well known graffiti artist who works under the pseudonym “Rime”, filed a complaint against Moschino and its creative director, Jeremy Scott, alleging copyright infringement, trademark violations under the Lanham Act, and unfair competition, and appropriation of name and likeness under California law. Moschino’s allegedly unauthorized use of his work has harmed the artist in numerous ways, Tierney alleges, not the least by opening him up to accusations of selling out. In the words of Tierney’s complaint: “nothing is more antithetical to the outsider ‘street cred’ that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour – of which Moschino is the epitome.” This theory of harm was something we talked about at the "Copyrights on the Street" panel at the Copyright Society of the USA meeting in Newport this year, and it is now being put to the test.

Read More

Topics: Joseph Tierney, copyright management information, Vandal Eyes, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Rime, The Wall Street Journal, Graffiti Art, 17 U.S.C. § 1202, Gigi Hadid, Trademark, Hollywood Reporter, Jeremy Scott, Copyright, Moschino, Lanham Act, The New York Times, intellectual property

Order Restored—Copyright Claim to Individual Performance in “Innocence of Muslims” Fails

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 19, 2015 at 7:44 AM

The full en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the earlier three-judge panel decision concerning a claimed copyright in the notorious Innocence of Muslims film. The full panel rebuked—wisely—the earlier panel’s holding that Cindy Lee Garcia had an independent and enforceable copyright in her acting performance that would allow her to enjoin reproduction of the video (on YouTube, in particular). Garcia’s case failed both for threshold reasons of fixation, and larger issues of copyright and the First Amendment. The case is a sympathetic one, but the ruling that has now been overruled was an unworkable one that needed to be corrected. Many of the problems and ramifications of the earlier opinion that we have noted were echoed in the decision.

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, Libya, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, First Amendment, Google, Benghazi, work for hire

"Innocence of Muslims" Copyright Decision Against Google Could Put Distribution of Nearly Any Movie at Risk

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 4, 2014 at 4:46 AM

Last year, the Ninth Circuit stood out amongst fair use decisions in its opinion in Seltzter v. Green Day, particularly in contrast to what has persuasively been dubbed the Second Circuit’s "know it when we see it" approach to transformativeness as annunciated in the Cariou v. Prince decision. By contrast, the potentially destabilizing effect of the Ninth Circuit’s highest profile copyright case in 2014 can scarcely be overstated. Unless and until the full court reverses a three-judge panel in Garcia v. Google, Inc., nearly every motion picture will be in peril of "infringement." The consequences for the First Amendment and for free expression would be devastating. Although it was not raised, expect fair use to come into play if the decision stands and the case heads back to the trial court. The film is clearly transformative precisely because the plaintiff argues that her performance was unknowingly changed in service of a message she found offensive.

Read More

Topics: Walter Sobchak, Copyright Act, Feist, Prince v. Cariou, Libya, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, Green Day, Seltzter v. Green Day, Nothing Compares 2 U, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, Prince, First Amendment, Google, Sinead O’Connor, Benghazi, work for hire

GoldieBlox Parodies the Beastie Boys and “Girls”—Fair Use is Clear, What About Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 26, 2013 at 6:35 AM

Coverage has exploded this week of a dispute between the Beastie Boys and a company called “GoldieBlox,” over the latter’s use of the song “Girls” in a video encouraging engineering and structural play toys for girls. Despite coverage focusing on whether Goldie Box copied the Beastie Boys’ song (which is undisputed, really, and thus beside the the point in this case), the fair use of the earlier song is clear: the new version is a parody of a leering anthem, intended to subvert inherent sexism into a message of empowerment. Curiously, however, the fair use in another video on the company’s site using the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” seems less clear, but so far unnoticed.

Read More

Topics: License to Ill, Copyright Act, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Queen, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Adam Yauch, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Girls”, GoldieBlox, Copyright, MCA, Beastie Boys, Fair Use

Fair Use and DMCA Take Down—Lawrence Lessig Sues Over YouTube Use of “Lisztomania”

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 28, 2013 at 5:39 AM

One of the lurking issues in the murky waters of copyright fair use is the takedown notice provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (the “DMCA”). The DMCA, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 512, implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization treaties and absolves internet service providers (“ISPs”) who disable allegedly infringing content when notified by the copyright holder. In practice, this is known as a “takedown notice,” and serves to protect ISPs like YouTube from secondary infringement if a user posts something with infringing content (the easiest example being an unedited clip of a copyrighted movie). Copyright holders patrol the internet to various degrees, but § 512 gives the holders a tool to encourage compliance, and ISPs a way not to be sued out of existence.

Read More

Topics: World Intellectual Property Organization, ISPs, Copyright Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Viacom, YouTube, Eldred v. Ashcroft, Lawrence Lessig, Copyright, 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, Liberation Party Music Ltd., 17 U.S.C. § 512, Phoenix, Fair Use, Harvard Law School

About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

Meet the Editor

Learn more about our Art & Museum Law practice

Subscribe to Blog

Posts by Topic

see all