It’s the most high-profile street art image use lawsuit since Shepard Fairey and the Obama “Hope” posters: lawyers for New York City street and hip-hop photographer Glen Friedman are suing Mr. Brainwash (or Thierry Guetta), the French filmmaker-turned-imitation street artist in Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop and fashion shop, for his use of Friedman’s 1985 portrait of Run-DMC (detail above left) in a 2008 artwork (detail above right).
The Art Newspaper reports Friedman’s lawyer, Douglas Linde, says that his client should receive a share of the “indirect profits” Guetta accrued from use of the image, which appeared in flyers, prints, mixed-media works and promotional materials for his debut gallery exhibition in Los Angeles in 2008.
Linde’s suit seeks unspecified remuneration for “damage to [Friedman’s] business in the form of diversion of trade, loss of income and profits, and a dilution of the value of its rights.” Meanwhile, Guetta is claiming fair use, which, as you likely know, allows limited reproductions of works covered by copyright for purposes of parody and other creative uses.
Which in this case is extremely subjective—not like, say, Jeff Koons claiming ownership of all balloon dog-shaped things—since it’s highly questionable what, if any additional creative element Brainwash brings to the photo, and since it was used to promote his whole exhibition, rather than simply as an individual work. In summary, were the defendant an artist more deserving of being called an artist this would be a tougher call, but since Brainwash is more knock-off brand than street art apprentice let’s hope Friedman gets something from the suit. Can Rev Run and DMC claim royalties for all this somehow? (ArtInfo)