A recent legal dispute between graffiti artists and the fashion retail giant H&M brought attention to the struggle many artists face when protecting their work from those who would infringe on its copyright. Many artists, writers, photographers and creative people in New York and across the country get little respect for the work they do and may find themselves involved in David and Goliath battles against corporations that take advantage of them. This lawsuit is an example of how intellectual property litigation can bring about change.
Street artist Revok heard through friends that H&M was using for a marketing campaign images Revok had painted in New York. The paintings were on public property and had been painted without the city’s permission. The artist filed for a cease and desist order because he had not authorized the use of the images in the ad, and he did not want his art associated with a retail clothing chain. H&M responded with its own lawsuit, alleging that Revok cannot own a copyright on graffiti that is essentially vandalism.
Fearing the precedent the success of such a lawsuit could set, supporters of Revok urged action, saying that the protections of copyright law are not limited to sanctioned works. They warned the public that a ruling in H&M’s favor could allow wealthy corporations free use of murals and other works of art without compensation to the artists. Facing a backlash from artists and their supporters nationwide, including a planned boycott of all its stores, H&M quickly dropped the lawsuit.
This situation exemplifies the fact that the work of artists is always in danger of misappropriation. With the advocacy of a skilled New York attorney, intellectual property litigation can serve a two-fold purpose. It can pursue compensation for an artist whose work has been misused, and it can send a clear message to those who take advantage of someone else’s created work.
Source: quartzy.qz.com, “H&M made a big mistake going after grafitti artist“, Marc Bain, March 16, 2018