Street Brand Art.
The late New York artist, Dash Snow, was well known in art circles for his “street brand” art, which included photography, collage and graffiti. Dash died in a New York City hotel in 2009 of a drug overdose at age 27. Recently, Jade Berreau his girlfriend at the time of his death and mother of his child, and executor of his estate, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against fast-food giant, McDonald’s.
Graffiti Themed Art.
The suit, filed in federal court in California, alleges that McDonald’s is using Snow’s artwork in hundreds of their restaurants without permission or compensation. The art adorns the walls of many of their “graffiti themed” restaurants throughout the United States and even Europe. The suit also states that McDonald’s is using the late artist’s iconic signature pseudonym, ‘SACE.’ The lawsuit was brought after McDonald’s allegedly ignored requests from the Dash estate to remove the artwork from their restaurants when it first became known in June of 2016.
Within the complaint, Berreau points out that at the time of his death, Dash was an acclaimed artist whose work sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at high-end auction houses. It also states that within the McDonald’s restaurants in question, the artist’s work is the most prominently displayed, and the only work from an acclaimed artist, and that at least on article appeared in the media where Snow’s name was mentioned in connection with the décor, giving a false impression of an endorsement.
McDonald’s has yet to comment on the suit.
There have been a slew of copyright lawsuits in recent years bought by artists against corporations over use of artwork. In 2014, graffiti artist Maya Hayuk filed a copyright lawsuit against the luxury accessory company, Coach, for using her “graffiti art” in a photo shoot. And in 2015 she filed a copyright suit against Starbucks for using her art in a Frappuccino campaign. The lawsuit against Coach was eventually dismissed.
It’s astounding how many people and big corporations still don’t seem to understand the fact that art, in all its forms, is afforded copyright protection under U.S. law. Using it without permission is not a smart thing to do and can trigger costly and time-consuming lawsuits.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles.