Photographer Sues Artist Mr. Brainwash Over Run DMC Picture

Posted by David Ozanich — 14 Mar 2011

brainwash.jpgA disputed artwork by Mr. Brainwash

Street artist Mr. Brainwash, known also as Thierry Guetta, was a subject of the Banksy documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop." Now he's being sued by photographer Glen Friedman for appropriating a 1985 image of Run DMC. The Art Newspaper reports:

Lawyers acting for photographer Glen Friedman say Guetta reproduced his 1985 photograph without authorisation and used it in unique works of art, prints and promotional material, including postcards for his 2008 debut exhibition in Los Angeles, "Life Is Beautiful". Friedman's lawyer, Douglas Linde, says they are entitled to a share of "indirect profits" from the exhibition. Linde is seeking unspecified damages 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".

Guetta, who denies the copyright infringement allegations, is claiming "fair use", which under US law allows for the limited reproduction of copyrighted works for the purpose of parody or other creative ends.

The question of "fair use" has been a thorny issue in the art world for years. The article goes on to recount some history of the legal debate:

The ease with which photographs can be copied was seized upon in the mid-1970s by the Pictures Generation--a group of US artists including Robert Longo, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince--who borrowed from television, films, magazines and popular art forms. Levine in particular became known for her photographs of other photographers' work, including that of Edward Weston and Walker Evans. Prince, too, turned to other peoples' photographs for the basis of his work, for example re-photographing Marlboro adverts for his "Cowboy" series.

While cigarette maker Philip Morris never sued Prince over the series (the adverts were out of circulation by the time he started to make the works in 1980), the artist, and his dealer Larry Gagosian, are currently the subject of a copyright infringement case brought against him by photographer Patrick CarĀ­iou, who claims Prince lifted his photographs of Rastafarian culture for a series of paintings entitled "Canal Zone". The series was exhibited at Gagosian gallery in New York in November 2008, where, according to Gagosian's court filing, eight of the 22 paintings were sold for between $1.5m and $3m. Prince, who claims his use of Cariou's photographs are protected by "fair use", said that the photographs are not "'strikingly original' or 'distinctive' in nature", and that his "transformative" uses of the photographs were "done in good faith and reflect established artistic practices".

glenfriedman.jpgThis original photo of Run DMC, by Glen Friedman, was appropriated by Mr. Brainwash

Photos via Boing Boing and Art Newspaper.

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