Monday, July 24, 2017

AP Settles Lawsuits Against Fairey and Clothing Retailers

Just four days ago I mentioned that the Associated Press had sued Obey Clothing (Shepard Fairey’s clothing company) and three clothing retailers for unauthorized use of AP photographs.

Well, today, the AP and Obey Clothing agreed to settle their copyright infringement lawsuit over Obey Clothing’s sale and distribution of apparel and other merchandise bearing the image of Barack Obama in the 2008 Obama Hope poster. The settlement also amicably resolves claims that the AP filed last week against three retailers who sold T-shirts and other apparel distributed by Obey Clothing.

Here are their respective comments:

“The Associated Press is pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against Obey Clothing,” said Tom Curley, president and CEO.  “This settlement marks the final resolution of the disputes over our rights in the AP’s photograph of Barack Obama.  While it was a long road with many twists and turns along the way, the AP is proud of the result and will continue to vigorously defend its copyrighted photographs against wholesale copying and commercialization where there is no legitimate basis for asserting fair use.  The AP is particularly gratified that this settlement will benefit the AP’s Emergency Relief Fund, which helps AP staff and families worldwide cope with catastrophes and natural disasters.”

Don Juncal, president of Obey Clothing, said: “The Associated Press has an impressive archive of work provided by talented photographers.  We look forward to working with those photographers, as part of our long-standing relationship with Shepard Fairey, to produce and market apparel with the new images that will be created.  We have collaborated with other photographers and artists in the past, and hope that will be a successful endeavor for all parties.”


Lessig: Ugh, Louis Vuitton Sues Artist

Yes, free culture extraordinaire Lawrence Lessig is a bit upset that Louis Vuitton has successfully obtained a court order forcing artist Nadia Plesner from exhibiting her painting or posting an image of her painting on her website (check out Lessig’s twitter post: “ugh”). The painting contains a designer bag similar to a Louis Vuitton. If she doesn’t oblige, Plesner faces minimum penalty fines of $7,000 (5,000 euros) per day.

You may remember Plessner from a while back. Louis Vuitton and Plesner were involved in another lawsuit, which eventually settled.

Media Report has an update: Nadia will start summary proceedings against Louis Vuitton to have the court order against her lifted. The court hearing will take place on March 30 at The Hague. Good luck!


Anselm Adams Photo Lawsuit Settles

The legal dispute between the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust and Rick Norsigian, the man who bought glass-plate negatives at a garage sale in Fresno 10 years ago and attempted to prove that they were the work of famed photographer Ansel Adams, has now been settled out of court.

More here from The Bay Citizen. Thanks to Luis Nieto Dickens for the heads up on this one.


St. Louis Art Museum Sues US Government

In a highly unusual legal maneuver by a U.S. museum seeking to retain recent acquisition, the St. Louis Museum of Art (SLAM) filed a complaint in federal district court on February 15, 2011 asking for a declaratory judgment to prevent federal authorities from seizing a 19th Dynasty Egyptian mask popularly known as Ka-Nefer-Nefer.

More facts on this case available via Safe Corner.


Weather Looks Good for The Business of Art

Last week I mentioned an art law event at USC, The Business of Art: A Forecast for 2011. Jacqueline Lechtholz-Zey, sent us an overview of the event. Jackie is currently a third year law student at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and is passionate about fashion and art law. She interns at Sheppard Mullin where she has the opportunity to pursue these interests.

Her overview:

“Sunny.” That was art lawyer Christine Steiner’s response to the million dollar question at Tuesday night’s panel: “what is your forecast for the business of art in 2011?”

On March 8, the USC Art Law Society and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP brought together a diverse panel of speakers who are at the front line of business and legal developments in the art world.  We gathered for a courtyard reception outside of USC’s beautiful Fisher Gallery and then reconvened inside, seated and surrounded by Sylvia Shap’s lively portraits while our panelists shared their insights.

Pam Kohanchi, assistant general counsel at LACMA, represented the institutional perspective. Christine Steiner has an extensive art law practice with a wide variety of creative clients and practice areas.  Addison Liu, the co-founder of HVW8 Art + Design Gallery, was Senior Counsel of Music Affairs at MGM Studios and today uses that background to further the spirit of collaboration between art, music, and design at his gallery.  Last but not least, Jessica Kantor, an associate in the Art Law Practice Group at Sheppard Mullin, moderated the panel, asking thoughtful and engaging questions of our speakers.

So what is a day in the life like for these lawyers in the arts?

Read the rest of this entry »


AP Files New Copyright Lawsuits Against Clothing Retailers

That’s right, it’s not over. The Associated Press is not done with Shepard Fairey and his Obey Clothing Company. The AP has also filed three new federal lawsuits against retail clothing giants Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Zumiez. The crux of the lawsuits is of course the now infamous Obama Hope poster image, which the AP alleges infringes on their copyright of an Obama photograph. The AP also alleges that it was Obey Clothing Company that supplied the three clothing giants with the clothing bearing the Obama Hope poster image.

The AP’s Paul Colford had this to say:

“When a commercial entity such as these retailers, or the company that sold the shirts to them, gets something for nothing by using an AP photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the AP’s ability to cover the news and devalues the work that our journalists do, often in dangerous locations where they may literally risk life and limb to cover a story[.]“

Something makes me think that Fairey regrets ever having created this poster. Nothing but a nightmare.

More here from Adweek.


How Serious Are Cease and Desist Letters?

They certainly can be threatening and imposing. Hyperallergic’s Cat Weaver has a fun and informative article on cease and desist letters (C&Ds) and the irony and hypocrisy to them. She takes on the recent Jeff Koons balloon-dog fiasco, as well as the hypocrisy behind Shepard Fairey’s use of C&D letters.

The balloon dog debacle is just the latest in a string of increasingly ridiculous cease-and-desist cases in the art world. In March of 2009, Shepard Fairey’s lawyers took designer Larkin Werner to task for using the trademarked word “OBEY” on some of his Steeler Baby merchandise. …When Werner began marketing Steeler Baby items on CafePress, he used the word ‘OBEY’ on some of the items. That’s how he caught the eye of Fairey’s legal team, which then sent its cease-and-desist letter to CaféPress. CaféPress then removed the offending items and informed Werner of the embargo.

Weaver’s article is not a commentary on dismissing C&D letters; rather, it serves as a reminder that although artists should take such letters seriously, the absurdity lies in the hypocrisy underlying their aggressive — and at times baseless — use by contemporary artists who themselves make a living stealing other artists’ ideas and art works.

Weaver’s article, in full, here.


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