Thursday 10 March 2011

Has Run DMC been Brainwashed?

Friedman's original mid-eighties photograph
Thierry Guetta (AKA Mr Brainwash), rushed to fame thanks to Banksy’s Oscar nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop. Rumours abounded at the time as to whether or not he was a real artist or a Banksy hoax. Such rumours have now largely been quashed and Mr Brainwash has been established as a prominent street artist in his own right.

In fact, one of best claims to Mr Brainwash being a real person is that he has recently been sued by Glen Friedman, the photographer behind a mid eighties Run DMC photograph which Mr Brainwash uses in several of his works.

Black and white brainwashing - fair use?

Full colour stencilled brainwashing - is this use fair?

Friedman is reportedly claiming a share of “indirect profits” from a 2008 exhibition in addition to unspecified damages for, amongst other things, loss of business and dilution of the value of the copyrights.

Mr Brainwash doesn’t deny use of the photograph but claims that the use falls within US federal law’s “fair use” exception to copyright infringement claims. This exception apparently allows for the limited reproduction of copyrighted works for creative ends.

As street art becomes both more lucrative and more mainstream it is likely that such copyright cases will increase, particularly as this is an area where the detachment from traditional art has arguably led to a more infringement orientated creative approach where sampling parts of previous works is prevalent.

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