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Street artist Thierry Guetta faces copyright infringement suit

March 10, 2011 |  6:22 pm

Guetta Los Angeles street artist Thierry Guetta rose to prominence recently in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," in which he is featured at length along with the artist known as Banksy. Now Guetta is facing the downside of fame in an unrelated lawsuit in which he is accused of copyright infringement.

Guetta -- who goes by the moniker Mr. Brainwash -- is being accused of improperly using a photograph of the rap group Run-DMC in various works of art. The photographer, Glen Friedman, is suing Guetta in Los Angeles for copyright infringement and is seeking unspecified damages. Friedman, based in New York, is a prominent photographer who has focused on music groups and skateboarder culture throughout his career.

The photograph in question depicts members of the rap group Run-DMC in 1985 in Queens, N.Y. In court papers, Friedman contends that his photograph is protected by law because it is featured in one of his books, titled "... You Heroes," published in 1994, that is copyrighted.

He is accusing Guetta of improperly using the photograph in various works of art, some of which were featured in his 2008 exhibition titled "Life is Beautiful," which took place at an art space in L.A. In addition, the photographer alleges that Guetta profited from the artworks and that the image was distributed in acts of "widespread self-promotion" that involved posters and other advertising activity.

Guetta responded in court papers that his actions are protected by fair-use laws and qualify as acts of free speech.

Some of Guetta's creations, as shown in court filings, feature the likenesses from Friedman's photograph embellished with graffiti and other forms of colorful markings.

Friedman's attorney, Douglas Linde, said in an interview that Guetta is a "blatant plagiarist." The artist's lawyer, Alan Gutman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suit, which was reported in the Art Newspaper, has been slowly working its way through the legal system since late 2009. A trial date is set for later this year, according to court papers.


Shepard Fairey to settle 'Hope' poster case with Associated Press

Shepard Fairey discusses future projects at L.A. Live party

Banksy's Oscar chances looking strong for 'Exit Through the Gift Shop'

-- David Ng

Photo: Thierry Guetta at the Academy Awards in February. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (6)

Birds of a feather flock together. Fairey and Guetta have founded their lucrative careers on stealing the icons of every successful movement of the past century and the works of legitimate artist. It makes no sense to claim the fair use of work they didn't create and even more vile to parade themselves as artist. The pair of these two couldn't draw a straight line between them. I dare you to try to claim fair use and reproduce one of these guys pirated images. See how fast their legal teams rain down on you. The losers are winning. What a travesty.

Thank god! This guy is a snake oil salesman and the clueless people that actually fell for his tacky art well god bless their hearts....

I think it is funny that on the same news page, Jeff Koons' Pink Panther is selling at auction this week. Unfortunately, if only 10 percent of the image is changed, it is fair use. That is the law, and if this guy is a thief, so is Koons. For much more than the Pink Panther.

Sounds like some good ol' fashioned sampling to me.

Mr. Brainwash is an incredible human being. To assault his art is to show yourself a person of no imagination. As for Fairey, you know his art, everyone knows his art. That is art at it's best.

I hope Friedman takes this to trial, as a victory over Guetta will open the door for many artists whose work has been appropriated by the Brainwash design studio to drain the Guetta family fortune. Would it be karmic justice to see this street artist living on the street?


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