Artist Fires Back at H&M For Using His Graffiti In Campaign Without His Permission

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A legal battle erupted this week between Jason “REVOK” Williams and H&M concerning the retailer’s unsolicited use of Williams’ art in a recent campaign.
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According to reports, the campaign uses Williams’ graffiti as a backdrop for the photos for their “New Routine” sportswear campaign. The wall that showcases the art is in Brooklyn at the William Sheridan Playground.
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The mass retailer was sent a cease and desist letter by Williams’ lawyer back in January to say that the “unauthorized use of his original artwork, and the manner in which it is using the work, is damaging and is likely to cause consumers familiar with his work to believe there is a relationship between the parties,” reports HYPEBEAST.
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In response to the letter, H&M filed a lawsuit saying, “Under the circumstances, in which your client’s claimed ‘artwork’ is the product of criminal conduct, Mr. Williams has no copyright rights to assert,” the retailer wrote in their letter. “The entitlement to copyright protection is a privilege under federal law that does not extend to illegally created works.”
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Now though, after kickstarting a debate about whether street art can be copyrighted, H&M is taking a different approach to the matter.
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The retailers issued a statement saying, “H&M respects the creativity and uniqueness of artists, no matter the medium. We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter. It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate over the legality of street art. As a result, we are withdrawing the complaint filed in court.”
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The campaign was produced by an outside company and the agency reportedly asked the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for permission to shoot in front of the mural without permission from the artist. NYCDP said “graffiti on the park handball wall was unauthorized and constituted vandalism and defacing of New York City property,” however, that does not mean that street art is not copyright protected.
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Under current regulations in 17 U.S.C. § 102(a)., a body of work is eligible for copyright if it is an “original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.”
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The entire incident has caused H&M to face some backlash. Rapper T.I. commented on the incident, telling them to “save da apologies”. Famous pop artist Kaws also commented on the matter.

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What are your thoughts on this?

About Bee Tomlinson

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