Thierry Guetta (‘Mr. Brainwash’) Loses Copyright Suit Over Use of RunDMC Photograph

(photo Gregory Bojorquez).jpg
(Photo: Gregory Bojorquez)

If it was the goal of Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, to join the ranks of the street artist elite, as told in the Banksy documentary that made him a near household name, Exit Through the Gift Shop, then he has sort of kind of succeeded. Like Shepard Fairey vs. the Associated Press before him, a judge ruled against Guetta this week in a copyright suit involving the use and re-purposing of a photograph. You might recall that we’d written about the case a few months back, when photographer Glen Friedman sued Guetta after he’d used an iconic shot he’d captured of the group RunDMC in the street artist’s debut show, “Life is Beautiful,” which was chronicled at the end of Exit. The Hollywood Reporter writes that Guetta attempted to argue that the “photograph wasn’t original enough to deserve copyright protection,” but the judge overseeing the case (as well as Friedman’s many fans) believed otherwise. In the end, Friedman won and now the case will move into what Guetta will owe in damages. Here’s a bit:

The judge examines the four factors of the fair use test, including (1) the purpose and character of use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work, and determines that Guetta can’t satisfy his burden in establishing this defense.

“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyrighted work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternative work would eviscerate any protection by the Copyright Act,” concludes Judge Pregerson. “Without such protection, artists would lack the ability to control the reproduction and public display of their work and, by extension, to justly benefit from their original creative work.”