G.M. Can’t Dodge Graffiti Artist's Lawsuit Over Car Ad
Art Law

G.M. Can’t Dodge Graffiti Artist’s Lawsuit Over Car Ad

Courtesy of Cadillac A warning to filmmakers: If graffiti is visible in background scenery, think long and hard about getting a license from the graffiti artist. Failure to do so is risky. The latest lesson comes this week from a California federal judge who is allowing Adrian Falkner to move forward in his copyright lawsuit against General Motors over an advertisement that incorporated his work. Falkner, a Swiss graffiti artist known as Smash 137, was commissioned in 2014 by a Detroit art gallery to create an outdoor mural. His work ended up on the outdoor elevator shed of a 10-story parking garage. Two years later, a professional car photographer captured the mural when touring the neighborhood and filming a borrowed Cadillac in front of the mural. The photo was sent to G.M.’s ad agency, which posted it to the automaker’s website. G.M. now appears to be headed to trial after failing to convince the judge on summary judgment that the mural was inseparable from the parking garage. That matters because while copyright law protects architectural works, copyright law permits pictorial representations of architectural works. Although graffiti has become trendy enough to be appropriated by all sorts of artists, it […]


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