Monday, April 1, 2013
A story has been developing in Los Angeles where a store called HD Buttercup has enlarged a photo print of a street piece from Thank You X, and is now selling this print in the store for $3,000 (pictured above).
Thank You X says that he never gave the store permission to use the image, or sell it. He is not pleased and X's lawyer has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the store to stop selling it.
There is not doubt that the image HD Buttercup is selling is the same shot as one that X stenciled on a dumpster (see pic below). However, this situation is further complicated by the fact that the image at hand is a stencil picture of Andy Warhol. It is based on an iconic photograph of Andy Warhol (not sure who took the original?). Thank You X says that he drew a hand painted piece based upon the original photograph image and that his image is trademarked, but X does not have intellectual rights to the original image in the first place.
This situation has a lot of similarities to the case last year when Mr. Brainwash got sued by Glen E. Friedman when MBW used Friedman's iconic Run DMC photograph in an art piece without permission. MBW lost the lawsuit because the judge ruled that Brainwash did not change the image enough.
So what's the moral of the story? Its fucked up when any store appropriates imagery from any artist without permission and/or compensation. As his lawyer advises him, if X were to sue the store, he would probably win. However, if the original photographer chose to sue X, they might also probably win. Perhaps, the moral of the story might be that if an artist want's to protect the intellectual property rights of their art, the way to do that is to create original art. Pop imagery is a favorite to employ among street artists. Because even though that image might be iconic, that recognition also comes loaded with previous baggage.