In an interesting copyright dispute, Mercedes is asking a judge to rule in its favor after four artists sued the car giant for including their graffiti murals in Instagram posts of the latest Mercedes SUV.
According to The Detroit News, a lawsuit filed on March 29th names Daniel Bombardier, James “Dabls” Lewis, Jeff Soto, and Maxx Gramajo. Back in January of last year, the official US Instagram account of Mercedes posted a number of photos of their new model. Taken in Detroit’s Eastern Market, also pictured were various murals, featuring the works of the aforementioned artists.
From what we know, Mercedes followed the correct procedure in obtaining the required permits to conduct a commercial photoshoot in the area. The issue stems from not having requested permission from the artists themselves.
Bombarbier, Lewis, Soto, and Gramajo are now accusing Mercedes of copyright infringement. Interestingly, Mercedes removed the images in response, but the complainants are seeking financial compensation.
So says the lawsuit filed by Mercedes:
Nonetheless, Defendant’s attorney continued making threats against MBUSA [Mercedes-Benz USA], claiming that Defendant desires to ‘expose’ MBUSA, use formal discovery to learn information other people can use to sue MBUSA, and tell a jury that MBUSA made $80 million selling the G series truck in an effort to wipe out MBUSA’s revenue from sales of the G Series. MBUSA did not infringe Defendant’s alleged copyright and therefore refused to credit this aggressive shakedown effort.
Naturally, Mercedes is claiming fair use on the murals, stating they’re exempt from copyright protection under the Architectural WorksCopyright Protection Act as they’re “permanent.” They also attempt to rubbish the argument by stating the murals are blurred, pictured from an angle, not seen in their entirety, and are not the central focus.
Artist Bombardier said it is “totally unacceptable” for Mercedes to use his work as part of a campaign to advertise a car that costs $200,000 without compensating him financially.
It’s worth noting the Detroit officials that commissioned the murals are on side with the artists. They draw particular attention to previous Mercedes adverts, in which the company licensed the artists’ works.
Who’s in the right here?