This story is a bit unique though we can’t imagine it makes Mercedes look good.
Apparently, the company is suing some street artists in Detroit because some of its January 2018 Instagram posts features street artwork prominently in the background.
The four Detroit artists – Daniel Bombardier, James “Dabls” Lewis, Jeff Soto, and Maxx Gramajo – accused the company of infringing upon their copyright which got a response from Mercedes in the form of a lawsuit.
In a series of pictures that prominently feature the company’s G 500 SUV, Mercedes shows the vehicle in Detroit’s Eastern Market which features a series of murals as part of the “Murals in the Market” program according to PetaPixel.
Mercedes got all of the necessary permissions necessary for a commercial photo shoot in the area but apparently didn’t contact the artists behind the murals to see if they had their consent as well.
After Mercedes was made aware of the infringement the company removed the photos but the artists then engaged in what the company calls a “shakedown attempt” to get some sort of compensation.
PetaPixel quotes from the lawsuit filed by Mercedes directly to establish this: “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.””
Their argument will rest primarily on the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act which applies to the artwork as a permanent part of a building’s architecture in addition to arguing that the murals aren’t even depicted clearly.
The attorney for the artists said this of the lawsuit, “If courts were to adopt Mercedes’ argument, it could destroy artists’ rights for thousands of important and beautiful public works of art…[Companies] would be free to use and exploit murals to sell their products, without needing to compensate the artists or even ask their permission.”
The Murals in the Market program is siding with the artists as of press.
What do you think of the lawsuit? Should Mercedes pay the street artists in question, or does this fall under fair use?
You can check out the “offending” Instagram posts over here on PetaPixel.
Yes, pay them. However, pay them a reasonable amount. I would bet that what they desire is well above a reasonable amount. Mercedes… learn from the mistake. Take your lead from the movie industry. EVERY possible legally claimed item in a movie scene is released or removed- without exception. I worked in the locations department for a movie production company. In a case like this, we would have found those artists and offered them a couple hundred dollars for their mural to appear in the background. If experience means anything, I can guarantee you they would have accepted it.