Last year, the fashion designer Jeremy Scott quite obviously appropriated artwork by Rime for a capsule collection with the brand Moschino. The collection got a fair amount of attention when Katy Perry wore one of the dresses at the Met Gala, and Rime decided to sue Scott and Moschino for using his work (and his name, in the form of tags on other clothing in the collection).
This week, Moschino and Scott’s lawyers filed paperwork arguing that the lawsuit cannot possibly go forward. Why? Because graffiti cannot possibly be copyrighted. They say, “As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally.”
First of all, it’s not entirely clear that the work was painted without permission, so that argument could be rendered moot pretty quickly. But part of me hopes that Rime’s Vandal Eyes was painted illegally, because that will be an interesting question for a court to take up.
In Australia, graffiti is protected by copyright, even if it was painted illegally. Enforcing that copyright can get tricky though, since the artist could still be arrested for vandalism. Why wouldn’t similar protections apply in the United States?
We’ll have the answer soon enough. Rime’s lawsuit is set to move forward in May.
Photo from The Fashion Law