Graffiti artist Jason ‘REVOK’ Williams has filed a lawsuit against fast fashion retailer H&M for using one of his artworks inside its campaign without permission.
The campaign includes visuals of a male model clad in sportswear attire from its upcoming ‘New Routine’ collection. He was filmed in front of a wall at a basketball court in Brooklyn that bears Williams’ graffiti art, pictured above.
Williams sent a cease-and-desist letter to H&M on 8 January, urging the brand to cease promotional materials that include this graffiti-painted wall due to copyright infringement. Furthermore, according to Williams’ lawyer, the use of the artist’s creation inside the campaign can mislead fans of Williams to believe that there’s a relationship between the parties.
H&M, however, responded with the argument that the “illegal” graffiti artwork cannot be protected under copyright laws in the US. The brand had hired a third-party production company that apparently inquired with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYCDP) if permission had to be sought from the creator of the graffiti design.
NYCDP allegedly informed the team that the painting was unauthorized and considered as vandalism that defaced New York City property. Since Williams’ artwork is a product of illegal conduct, H&M reasoned that copyright infringement claims cannot be asserted in this case.
Under 17 U.S.C. § 102(a) of current US copyright law however, it states that an “original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” does come under protection.
No verdict has been reached at present.
This is not the first time Williams has dragged a fashion brand to court. In 2015, Williams and two other artists sued Roberto Cavalli for copyright infringement.