Artist Sues Cannabis Company and Agencies Over Mural Used in Ads

Advertising Law

Another copyright infringement lawsuit has been filed by an artist after a mural appeared in advertising, this time in a dispute involving a cannabis company.

Diana Perez created a street mural titled “Besties” in the River North Art District in Denver, Colorado, as part of the September 2019 Crush Walls Art Festival. She filed suit in February when she discovered that her work was featured in social media ads for Cannabistry’s cannabis-infused essential oil products without her permission.

The suit also named two marketing companies that developed the ad campaign for Cannabistry, alleging that they launched a social media campaign incorporating the mural, posting “at least two” ads on Instagram that “intentionally included” Perez’s mural “as a central component.”

“The mural is the main creative element in the infringing advertisements and was intentionally chosen as such,” according to the complaint. “Defendants were aware that the mural was created as part of the Crush Walls Arts Festival and plaintiff’s distinctive tag signature is prominently displayed on the mural.”

Perez claimed that she has been “significantly damaged” by the unlawful uses of the mural, requesting statutory damages, actual damages, disgorgement and a permanent injunction halting the defendants from displaying the allegedly infringing ads.

To read the complaint in Perez v. JDEM Properties LLC, click here.

Why it matters: Perez’s lawsuit raises issues similar to those in a case filed against General Motors by a Swiss graffiti artist who created an outdoor mural in Detroit that appeared on the car company’s social media feed as well as a declaratory action filed by Mercedes against four graffiti artists over the car company’s use of their street art in a social media post. As the use of murals in ads continues to be the subject of copyright infringement cases, brands and their agencies should be careful when taking photos or filming in public outdoor space and raise a red flag whenever a mural is visible in the background.

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