American Eagle Outfitters Sued for Copyright Infringement

What used to be considered graffiti and vandalism has now come to be known as street art.  Street art is now commonplace, accepted and admired in cities all over the world.  Street art, once thought to lower the quality of life in the areas it was visible, is now thought to be an enhancement, turning once low key areas into up and coming neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, the artists that create this art do not have a lot of options when it comes to protecting their works.  What protections they do have is at the heart of a recent copyright infringement case.

Popular Miami street artist, David Anasagasti a.k.a. AholSniffsGlue, whose work adorns the Wynwood Art District, is well known for his anti-corporate beliefs.  Recently, he discovered that clothier American Eagle Outfitters was using some of his work in their spring campaign.  His work appears in the company’s marketing tools digitally, in print on billboards and advertisements and in stores in a number of countries.  One unauthorized use of his work by American Eagle Outfitters depicts a young model with a can of spray paint which implies that the model created the work himself.

Anasagasti promptly brought a copyright infringement suit in New York against the company for the use of his work without his authorization.  He claims that American Eagle Outfitters failed to attribute the work to him and compensate him for his work.  Anasagasti also alleges that the company knew how to get in touch with him but failed to do so.

Some think that the company did not attempt to attain authorization to use the work because it did not believe it had to.  It is thought that in order for original work to be protected it has to be free of illegality.  The copyright law is unclear when it comes to the standards for original work that is illegal in nature.  As a good amount of street art is done illegally it could be that American Eagle Outfitters did not think that the work was protected by copyright. The U.S. copyright law does not provide that all original works that are done unlawfully are exempt from copyright protection and his might be the saving grace for street artists looking to stop the unauthorized use of their work.

If you believe your copyrighted work is being used unlawfully or you have been accused of copyright infringement you should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in this area.  Thomas Lancia has years of experience representing clients in these matters.  Call (212)964-3157 for a consultation today.