Apr 22, 2016

Copyright and Kanye Kissing Kanye

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are no strangers to being in the news and we have previously written about Kanye West on this site. Kanye, or rather his image, is now the subject of a rather interesting dispute that is developing on social media and the Buzzfeed news sites. This story also raises interesting questions around how many alterations need to be made to an artistic work to make it transformative and allow the fair use defence to be relied upon. This is a topic we have previously covered here.

This story began when a photographer by the name of Jason Merritt took a photograph of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian kissing at the Grammy Awards. The normal copyright laws mean that the owner of the copyright in this photograph would be Mr Merritt.

The photograph came to the attention of a contributor to Buzzfeed who proceeded to edit this image to be a picture of Kanye West kissing himself, with one version of Kanye West taking the place of Kim Kardashian. There is an argument at this point that this would be sufficiently transformative as to not amount to copyright infringement, but the story does not end there.

An Australian street artist (Scotty Marsh) came across the image of Kanye kissing Kanye, who replicated the image on to a 20ft street mural. Mr Marsh then offered the mural for sale, via a process called buffing, for $100,000. The mural has since been buffed implying that a sale has taken place. The question of whether Mr Marsh actually had any rights in the mural remains unresolved.

Mr Marsh has since complained that he did not receive a commission to paint a further mural of an Australian radio personality in the same pose as the Kanye mural, on the site of the Kanye mural, with a cheaper artist being preferred. Commentary on the internet has focused on the fact that the Kanye work may not have been Mr Marsh's in the first place. At this moment this story is not the subject of legal action. It will be interesting to see if any of the parties feel it is in their interests to issue legal action.

Posted by: in: Copyright, News

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