The Italian high-fashion brand Moschino, along with its Designer, Jeremy Scott, is being sued for copyright infringement by a graffiti artist also known as Rime who claims that a particular piece of his artwork called 'Vandal Eyes' has been used unlawfully i.e. without his consent, on clothing produced by the fashion house.
Under US copyright law, in order for an artwork to be protected by copyright, it needs to be original and to be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression". Rime's mural 'Vandal Eyes' certainly seems to meet those requirements.
A dress and a suit, both featuring a prominent image of Rime's graffiti, were worn at the Met Gala by singer Katy Perry and defendant Jeremy Scott. This brought a great deal of attention to the striking designs of the Moschino collection, which includes other items such as handbags - all of which potentially infringe the artist's work.
In addition to the image of the original mural, the designs have other graphics added, the word 'Moschino' is emblazoned across them and a fake signature of Rime is also incorporated. Rime contends these characteristics not only amount to defacement but also indicate some sort of collaboration between the parties. In other words, a false representation that Moschino and Mr Scott were in fact the creators.
The claim also notes the damage done to the reputation of Rime, stating that "nothing is more antithetical to the outsider "street cred" that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour—of which Moschino is the epitome. To anyone who recognizes his work, Plaintiff is now wide open to charges of "selling out.""
Moschino could potentially argue that their use of the graffiti work fall within the fair use exception, which provides a margin of freedom for creative works under copyright law. The exception can apply when an original work is completely transformed, for example, into a piece of satire, a caricature or a parody.
Whatever argument it uses, Moschino has said it will "vigorously defend" itself, stating that "Many of the allegations, especially the inflammatory and gratuitous allegations of wrongdoing are false".in: Case Law, Copyright, News