American Eagle Outfitters (“AEO”) and David Anasagasti, an acclaimed street artist from Miami, Florida, recently settled the artist’s complaint against AEO, which alleged that AEO infringed the artist’s copyright in his signature eyeball motif (viewable in the complaint). Mr. Anasagasti is a well-known artist, recognized for his street art, including building-sized murals in Miami’s Wynwood Art District. Mr. Anasagasti claimed that beginning in early 2014, AEO prominently featured the artist’s iconic eyeball motif in AEO’s domestic and international advertising campaign without permission. Mr. Anasagasti asserted in the complaint that he has never permitted his work to be used to advertise or sell commercial products. In fact, he claimed that the infringing use threatened his reputation of not “sell[ing] out” to large corporate interests. The plaintiff asserted that the infringed content appeared on AEO’s websites, social media, advertisements, billboards and in-store displays. The artist sued for copyright infringement and sought injunctive relief and recovery of his costs and attorney’s fees. Furthermore, Mr. Anasagasti claimed damages and AEO’s profits connected to the company’s global advertisement campaign, which used the eyeball motif. The terms of the settlement have not been released.
TIP: Street art, including graffiti and murals, may be protected by U.S. copyright law, like any other work of art. Advertisers should ensure that they have necessary rights and permissions to use any copyrighted works in their advertisements to avoid claims of copyright infringement.