Musician Mars Argo claims that ex-beau Titanic Sinclair is trying to build
Peas in a Pod
Argo (real name Brittany Alexandria Sheets) and her beau Titanic Sinclair (real name Corey Mixter) met in Michigan in 2008. From an initial romance, they became creative collaborators, eventually moving to Los Angeles and starting up their own YouTube channel to spotlight their music and video projects.
Between 2009 and 2014, Sinclair and Argo posted 90 videos to their grocerybag.tv YouTube channel. Today, the content on the channel has been winnowed down to just three videos. The clips feature an odd, deadpan delivery, hipstery couture, ominous atmospheric backing tracks and surreal jumps in topic and tone. Here’s an exchange from one of the remaining videos, “Delete Your Facebook:”
ARGO: “Ambien’s a sleeping pill.”
SINCLAIR: “Tune in next week when we re-enact the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.”
ARGO: “Why aren’t we doing that right now?”.
Poppy − Copy?
By Argo’s account, she began building a music career off the popularity of the video series, becoming a recording artist and touring the nation. However, Argo alleges that her relationship with Sinclair had deteriorated by 2014, and the couple split. At that point, she claims, Sinclair began to “harass, stalk, threaten, and abuse” her, leading up to full-on physical assault. She eventually stopped posting content as Mars Argo and left Los Angeles altogether.
The complaint alleged that in 2014, Sinclair began grooming another woman, Moriah Rose Pereira, known as “ThatPoppy” or “Poppy,” as a double of Ms. Argo’s persona through a new eponymous YouTube channel. She claims that Poppy’s presence was a deliberate attempt to copy Argo’s “identity, likeness, expression of ideas, sound, style, and aesthetic.” Points of similarity included Poppy’s platinum blonde hair, clothing, distinctive speaking voice, odd poses, shooting backgrounds and formats, and even specific topics and concepts (the Poppy channel also features a video called “Delete Your Facebook,” for example).
Argo filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in April 2018, seeking damages for copyright infringement, violations of right to publicity, violation of the California Business and Professions Code, and domestic violence.
The questions raised by Argo’s lawsuit are fascinating: How much of Argo’s identity was the product of collaboration with Sinclair? How does collaboration affect the right of publicity? Are the similarities between the two separate personas enough to outweigh the differences, and why? How closely related are claims of domestic abuse and violations of right of publicity when the victim is an artist? Can mimicry be a form of abuse?
This decision will be important in determining how courts are interpreting the right of publicity in the age of social media and sharing of digital content on a worldwide platform. Furthermore, the court’s decision regarding potential copyright infringement claims will be important for individuals seeking to parody and satire other original works.