[UPDATE] March 15, 2018 7:48 p.m. EST: H&M has announced via Twitter that they’ve dropped the lawsuit against Jason Williams a.k.a. REVOK, saying “We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter.”
Read our original story below.
H&M has filed a lawsuit against the graffiti artist Jason Williams (aka REVOK), in which the brand argues that illegally-produced graffiti doesn’t qualify for copyright protection. The legal battle began after H&M shot a clothing campaign that featured REVOK’s artwork in the background, as seen above. The wall and the associated artwork is located at the William Sheridan Playground handball court in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
In January, Williams’ lawyer filed a cease and desist letter with the company that asked for the campaign to be removed, claiming that H&M “included [his] original artwork in an advertising campaign for H&M products without his permission or knowledge.”
Now in response, H&M has filed a lawsuit arguing that Williams’ graffiti doesn’t warrant copyright because it was made illegally. “Under the circumstances, in which your client’s claimed ‘artwork’ is the product of criminal conduct, Mr. Williams has no copyright rights to assert,” the lawsuit states. “The entitlement to copyright protection is a privilege under federal law that does not extend to illegally created works.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has brought a fashion brand to court, in 2014 alongside artists Reyes and Steel, sued Roberto Cavalli for copyright infringement.
When the news broke, KAWS took to Instagram Stories to share an image reacting to the lawsuit, which quickly saw it spread around social media, ending up on the account of Swizz Beatz.
To obtain a copyright under current law, an artwork must be original and in a “tangible medium of expression.” However, as The Fashion Law points out, many cases involving graffiti copyright are settled out of court so there’s no clear-cut decision whether an illegally made work benefits from this law.
In other news, Steven Soderbergh reveals how to shoot a movie on an iPhone.