PetaPixel

Graffiti Artist Sues Production Companies for $45K for Using His Tag in Their Show and Promo Materials

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The next time you want to photograph some cool graffiti, you might want to think twice… you could get sued by the artist if that picture makes it big.

After the popular Canadian drama 30 Vies aired, graffiti artist Alexandre Veilleux recognized a tag of his in the opening sequence. Now, Veilleux — who goes by Alex Scaner in the graffiti community — is seeking $45k in damages from Radio-Canada and Productions Aetios Inc., stating they used his work without permission.

“The plaintiff is the author of a tag, an artistic work painted in 2010 on a building located on René-Lévesque Blvd in Montreal,” Veilleux lays out in a statement filed earlier this month in Quebec Court.

That statement goes on to say that Radio-Canada and Aetios “forged, modified, mutilated and broadcast the work [for commercial purposes],” as his tag made its way to billboards and other promotional material for the show as well.

A collection of Veilleux's work that appears when you search Flickr for his pseudonym, Alex Scaner

A collection of Veilleux’s work that appears when you search Flickr for his pseudonym, Alex Scaner

Beyond the smaller tag by Veilleux, the claim states that a mural collaboration he did with another local graffiti artist was captured in the filming of the show as well.

As of this moment there are no statements from either of the companies behind 30 Vies, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated if this strange case gets any stranger.

(via National Post)


 
  • Mojo

    I’m not sure how they do things in Canada, but shouldn’t that be coutned as a confession, and shouldn’t this schmuck then get arrested, and have to pay restitution, possibly serve some jail time for his vandalism?

  • MMielech

    Doesn’t sound like much of a case. No lawyer here, but, make a piece of public art, expect it to be used in other’s photography and filming. There have been a few cases when individuals have sued when they have had their likeness used in editorial images and covers when snapped walking around in public, and lost.

  • http://www.clovenlife.com/ Aaron Lee Kafton

    Well, here’s how I see it. If you put your artwork illegally on someone else’s property. It belongs to the property. I have no doubt that the studio got proper releases for the property and thereby the work in question.

  • Benoit Evans

    In Canada (unlike the U.S.), a creator’s moral rights are fully protected. Here, the artist is claiming that the work was used with changes that damaged the artistic integrity of the original and suggested an association with the TV program that the artist found objectionable.

    Even if the artist can prove infringement, he may not be able to recover money damages or force Radio-Canada to stop using his altered work. Under the “clean hands” doctrine, courts will not make an award where the plaintiff comes to court with “dirty hands”. In Montréal it is illegal to tag buildings without the owner’s permission. Since the work was created illegally, the Court could refuse to rule in the plaintiff’s favour.

    Before I retired, I worked in the communications directorate of a department of the Gouvernement du Québec. One year, the government negotiated a licence from a Québec artist to use a painting for the cover of an appointment/meeting book given to all public service employees. After the book was published, the artist claimed infringement of his moral rights because the integrity of the artwork had been damaged by cropping. To get the full-bleed image to perfectly fit the cover, the graphic designer omitted a very narrow strip along one edge that he thought was insignificant. The artist disagreed and received a generous settlement for the damage to his moral rights under Canadian copyright law.

  • http://www.clovenlife.com/ Aaron Lee Kafton

    that’s gotta be frustrating for any magazine or designer.

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    Interesting case. What about the owner of the building this artist tagged? It certainly makes an interesting twist if the show got a property release from the owners of the building.

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    Wow….thanks for the info.

  • Guest

    times have changed grandpa, not all street art is illegal ;-)

  • Mojo

    Grandpa? In my mid 20′s? I don’t think so. And I’m not sure where you’re from, but it’s surely a crime in my neck of the woods.

  • http://bastardsheep.com/ BastardSheep

    I hope all the councils and owners of buildings he tagged are now suing him for damages and cleanup to their personal property. What an arsehole. Taggers don’t deserve any respect, let alone payout. It’s pure vandalism for the sake of being an arsehat.

  • OtterMatt

    Dunno what the statute of limitations is around those parts. Even in America, though, that’s a pretty shaky legal ground. Since he wasn’t caught, prosecution of such a minor offense would be very difficult indeed, since the only evidence given isn’t required to be offered in court (5th amendment) and there’s not much else to go on.

  • OtterMatt

    I know a few who do it legally, so let’s not be too hasty to lump all street artists in the same bundle now.

  • Mojo

    But didn’t he waive his right to not incriminate himself by telling everyone he’s the culprit by starting a lawsuit against this guy?

  • Ken Maldonado

    I’m not an attorney, or Canadien. But in the U.S. isn’t grafitti technically vandalism, hence illegal, and isn’t there a law prohibiting people from profiting off of their crimes. So there shouldn’t be any way this kind of thing could happen in the U.S.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I think he is saying that he might have been hired/commissioned to do the artwork.

  • Burnin Biomass

    There is a lot in this.
    First, I think it matters how it showed up. If it is part of a larger scene, and the highlight isn’t the graffiti, then I think he will loose (its like having a billboard in the corner of an image of Times Square, or a full length picture of someone wearing Nike shoes).

    If it is highlighted (or the focus of the shot), I think (opinion here, not stating a fact) the graffiti guy can tell the TV show they cannot not use the image, but I’m not sure if he can get money from it. I kinda think (could be way wrong) that he wouldn’t loose the right to the image, but possibly cannot profit from it.

    It’s a fun one to think about.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    But that’s not how copyright law works. If the artist paints something illegally on your property, you are the owner of the single original piece of art, but do not own the rights (copyright) to the artwork. Its similar to if you were to buy a painting or photo in a gallery – you own the single piece, but not the rights to reproduce it. This falls under First-sale doctrine.

    It’s not a matter of opinion, its law.

  • Rob Elliott

    There are a few places where street art is commissioned, I can’t say too much about Montreal but Toronto has a few blocks of a whole Graffiti alleys

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Unfortunately the owner of the building doesn’t have the rights to the image (even if they own the original copy – which they do, as abandoned property with the graffiti) – First sales doctrine (part of copyright law) states that the ‘tagged’ buildings owner owns the artwork, but not the copyright (or reproduction rights) to issue to a third party.

  • Rob Elliott

    he biggest issue I can see is, as far as I know his work (if Commissioned) is in the public domain in the case of a TV show Filming. So I don’t see him having a case there.. but if they used to advertise the show.. where the art was the primary element and not just a background for a photograph taken in the public space.. then it will get murky.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.. I normally would be on the side of the artist but I’m fairly neutral. If it is in a public place I think it can be used as a back drop. (it’s like with Copyrighted Buildings, you can still take a shot of the skyline so long as they aren’t the focus.. ie the Eiffel Tower, Chrysler Building or CN Tower)

    It really is a matter of how they used it, and I haven’t seen the “offending” images.

  • Chang

    Sorry, this is the same level of crazy as that burglar who sued after falling through a skylight and getting paralyzed. Of course, he won his suit too…

  • Chang

    Except it wasn’t sold, it’s a relic of trespassing. It’s called vandalism, for goodness’ sake.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Doesn’t matter – the law is very clear on this issue. Copyright transfers are never compulsory – even in Work for Hire situations, it is a contractual matter. Even if you give away a piece of art, that piece still falls under first-sale, and no rights are transferred.

    It may be vandalism to you, but to others it may be a welcome gift – I’d be happy to have Banksy, BunnyM, or many other artists “vandalize” my wall. Its looks a hellova a lot better than the 5000 pieces of adverting I’m forced to see in NY every day.

  • Tobias W.

    Hey, I thought the same thing. I bet he never cared or asked for permission of the property owners when he placed his “art” on their walls. If I was one of the property owners, I’d hope the guy gets compensated in the thousands, so that I can take away that money from him in court right after that.

    Greedy snub.

  • Chang

    Actually the law is clear in rather the opposite direction. The owner of the property upon which the vandalism is found has the right to any profits from the vandalism, at least in the US. See N.Y. Exec. Law § 632(a)

  • Chang

    If they did, then the case would go nowhere, at least in the US. The owner of the property upon which graffiti is displayed retains the rights of display or non-display of that instance of the graffiti. If the criminal has displayed the same image in other places, the owner of each individual instance has the rights of display of that instance.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I think that only applies to felonies.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    You don’t know that law very well, do you. It applies to Class B felonies or higher only – Vandalism is charged as a maximum of a Class D felony. And nowhere in McKinney does it specifically state vandalism, as you imply.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    No, they don’t – copyright and transfer of rights are not granted, even in abandoned (or illegal) artworks. Please don’t spread mis-information.

  • Chang

    But in every case where an owner has sold graffiti or painted it over, or redisplayed graffiti that existed on their property prior to development (Banksy, Banksy, and Amazon’s headquarters), the courts have ruled in favor of the property owner. While the issue could certainly be debated, there’s lots of case law saying the law favors property over copyright law when they conflict.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    That falls squarely under First Sale Doctrine, not licensing, transfer or issuance of copyright. Very different parts of copyright law.

    The issue really can’t be debated. It’s pretty solid law, and you’ll need to provide the actual “plenty of case law’ to back up your claim – because frankly, its not the truth.

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    Interesting…they own the artwork but not the copyright. So I guess the property owner has no rights to commercialize the art, but if they wanted to tear down the building for reconstruction, then that would be ok? I guess that would make sense.

  • Francis Vachon

    Est-ce une décision du tribunal ou une entente hors-cours? Je suis très intéressé à avoir les détails

  • snapshot1

    I work on plenty of productions in NYC and they have to get the permission of every street artist work that can be identified in a commercial print or footage, or it must be taken out. Not saying I agree it, but it’s the way it is. No production company is willing to risk being sued for copyright infringement. Same goes for any piece of public art.

  • timelapsesux

    Hard to believe nobody gets what’s going on here. The guy obviously knows how much crap this craziness will cause on forums like this. He’s obviously using the whole thing as advertising. The outcome of the lawsuit is insignificant. He’s getting his 15 minutes now. It’s working for him really well.

  • snapshot1

    But not the right to the copyright. It’s 2 different things. Same goes for if you buy a work of art. You own the art, but not the copyright.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    That’s right – they own the physical piece, not the intellectual property. Sadly, we just saw a really tragic case of this in NYC – there is a place called 5 pointz – the building owners allowed graf and street artists to paint freely throughout the building for years (do a google image search, it was really amazing) – but the owners decided to tear down the building, and they destroyed all of the art by whitewashing it beforehand – even though everyone was given permission to use the building as a canvas, ultimately the ‘canvas’ belonged to the building owner, and there was nothing the artists could do to stop the destruction of the art. It’s truly a tragic tale.

  • battlepriest

    If they are painting walls legally, then they aren’t taggers.

  • Frank Billue

    Let’s see. He painted a private building apparently without permission. I’d think that for that reason alone, he lost ownership of his art.

  • battlepriest

    There is nothing tragic about the destruction of this sort of art. Part of its whole nature is its evanescence. Graffiti gets painted over every day of the week. Besides, you don’t want your “art” painted over or defaced? Don’t paint it on someone else’s wall.

  • battlepriest

    That is insane.

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  • Benoit Evans

    C’était un règlement hors-cours, recommandé par les procureurs du gouvernement. À leur avis, le demandeur aurait eu gain de cause devant un juge. Le ministère de la Justice a une équipe spécialisé permanente dans la matière.

  • Francis Vachon

    Est-ce possible de vous parler en privé? info (at) francisvachon (point) com

    Merci d’avance :)

  • OtterMatt

    Again, I have no idea if that matters or not. As I understand it here in America, if they want to press criminal charges, then only what is said in court really counts.

  • http://www.bobcooleyphoto.com/ bob cooley

    Clearly you know nothing about 5 Pointz. The walls were provided explicitly (by the landlord) for creating art. If you are writing in the street, you can expect your work to get buffed or overwritten, however 5 Pointz was a sanctuary for street art, and the artists respected each others’ space.

  • Luap

    5th Amendment??? Only relative to the USofA… most certainly not to the Polar Bear Country (Alaska don’t count as a country).

  • OtterMatt

    Which, if you were intelligent and literate, you would have noticed that I SAID THAT IN MY POST YOU IDIOT.