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Photographer Glen Friedman Sues Thierry Guetta (‘Mr. Brainwash’) Over Use of Run DMC Image

(photo Gregory Bojorquez).jpg
(Photo: Gregory Bojorquez)

After seeing Exit Through the Gift Shop, and even years before the popular documentary was released, many people questioned whether or not street artist Thierry Guetta (or Mr. Brainwash, as he’s taken as his artistic nom de plume) is a real person or merely another Banksy prank. However, with recent news this week, we quote ArtInfo who writes: “he’s real enough to be hit with a copyright infringement suit.” As The Art Newspaper reports, Guetta has had a suit filed against him by photographer Glen Friedman, who shot an image of the group Run DMC which the artist repurposed in a piece of his own for his debut show, “Life is Beautiful” (which is documented at the end of Exit). The case seems to fit the same pattern as the Shepard Fairey vs. the Associated Press battle of the last couple of years, with Guetta arguing that his repurposing of the original image constitutes fair use, with, of course, the photographer saying otherwise. As you’ll recall from the Fairey/AP case, no one (except for maybe the lawyers) came out of that one very well, particularly not the photographer. Here’s more from The Art Newspaper about what the photographer is asking for in the suit:

Friedman’s lawyer, Douglas Linde, says they are entitled to a share of “indirect profits” from the exhibition. Linde is seeking unspecified damages for “damage to [Fried man's] business in the form of diversion of trade, loss of income and profits, and a dilution of the value of its rights”.

Here’s what makes this all a little surreal: Glen Friedman just had a show of his photographs up at a gallery in San Francisco in November through December of last year. On opening night, Shepard Fairey was front and center in attendance, the poster child of “fair use” fight between street artists and photographers. He was even interviewed alongside Friedman for this video. Granted, Fairey has loads more clout than Guetta, but it still feels a bit strange.

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