Copyright of artistic work subject of suit

Glenn W. Peterson

Being the home to the movie industry, California is a hotbed of creative innovation and therefore many people in the golden state are aware that artistic works may be subject to copyright laws. These laws, like trademark laws, are designed to provide protections to the holders of them. Copyrights may be granted for things like movies, music, books, sculptures, photographs and paintings.

Also, like trademarks, it is the responsibility of the person or the entity who holds a copyright to enforce it. One artist who painted a mural on an exterior building wall in Detroit, Michigan is today attempting to do just that. The case was actually filed in a federal court at the beginning of this year according to Automotive News and will soon be heard in a district court in Los Angeles.

The artist is alleging that General Motors has illegally used his mural for its commercial benefit, essentially. Some may put forth the notion that photographing the mural is legally allowed because of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act. However, the plaintiff is alleging that his mural is not governed by that law because it is not an innate or integral component of the building and those are the only elements covered by the AWCPA.

General Motors is also accused of consciously covering the artist’s name, another allegation that the corporation disputes. The company is said to have used a freelance photographer to capture the photo but it is not clear if the photographer is being included in the lawsuit.