June 16, 2017
It seems that May was not the best month for British Airways (BA). As well as the global IT systems failure that BA experienced over bank holiday weekend, BA have also got themselves into some turbulence with a German born street artist – Claudia Walde, also known as MadC – over its inclusion of her work as well as the works of two other street artists’ in an advertising campaign in Shoreditch (not too far from Briffa HQ).
Shoreditch is widely known as a trendy area for creatives that is home to the works of a number of talented street artists, some relatively unknown and some as prominent as the globally recognised – Banksy, whose works sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds a piece. In fact, there is even a company – Shoreditch Art Tours – who offers tours of some of the most memorable pieces of work, demonstrating the commercial value of these works of art.
In 2013, Ms Walde created a mural across a two storey office building in Shoreditch. The mural is a vibrant, abstract design entitled the “Chance Street Mural”.
BA’s latest advertising campaign on a billboard in Shoreditch features the strapline ‘Hey Shoreditch, what if……you surprise your loved one this weekend?’ and was designed for them by the agency Clear Channel. Alongside this strapline there were portions of Ms Walde’s mural included in the billboard as well as parts of the artwork of the Puerto Rican artist – Alexis Diaz and the Argentinian artist – Elian Chali. It appears that consent for the inclusion of their work in the advertising campaign was not obtained from any of the artists whose work was involved.
Clear Channel have publically stated that “All the images used in the campaign were procured in good faith from reputable image libraries, and we are therefore surprised that some may have contained the works of a number of artists without their consent.”
Intellectual Property Rights Infringement?
Copyright is a legal right that arises automatically upon the creation and recording of an original copyright work. It grants the creator of an original work the exclusive right to use and distribute the copyrighted work for a specific period of time – normally the length of the author’s life plus 70 years.
Moral rights are a separate set of rights and focus on the right of an author to protect the integrity and ownership of their work, including being credited as author.
Ms Walde has instructed a lawyer in Paris to act for her with regard to the alleged infringement of her intellectual property rights by BA. Presumably Ms Walde is arguing that as the author of the Chance Street Mural she is the owner of the copyright in the work and as such BA have infringed her copyright by including her work in their advertising campaign without her permission. Additionally, it seems she is arguing that her moral rights have been infringed as she has not been credited as the author of the work and because she objects to the way in which BA have used her work.
We will wait to see how the matter is resolved.
There have been a number of occasions in recent years where big brands have sought to include the work of street artists into their promotional campaign without purportedly getting the necessary permission from the artists whose works are involved. The fast food chain McDonald’s, and the fashion design houses Moschino and Roberto Cavalli have all been subject to similar accusations.
Best practice when looking to include an artist’s work in any way in a product or advertising campaign is to ask for permission form the artist before doing so. Often the artist will agree to licence the work for payment of an agreed fee or “royalty”.
Briffa advises on all areas of protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights including copyright infringement matters and licensing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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