The Los Angeles-based street artist Thierry Guetta, better known as Mr Brainwash, has lost a copyright case involving a 1977 photograph of the punk rock musician Sid Vicious shot by the British photographer Dennis Morris. Guetta had claimed that the seven works he created using Morris’s black and white photograph, including one mural and one collage made of broken vinyl records, were sufficiently altered to be protected by the fair use defence, which allows for the use of copyrighted material for commentary, criticism and parody.
The federal judge rejected Guetta’s claim, saying that “most of [the] defendant’s works add certain new elements, but the overall effect of each is not transformative.” The judge also opposed the argument that “appropriation art per se” should be protected by fair use. As we went to press, the terms of the settlement, including unspecified damages, were being determined.
In 2011 Guetta lost a copyright case to Glen Friedman over his use of Friedman’s photograph of the rap group Run DMC, while last year the estate of the photographer Jim Marshall sued Guetta and Google for the unauthorised use of Marshall’s photographs of musicians. This case has not yet been decided and is due to go to trial in July.