Mr. Brainwash Loses Copyright Case to Photographer, Again

March 4, 2013 | Eugene Reznik

A Los Angeles federal district court judge recently ruled against the inexplicably famous street artist Mr. Brainwash in a copyright infringement case involving a 1977 portrait of Sid Vicious by Dennis Morris. In rejecting his motion for summary judgement on the grounds of “fair use,” he also effectively ruled the so-called “appropriation art” mediocre.

According to PDN, this is part of a growing body of recent case law against artists that use other’s work as their own raw materials. “The message from federal courts is that appropriation artists cannot claim fair use unless they parody the original work, or in some other way critique or comment upon them directly.”

According to Judge Kronstadt, Brainwash did no such thing. “There must be some showing that a challenged work is a commentary on the copyrighted one,” he said in statement that had the air of a classroom critique, “or that the person who created the challenged work had a justification for using the protected work as a means of making an artistic statement.”

In his ruling, the judge cited a similar ruling against Brainwash from 2011 involving a Run DMC image in which he also couldn’t convince the court that his splotch of color qualified as any statement.