Picture courtesy of Mercedes

“Public art has become an important and beautiful attraction in cities around the world. Mercedes’ actions could scare artists into not wanting to make any artwork outdoors for fear that big companies will use and exploit their work without permission, and we must never let that happen. We are dedicated to fighting against this type of oppression and we stand alongside the global artist community against Mercedes’ bullying.” – Graffiti artist MadC

Daniel Bombardier aka Denial, Jeff SotoJames “Dabls” Lewis, and Maxx Gramajo, three muralists with work featured in the art hub that is Detroit’s Eastern market, are being sued by the mega-car company Mercedes-Benz after their murals appeared in the backdrop of the car ads. The three artists sued the company for the use of the murals as backdrops in Mercedes Benz’ Instagram account without permission. This followed a counter-suit from the Mercedes, arguing that their campaign did not infringe the artists’ copyrights and that it will fight “an aggressive shakedown effort”, according to Detroit News.

”If courts were to adopt Mercedes’ argument, it could destroy artists’ rights for thousands of important and beautiful public works of art,” said Jeff Gluck, attorney for the four artists. ”Companies would [then] be free to use and exploit murals to sell their products, without needing to compensate the artists or even ask their permission.”

A mural by Daniel Bombardier, also known as Denial, at Eastern Market in Detroit. Photo by Chris Christian, via Flickr.

“One thing @mercedesbenz conveniently sidestepped in their lawsuit is that along with their social media posts, they also allegedly offered the image with our mural as part of a downloadable press packet. It was on the Daimler media site, high resolution, and available for ANYONE or any company who wished to use it (it has recently, quietly, been taken down). Unfortunately, this led to virtually *thousands* of online uses that we could find, including car articles, auto parts advertising, magazine covers and too many foreign news sites to count… we even found it as high-resolution wallpaper downloads. It is disheartening to see all this,” stated artist Jeff Soto on his Instagram account. 

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