H&M has had a rough go recently, with one racially-insensitive photo at the centre the retail juggernaut’s fall from grace. The fast-fashion giant has now been accused copyright infringement by a graffiti artist for an illegitimate use his artwork in their latest campaign.
The company’s promotional imagery for their “New Routine” sportswear line features a model in front a street piece by Jason ‘Revok’ Williams, which is located at the William Sheridan Playground handball court in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
New reports indicate that Williams has field a cease and desist order against H&M for their “unauthorized use his (Willaims) original artwork, and the manner in which it is using the work, is damaging and is likely to cause consumers familiar with his work to believe there is a relationship between the parties.”
However, H&M is refuting his legal claims by stating Williams has no “copyright rights to assert” mainly because his artwork “is the product criminal conduct.” The company argues that copyright protection is “a privilege under federal law,” which does not account for “illegally crated works.”
Furthermore, H&M had contacted the New York City Department Parks and Recreation to find out whether they needed Williams’ permission in order to shoot in front his artwork. They eventually reassured the retailer that “graffiti on the park handball wall was unauthorized and constituted vandalism and defacing New York City property.”
Since this revelation, the graffiti artist has called for a boycott the company, while also spearheading a debate as to whether or not street art should be protected by U.S. copyright laws.