Happy 2015 to all of you out there. After taking the month of December off to reflect on a year of interesting posts, and to move the YTWWN headquarters from Culver City to Venice, California, we are back with a vengeance for 2015. We are receiving more art theft submissions than ever before from the artistic community, which is both good and bad for obvious reasons. But, in any event, we look forward to more posting, more interacting, and more awesome art law talk this year.
To start, we have a thorny dispute involving tile design and installation work. Tiles are decorative, but are also used to cover and finish walls; they may be, in other words, “useful articles.” Recall that useful articles are usually excluded from copyright protection, so things like lamps, clothing, tools, vases, and even bongs (as decided in a recent California case) do not enjoy copyright protection unless it can be shown that an artistic feature of the useful article is “conceptually separable” from the article itself. What this means in essence is that if you separated the artistic feature from the article, copyright protection would only attach if the feature could live a life on its own as a work of art. Do we have that below?
-AttorneyScott ([email protected])
Stephen Lindsay, a designer based in Toronto, Canada, works under the name Urban Product. He created a series of interlocking, geometric, concrete tile pieces that combine to form a swooping series of peaks and curvatures. The effect of the pieces is striking, and Stephen provided samples of the design to Studio-Collective, in response to which Studio-Collective showed great interest. But, somewhere along the way, Studio-Collective went (or was led) astray. Studio-Collective was working with one of its clients – Innovative Dining Group, a company that designs and operates restaurants and is based in Los Angeles – to design a new Sunset Strip restaurant. In doing so, Studio-Collective apparently decided at some point to pass Stephen’s work off as its own and to otherwise pretend that Stephen and his work didn’t exist. To complete the maneuver, Studio-Collective then took the unfortunate step of slapping together its “own” iteration of Stephen’s design. A comparison is below, with an extra kicker from Studio-Collective’s Instagram page, where it crows about the appealing nature of its fantastic new tile design.
Urban Product/Stephen’s work:
Studio-Collective / Innovative Dining Group’s Restaurant: