Still recovering from the “Coolest Monkey In the Jungle” controversy, H&M is in the middle of a new one over copyright claims. The Swedish-based retailer countersued a graffiti artist, claiming his illegal work isn’t protected. And it appears criticism has led them to drop the suit altogether.
H&M previously shot an ad campaign that featured the work of Revok, whose real name is Jason Williams, High Sobriety reported. Williams’ attorneys sent H&M a cease and desist letter requesting the removal of the campaign, which said the brand, “included [his] original artwork in an advertising campaign for H&M products without his permission or knowledge.”
In response, H&M countersued and claimed William’s “‘artwork’ is the product of criminal conduct,” adding, “Mr. Williams has no copyright rights to assert. The entitlement to copyright protection is a privilege under federal law that does not extend to illegally created works.”
This despite copyright law stating one of the requirements for obtaining it is to create a “tangible medium of expression.”
The backlash proved swift and many have been slamming the company and calling for a boycott. Rapper-producer Swizz Beatz proclaimed he’d no longer support the brand.
“Any graffers out there fancy piercing a few tins of paint and rolling them into @hm today?” someone tweeted. “If not just drag your markers across their rails next time your in…you screwed up H&M and every graf writer in the land is thirsty to vandalize your stores! #revok.”
“Don’t let corporations appropriate our work royalty free! 😡” another person tweeted.
“Wow H&M, for real?!?” a Twitter user said. “Another reason NOT to give this lame retailer your money. Shop ethically & support artist like Revok #f–khm.”
In an apparent bend to the criticism, H&M has withdrawn the countersuit, tweeting in part, that it “respects the creativity and uniqueness of artists, no matter the medium. We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter. It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art.”
Appreciate your concerns/questions regarding the lawsuit. To confirm, the lawsuit is dropped and we’re continuing to reach out to the artist to find a solution. It’s important to us that you know we’re listening, have taken action and respect artists and artistic rights.
— H&M (@hm) March 16, 2018