McDonald's, Graffiti And New York Street Art

 The Snow street art and the McDonald’s décor, as depicted in the Complaint. Courtesy The Art Law Report.

The Snow street art and the McDonald’s décor, as depicted in the Complaint. Courtesy The Art Law Report.

McDonald’s recently prevailed on personal jurisdiction grounds in a closely-watched case in California about the use of street art as décor for restaurants in the United Kingdom, but the issue has quickly arisen again. As part of what the fast-food giant has clearly decided is a winning branding strategy, the chain’s use of graffiti from New York has now brought the threat of litigation from the so-called Bushwick Collective. Where any such lawsuit gets filed will have a great deal to do with what happens next.

Back in December, McDonald’s was sued by the estate of the late artist Dashiell Snow, known as “Dash.” The Dash Complaint depicted Snow as a contemporary artist, whose “street cred” was an essential part of his image—with which the appearance of his art in something as mainstream as McDonald’s would be at odds. The case tracked the theory that survived dismissal in the Tierney v. Moschino case involving street artist “Rime”—namely, that identifiers in the images themselves violate the “copyright management information” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 1202 (though the Snow estate alleged that the presence of his signature creates an unwarranted association between him and McDonald’s).

Please read the entire article on the Art Law Report by clicking here. The Art Law Report, written by Nicholas O'Donnell, partner at Sullivan & Worcester, provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.