Fast Food

New York graffiti artists claim McDonald's stole work for latest burger campaign

 (iStock)

A group of graffiti artists from Brooklyn, N.Y. is suing McDonald's over the alleged unauthorized use of their work in a Dutch ad for a new burger with a Big Apple theme. 

According to a press release provided to Fox News by the law firm Kushnirsky Gerber, six artists—Don Rimx, Beau Stanton, Virus, NDA, Atomik, and Himbad—are pursuing legal action against the fast-food corporation for copyright infringement and false endorsement, with others poised to follow suit.

As initially reported by Artnet, the artists will seek compensation for damages to their work and reputation, plus profits derived from McDonald’s unauthorized use of their artwork to promote the "New York Bagel Supreme" burger overseas.

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To promote the new sandwich, the fast food chain reportedly hired half a dozen street artists from the Brooklyn-based non-profit mural project Bushwish Collective to paint versions of their new sandwich on billboards in the Netherlands. They also released a four-minute documentary-style video—including the work of the artists Kushnirsky Gerber represents—featuring many of the murals from the Brooklyn neighborhood, entitled “McDonald’s presents The vibe of Bushwick NY.”

The artists’ attorney Andrew Gerber notes in the relase that “Many of the artists whose work appears in the ad—including the artists threatening legal action—did not give permission for their work to be featured, and some have no affiliation at all with Bushwick Collective.”

“Text included in the video advertisement states that all of the featured murals are painted with permission of the owners,” suggesting that although McDonald’s did not seek permission from numerous artists to feature their work, it did contact the owners of dozens of Bushwick buildings to confirm that all murals had been commissioned legally,” the release continues.

NDA, one of the artists participating in the suit, told The Daily Beast, “If you’re going to use our work to bolster your street cred, you should at least ask for permission.”

“I’m not interested in doing free work for a giant, multi-national corporation,” he said.

The promotional video has since been scrubbed from McDonald’s YouTube channel, but street art blog Vandalog has preserved it on their Facebook page, stating, “Because McDonald's removed this video from their YouTube account before everyone who wanted to see it could take a look, we thought we would repost it here. We don't own the rights to this video, but we are preserving it online for the purposes of criticism and news reporting.”

According to Gerber, “This is the second time in six months that McDonald’s has faced charges of infringing street art.”

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“It’s frustrating that it should still be a novel issue that posing in front of an artwork for a commercial product is unlawful,” Gerber told Artnet, which pointed out that publicly displayed artwork isn’t automatically fair game. “If anything, we should be strengthening legal protections for artists in order to encourage public artworks.”

This isn’t the first time the golden arches chain has been accused of ripping off street art to appear edgier. 

In October 2016, the estate of late street artist Dash Snow filed a suit against McDonalds claiming that they used several of Snow’s designs as fake graffiti in various locations. 

The suit claimed that Snow’s family had asked McDonald’s to remove the graffiti months earlier, but the behemoth “arrogantly refused to comply.”

A representative for McDonald's was not immediately available for comment.