Katy Perry's Met Gala Dress Said to Violate Graffiti Artist's Intellectual Property

Rime, a superstar in his own right, targets a high-end Italian apparel brand that allegedly paid Perry to wear it.
 AP Images

Joseph Tierney, the renowned street artist known as "Rime," has brought a provocative lawsuit targeting a notable designer and a high-end Italian apparel brand over the dress that pop songstress Katy Perry wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Gala in May.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday in California federal court, Rime alleges that Moschino and Jeremy Scott took one of his giant murals entitled "Vandal Eyes," now adorning the broad side of a building in Detroit, and placed it on Perry's dress. What's more, it wasn't just the image, but also the name and signature of Rime, who was one of four artists hired by Disney in 2008 to reinterpret its Mickey Mouse character.

"If this literal misappropriation were not bad enough, Moschino and Jeremy Scott did their own painting over that of the Artist — superimposing the Moschino and Jeremy Scott brand names in spray-paint style as if part of the original work," states the complaint.

Rime is going to court with copyright, unfair competition and publicity rights claims.

He says that the Perry dress "was meant to provoke and generate publicity for the brand/designer" — and that Perry was paid to display the clothing at a party that fueled story after story in the fashion press.

"Not only did Ms. Perry and Defendant Scott advertise, wear, and display the clothing at the event, they arrived at the event in a spray painted Rolls Royce, and even carried around Moschino-branded cans of fake spray paint during the event, as if Defendants were responsible for the artwork," adds the suit.

The commercialization particularly aggrieves Rime.

He acknowledges working with Disney on Mickey Mouse, and also Adidas and Converse on limited-edition footwear, but says he regularly declines corporate offers to license his work and does not make his original art available on the Internet or in retail stores because of the ramifications to his reputation. "In particular, nothing is more antithetical to the outsider 'street cred' that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour — of which Moschino is the epitome," he says through the lawsuit.

The plaintiff says that the clothing that violated his rights was not only worn by Perry, but also by supermodel Gigi Hadid during the February 2015 Moschino runway show in Milan. Now, it's all over the company's websites as well as social media, and the lawsuit cites The Wall Street Journal as reporting Moschino experienced a 16 percent increase in revenue for the first quarter of 2015.

This isn't the first lawsuit from a street artist over fashion. Just last year, Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was also sued by three street artists who created a mural in San Francisco’s Mission district over a clothing and accessories collection.

The same attorneys — David Erikson and S. Ryan Patterson at Erikson Law Group as well as Jeffrey Gluck — are representing Rime.

This latest lawsuit not only charges the defendants with stealing original expression and falsifying copyright management information (Rimes' tag), but also rather interestingly, asserting a claim for misappropriation of the plaintiff's name and likeness through its marketing endeavors. An injunction is demanded as well as disgorgement of profits and further monetary damages.

For fashionistas and pop music aficionados, the lawsuit also holds the possibility of some interesting discovery about how it came to be that Perry wore this particular dress. The lawsuit notes that Perry made a number of "worst dressed" lists after the Met Gala.

Here's the full complaint.

Moschino sent over this response: "We were not aware that a lawsuit had been filed until yesterday. Many of the allegations, especially the inflammatory and gratuitous allegations of wrongdoing are false. We intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit. During the pendency of a lawsuit, it is our practice not to comment on the specific facts of an ongoing case."

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