November 16, 2011 8:34am PT by Eriq Gardner
Why 'Million Dollar Decorators' Art Now Sits in a Lawyer's Office
In July, photographer Michael Eastman brought a wild lawsuit against Warner Bros., NBC Universal and a celebrity interior decorator alleging that Bravo's reality series Million Dollar Decorators infringed a copyright on a photograph by blowing it up really large and hanging it the living room of model/actress Daisy Fuentes. The man was unable to get a preliminary injunction that would have prevented Bravo from airing the episode in question, but he's now received one small victory: The enlarged photograph, called the "pièce de résistance" of episode 5 of the show, has been removed from Fuentes' home.
The dispute happened after Eastman was contacted by co-defendant Martyn Lawrence Bullard, an interior decorator whose celebrity clients include Elton John, Cher, Aaron Sorkin and Kid Rock, who wanted to use Eastman's work, "Isabella Two Chairs, 1999" for the show.
The two agreed it could happen, but instead of taking an authorized version, Bullard allegedly found a color photograph from the Internet, and took it to Warner Bros. in Burbank, where reps from the studio proudly demonstrated their "special image-enlargement machine."
Warners' equipment was used to transform the small downloaded image into an enormous 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide reproduction of Eastman's work. It was placed with great reality TV fanfare in Fuentes' living room. The "pièce de résistance" was shown on Million Dollar Decorators, kicking off Eastman's lawsuit for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and a violation of the Visual Artists Act of 1990.
Eastman wanted an injunction, but U.S. District Judge Henry Edward Autrey denied the request, finding that the parties clearly had a written agreement and to the extent there was a controversy, it was over the scope of the license. "That alone does not amount to enough evidence to convince the Court that Plaintiffs will likely succeed on the merits," wrote the judge.
But Eastman got better news recently when he was informed by the defendants that the massively enlarged reproduction of his work was off of Fuentes' wall and sitting in a lawyer's office as potential evidence in the case. A notice was submitted to the court on Tuesday in which Eastman says he's partially satisfied with this interim outcome. The defendants maintain no wrongdoing.