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NBCU, Syfy Sued Over Skull Design in 'Dream Machines'

Another cable reality show is hit with a claim from an artist over alleged copyright infringement.

Syfy Logo - H 2012

NBC Universal and the creators/stars of the Syfy reality show Dream Machines are being sued by a Louisiana artist who claims the series has been infringing the copyright on his artwork.

Preston Asevedo filed the complaint in Louisiana federal court, alleging that the first season of the show about custom-built concept cars has been regularly featuring his design called "Comedy Tragedy Skulls."

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The Syfy series debuted this year and shows brothers Shanon and Marc Parker building cars for such celebrities as 50 Cent and John Cena as well as for the red carpet premiere of the Universal film, Battleship.

The problem, according to Asevedo, is that the Parker brothers have an outdoor sign on their establishment that is filmed during each episode. And that the sign features a design that is similar to "Comedy Tragedy Skulls." Here's a look from the complaint:

skull

Asevedo also says that the design has been used in the show in ways other than the outdoor sign, such as being stamped into the interior of the custom car that was built for 50 Cent.

The plaintiff says he contacted the Parkers in April and purportedly got this response:  

“We used a variation of a skull logo that we understand was originally drawn by you for our logo. We wanted to speak with you about using your name in co[n]junction with the artwork as we could never find out who the artist was until now. We would have come to you first if we had known. Please contact me at your convenience to discuss this as we are preparing to sell t-shirts with our design and would like to compensate you for your work as well as credit you on it.”  

Subsequent negotiations allegedly went nowhere, and Asevedo is suing for copyright infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff is seeking "significant" damages and an injunction.

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NBCU hasn't responded yet to a request for comment. The Parker brothers couldn't be reached.

This isn't the first time that NBCU has faced a copyright lawsuit over artwork allegeldy used within one of its cable reality shows.

Last year, an artist sued the company after Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators allegedly used a blown-up copyrighted photograph in one of its episodes. A judge in that case turned down an injunction but got the allegedly infringing work reserved as potential evidence. Alas, the case never made its way to trial. According to court documents, the dispute was settled in late June.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner