Seven years after artist Dash Snow passed away, his estate is accusing McDonald’s of brazenly swiping one of his signature designs to use as fake “graffiti” decor on eateries around the world.
When we say “signature,” we don’t just mean that this particular work was intimately associated with Snow; we also mean that the design was actually the spray-painted signature for Snow’s pseudonym “SACE.”
The two images below are taken from the complaint [PDF]. On the left is a Snow original SACE signature. On the right is a very similar design as seen in a London McDonald’s:
This image from the Evening Standard shows that the lookalike graffiti isn’t actual tagging by vandals, but is part of the restaurant’s decor:
In addition to claiming that the fast food chain violated Snow’s copyright by using his work without permission, the late artist’s estate argues that the value of the rest of his artwork — which has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, according to the complaint — could be harmed by possibly giving people the impression that the other faux spray paint on the wall was created by Snow.
This is particularly problematic, argues his estate, because Snow “carefully avoided any association with corporate culture and mass-market consumerism… He has never made his original art available on the internet, in retail stores, or in restaurants.”
McDonald’s is, per the complaint, “clearly attempting to trade on Mr. Snow’s name and reputation.” His estate points out that the allegedly infringing design is the largest and most prominent part of the McDonald’s wall decor, and the “only element ‘created’ by a famous artist.”
The estate claims that Snow’s family asked McDonald’s in June 2016 to remove the allegedly offending work, but that the fast food chain has “arrogantly refused to comply.”