Graffiti Image Used in J-Lo Car Ad Sparks Copyright Dispute

Nov 29, 2011 - LegalZoom News Sources
Graffiti artists say Fiat infringed on their copyrighted work in a TV commercial for the car company starring Jennifer Lopez.

TATS Cru, a Bronx-based crew of graffiti artists, has threatened legal action against carmaker Fiat and Fiat's advertising agency, Doner, alleging that a recently released Fiat TV ad starring pop superstar Jennifer Lopez features a copyrighted TATS Cru graffiti design.

In the ad, Lopez is depicted behind the wheel of a Fiat, driving around the Bronx neighborhoods she says inspire her music. At one point, the commercial shows a wall covered in a graffiti mural that is now at issue. A member of TATS Cru, Wilfredo Feliciano, told The New York Times that the crew created the mural in Hunts Point as part of a community renewal project, and the image is copyrighted. A photograph of the mural posted to the Times’ website shows that the copyright symbol appears at the bottom right corner of the image.

“We didn’t know anything about it, and we didn’t give permission,” Feliciano told the newspaper. “That’s enough. This has happened to us in the past, and it’s not cool. We had to do something about it.”

The crew secured legal counsel to pursue a case against Fiat Group subsidiary Chrysler and the Doner agency, the Times reported. Though TATS Cru got its start illegally tagging trains in the 1980s, it has gone on to receive art world acclaim and has been hired to provide art for corporate clients including Coca-Cola and Nike, according to the Times.

Doner did not reply to the Times’ requests for comments. A Chrysler spokesperson sent the news source an email saying the company is investigating TATS Cru’s allegations of copyright infringement.

A TATS Cru lawsuit could further erode the effectiveness of the ad, which was critiqued as inauthentic after media sources including The Smoking Gun reported Lopez did not film the spot on location in the Bronx. Rather, she shot her portion of the commercial in Los Angeles while a body double drove the car for the portions filmed in New York City.