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Spike Lee Sued by Artist over 'Oldboy' Movie Poster

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Director Spike Lee has been sued in federal court by a movie poster artist for copyright infringement, claiming Lee used his poster design for "Oldboy" without permission.

Juan Luis Garcia, who says he worked on posters for "The Great Gatsby," "12 Years a Slave," and "Lincoln," alleges that Lee used his artwork for the movie "Oldboy" without permission or pay, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

What does Garcia have to back up his copyright infringement claim?

'Oldboy' Poster Spurs Lawsuit

Garcia claims in his lawsuit, filed in California federal court on Tuesday, that Lee had access to several copyrighted posters Garcia had created for "Oldboy" and used them to promote the film without permission. Distributing copyrighted works for profit or creating derivative works based on them, without permission, is typically considered copyright infringement.

Well before the suit was filed, Garcia wrote an open letter to Lee around Thanksgiving, alleging that Lee had stolen his designs after giving him "an insultingly low offer" for them. According to UPROXX, Lee responded by sending a tweet denying ever working with Garcia, calling his open letter a "cheap trick."

It will be up to a federal court to decide whether the official movie poster for "Oldboy" was different enough from Garcia's designs to be considered either a new work or a derivative one.

In addition to his copyright infringement claims, Garcia also alleges that Lee and his company, Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Inc., blatantly slapped false copyright tags on the posters Garcia created and copyrighted.

It turns out that federal law prohibits using the "©" or other versions of copyright management information that are false. As you may have already suspected, you must actually copyright something before the "© + your name" can be attached to it. However, you don't need to actually register to have a legal copyright interest in your work.

Garcia is asking for the federal court to award him any profits that were made from the posters plus attorneys fees.

It is a bit ironic to be having this legal fight over Lee's "Oldboy," which is itself an adaptation of the 2003 Korean film "Oldboy"...which was based on the graphic novel "Old Boy." But Lee or his studio no doubt paid those parties for their respective copyright licenses.

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