For artists, the things we create are our livelihood. Being able to say when and where our artwork can and cannot be used is one of the perks of the job. So, when someone uses our creative and intellectual property without our permission, we get upset. Using an artist’s work without their permission is a blatant and direct “fuck you” to the artist. Illegal use of art is a huge problem in the art world. It’s likely the biggest issue artists face in their professional lives. Using someone’s hard work without even requesting consent first is more than just wrong. It’s actually considered a crime in most cases. Plagiarism and Illegal Commercial use of artwork is something that needs to stop.
It doesn’t just hurt an artist’s pride, it hurts their bank account. Many artists rely on the things they create to earn a living and keep food on the table. Illegal use of art is basically stealing food out of the mouths of an artist’s family. However, that didn’t stop McDonald’s and The Bushwick Collective from teaming up to blatantly screw artists over.
McDonald’s had an OK Idea
In early March, The Bushwick Collective teamed up with McDonald’s to create a commercial. In the Netherlands, the fast food mega company has launched a new sandwich. This “New York Bagel Supreme” is a burger/bagel hybrid sandwich. Claiming that they got the idea for the sandwich from the “vibe of Bushwick”. McDonald’s reached out to the well-known New York mural project to see if they would work with them on an ad campaign. So far, so good.
When it turned into Illegal Use of Art
A Four Minute cornerstone advertisement video was created for the launch of the “New York Bagel Supreme”. The ad features Bushwick Collective founder, Joe Ficalora, giving a tour of the collection of murals and street art. The problem was that at least two of the murals in the ad are not part of the Bushwick Collective, and another 5 artists had their artwork featured in the promo without permission.
The mural that was used in this ad campaign was used without my permission or knowledge. The mural that was used was not painted as part of the Bushwick Collective but was a private commission. I own the rights to this mural and using it is a violation of my rights as an artist. The mural in question is a portrait of an Indigenous Youth Activist who also did not agree to have her image used to sell products that put people in her community at risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Another artist by the name of Beau Stanton wasn’t even aware of the illegal use of art he had created until someone sent him a link. Stanton’s work that is featured in the advertisement was commissioned by the owner of the building it is featured on. It is in no way affiliated with the Bushwick Collective. Imagine having your hard work being used in a way that you don’t agree with, without your permission. Add to that the fact that you aren’t being compensated in any way. It’s theft. Plain and Simple.
To make matters worse, there’s more artists that were affected by this carelessly created commercial. The problem some artists have isn’t even just with the fact that they were not asked for permission or offered payment; it’s how the personally feel towards McDonald’s as a company.
Louis Masai had one of his murals featured in the advertisement. His work was painted as part of the Bushwick Collective. However, he never gave licensing permission for commercial use. Meaning, it’s appearance in this ad is an illegal use of art.
Adding Insult to injury, Several of the artists that are featured in the advertisement are being paid. More over, six artists are being flow to Amsterdam to create street art themed billboards for the marketing campaign. How is that suppose to make the artists that the companies involved have decided to steal from feel?
The Good News is: Several Artists are Threatening Legal Action, and the Video has been removed my McDonald’s.