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Green Day didn’t infringe copyright when using artwork without permission, court rules

By | Published on Thursday 8 August 2013

Green Day

An US appeals court has ruled that Green Day did not infringe the copyright of artist Dereck Seltzer when they used an adapted version of a piece of his art as a backdrop during live shows.

The band used a photograph of a tattered and spray painted poster of Seltzer’s 2003 piece ‘Scream Icon’ as their stage backdrop when performing their song ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ on their 2009 tour. The poster in the photo had been posted on a wall in LA.

According to Reuters, the court noted that it was a “close and difficult case”, but one of the three judges ruling Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote: “With the spray-painted cross, in the context of a song about the hypocrisy of religion, surrounded by religious iconography, [the] video backdrop using ‘Scream Icon’ conveys new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings that are plainly distinct from those of the original piece”.

In addition to this, a testimony from Selzter in which he admitted that the value of his work was not affected by the band’s use of it, and the fact that Green Day did not use the image on any commercially available or promotional material also helped. However, the court did overturn an earlier ruling that Seltzer should pay $201,000 in legal fees, on the grounds that the artist had not been “objectively unreasonable” when he decided to sue.