Miami street artist sues American Eagle over ad campaign

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[July 29, 2014]  By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fearing a reputation as a corporate sellout, a rising star in Miami’s art scene is suing American Eagle Outfitters alleging it used his work in a global advertising campaign without permission.

David Anasagasti, a street graffiti artist better known as “Ahol Sniffs Glue,” has filed a lawsuit in New York federal court accusing American Eagle of stealing two copyrighted images depicting what he’s best known for, rows and rows of eyes that appear half asleep.

Anasagasti claimed in the little-noticed suit filed last week that the teen apparel maker used the art in its stores, on the Internet and on huge billboards without his permission.

“Given that he hails from the counter-culture world of underground street artists, Mr. Anasagasti's reputation as an artist has been founded, in part, on a public perception that (he) doesn’t ‘sell out’ to large corporate interests,” the lawsuit said.

Attorneys for American Eagle could not be reached for comment.

Although the copyrights were registered after American Eagle launched its advertising campaign, the artist is suing for unspecified damages and the profits from the infringement.

"Ahol is not painting for a corporation," his agent, Gregg Shienbaum said. "He’s painting because he loves it.”

Anasagasti was named recently as Miami's best street artist by the weekly Miami New Times. His drowsy eyes can be seen around Miami, including in the famous Wynwood art district.

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The suit claimed that American Eagle brought models to Wynwood for a photo shoot, and that the work was then used in a wide array of advertising in several countries last spring. It also said the retailer recreated the eyes for a grand opening in Colombia and affixed its corporate logo on top.

Shienbaum said the eyes are decidedly anti-corporate.

“They represent the working class, who struggle and are good people,” he explained. "They may look a little droopy, a little sad, but it's his way of saying, 'You may be down today, but you've got to keep going.'"

The case is David Anasagasti v. American Eagle Outfitters, Inc., in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Case No. 14-cv-05618.

(Reporting By Andrew Chung; Editing by Ted Botha and Cynthia Osterman)

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