An artist named Maya Hayuk has alleged that Starbucks stole her designs for use in an international marketing campaign. Ms. Hayuk, a Brooklyn native, said that the coffee company’s ad agency, contacted her in October, and praised her work. However, Ms. Hayuk, whose clients include Microsoft, Reebok, Billabong, Sony and General Motors, declined to work on the project because she was too preoccupied.
Hayuk claims that Starbucks went ahead with its campaign, using the same beams of colors used by the artist in five of her own paintings. According to the lawsuit, Starbucks’ artwork for its Frappuccino campaign is substantially similar to Hayuk’s copyrighted art. For the creation of the artwork in the campaign, Starbucks used an in-house artist named Jordan Kay, who is based in Seattle. Kay’s work consists mainly of figurative art with a tendency toward watercolors of a pastel hue. The artists’ two styles are very different, making it highly probable that Starbucks used Hayuk’s paintings rather than the work of their own in-house artist.
According to Ms. Hayuk, the stolen artwork can be viewed on Starbucks’ U.S. and international websites, on videos marketing Frappuccino flavors, on the Starbucks’ Frappuccino website, on advertisements in print, and on product packaging. It can also be seen in several, and perhaps all, of Starbucks’ retail locations that number more than 21,000 in 66 nations. Her complaint further claims that Starbucks’ campaign choices have garnered considerable coverage from the media, including publications such as the U.S. News & World Report, the Huffington Post, and Time. Moreover, in 2014, Starbucks earned $2 billion from sales of Frappuccinos.
What Can You Recover For Copyright Infringement?
Ms. Hayuk is seeking an injunction, damages, copyright penalties in the amount of $750,000, and a portion of the profits earned by Starbucks as a result of copyright infringement. Since the artwork used appears to be strikingly similar to that of the plaintiff, Ms. Hayuk is justified in filing a claim against Starbucks, which is reaping financial gain at her expense. An injunction would forbid Starbucks from using her artwork any longer, and if she is successful in her lawsuit, other major corporations will be discouraged from reproducing, distributing, or creating artwork that contains elements of an original work of art that is copyright-protected.
Copyright is a type of protection under the law that is given to those who create “original works” of literature, paintings, photographs, musical compositions, sound recordings, software, sound or television broadcasts, and live performances. Under the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright holders possess the following exclusive rights:
- The right to create copies of the original works;
- The right to develop derivative works, or works that contain elements of the original work;
- The right to distribute reproductions of the original work to the public via sale, lease, or rental;
- The right to give a public performance of the work;
- The right to provide public displays of the work; and
- The right to use digital audio to perform a sound recording. This right was added in 1995.
Seeking Legal Advice
If you think that an individual or company is infringing upon your copyright, you should consult a copyright attorney who will assist you with the filing of an injunction to prevent any further use of your ideas or your material without your permission, and help you secure damages. A copyright attorney can also represent you if someone is alleging that you have committed infringement.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law