Worcester Monopoly makers sue artist of Smiley Face mural

    Game makers strike first after artist threatens copyright suit
    A Worcester mural based on the iconic Smiley Face is at the heart of a legal dispute in federal court between the artist who painted the mural and the makers of the Worcester Monopoly game.
    The maker of Worcester Monopoly, Top Trumps USA Inc., is suing the artist, who claims photos of the mural in the game violate his copyright. 
    Artist OG Slick, whose real name is Richard Wyrgatsch II, painted the mural on the back of the Palladium in Downtown Worcester during the 2018 POW! WOW! Worcester Festival. "The mural features a motif the Los Angeles-based artist has worked on in the past featuring his familiar Micky(sic) Mouse hands spray painting a smiley face," according to an article on arrestedmotion.com.
    Photos of the mural appear in multiple places in Worcester Monopoly, including on the box cover and in the center of the game board.
    "[T]he artist was anything but happy when he spotted the work in the game," reported artnet.com, which first reported the story. "Last November, not long after the game was first released, Wyrgatsch contacted Hasbro alleging copyright infringement." Hasbro owns Monopoly, but licensed Top Trumps to create local versions. Hasbro is not involved in the litigation.
    According to the filing, OG Slick's lawyer Jeff Gluck told lawyers for Top Trumps that they "were infringing, in violation of Defendant’s copyright rights, trademark rights and rights of publicity, that each claim brings significant damages." 
    The damages could amount to "six figures" plus all of the company's profits from the sale of the game if they could not settle the matter out of court, the court filing recounts the artist's lawyer saying.
    Top Trumps sued OG Slick preemptively on May 24th. The company is asking the court for a Declaratory Judgment, declaring that photos of the mural included in the game do not violate copyright law, are covered by the Fair Use provision of the copyright law, and that the court should award the company legal fees.
    While the sides continue to negotiate, " 'As of now, they have refused to drop the lawsuit and we plan to respond and proceed to trial on the merits,” Gluck told Artnet News.' "
    The case was originally assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman in Worcester. On June 14th, The case was reassigned to Senior U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young of Boston.

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