The issue came up before US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan when Mercedes Benz USA LLC approached the Court for getting Declaratory Judgement in its favour, being constantly nagged for claim of damages by Daniel Bombardier, a mural artist. Mercedes sought to obtain declaratory Judgment for, inter alia, Non-Infringement, Fair Use and Non-violation of DMCA.
On January 2018, Mercedes showcased its G 500 series truck having space for passengers and belongings at North American International Auto Show held at Detroit, Michigan.
To highlight features of its G 500 series, Mercedes thought to capture photographs of its vehicle in real environment of streets and places of Detroit and obtained permissions for the same.
Daniel Bombardier who is a mural artist had his graffiti displayed in various places, this time in Eastern Market area of Detroit.
Mercedes commissioned a series of photographs of G 500 driving through streets of Detroit and posted 6 pictures in its social media account. The background of one of the photograph depicted, among other things, a partially obstructed and blurred image of graffiti art created Daniel Bombardier. Daniel threatened to sue Mercedes if defaults in paying substantial sum of money; Mercedes removed the photograph immediately but denied paying Daniel.
Holding in favour of Mercedes, District Court looked into the issue involving purpose for which Daniel created the mural, extent of use of Daniel’s mural in photo, effect of such usage in target commercial markets.
Court found that mural was not the centrepiece of the background, additionally the mural was blurred to indicate vehicle speed and movement throughout the city streets, while some portion of the mural was out of frame a larger portion of the mural was obstructed by the G 500 vehicle, which is protected under the De minimus principle of Copyright. Purpose of both the work varies greatly, while the mural was admittedly created to attract tourist in Eastern Market area of Detroit; the photo of G 500 series across cityscape was for entirely different set of customer. So the potential market of mural continued to remain safeguarded.
# Mercedes Benz USA LLC v. Daniel Bombardier