Why Katy Perry’s dress could set a new legal precedent in the US

It’s not often a dress makes an appearance at court as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala in New York. But Katy Perry’s choice for the 2015 ball, a strapless, floor length dress designed by Moschino, has found itself at the centre of an ongoing legal dispute that looks unlikely to reach a swift resolution.

In August last year, graffiti artist Joseph “Rime” Tierney sued Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott for allegedly incorporating his work without permission into his Fall/Winter 2015 collection. Tierney said his credibility as a graffiti artist “was compromised by [the] inclusion in such a crass and commercial publicity stunt”.

The defendants argued for dismissal, saying that the graffiti work in question, Vandal Eyes, was an act of vandalism and not protected by copyright law: “As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally.”

On 19 April this year, both parties told the federal court in California that they had reached a settlement. However, according to the latest reports from The Art Newspaper, Tierney’s lawyers say Scott “torpedoed the settlement” with new demands.

The case therefore will proceed to court, where it will set a new precedent for whether or not graffiti should be protected by US copyright law.

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