Back in 2016, the art news outlets were constantly populated with stories of artists suing big brand companies over copyright infringement. The stories seemed to die down (hopefully because companies started to put effort into obtaining the imagery legally) until recently when Brooklyn artist Joe Coleman filed a suit against HBO for using his painting of Slenderman in their 2017 documentary “Beware the Slenderman.”
Coleman, who is represented by a New York gallery, is known for his “dense, graphic paintings inspired by comics.” His 2014 painting, No One Can Enter the Lord’s House Except as a Child (Slenderman) depicts the fictional character wrapping his long fingers around the two young girls featured in the documentary; a sad true-account of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser of Wisconsin who attempted to murder their friend, Payton Leutner, as a sacrifice to the imagined character.
Coleman alleges that “the producers never asked for his permission. Instead, they created the false impression that his work was available for anyone to reuse online for free. …the documentary goes on to misrepresent [Coleman’s] valuable painting as an example of Slenderman fan art, essentially reducing its value.”
HBO filed to have the case dismissed as it was “transformative” enough to be considered fair use because the filmmakers showed the painting on a computer screen. However, Judge Margo Brodie rejected the motion and will allow the case to move to trial. Coleman is seeking unspecified damages for copyright infringement and for the film to be removed from the marketplace.
Source: Coleman v. Home Box Office, Inc.