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Artist sues Ariana Grande for copyright infringement

Pop star Ariana Grande is being sued for copyright infringement. According to the Associated Press, artist Vladmir Kush alleges images from her "God is a Woman" video are nearly identical to two of his paintings.

The image in question is a candle with a woman as the wick, burning in the flame. Kush painted and copyrighted two paintings with these images in 1999 and 2000.

In Grande’s video, she appears as a wick burning in a candle flame. Grande released her video last July. It has been viewed nearly 200 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube.

Kush has named Grande, Universal Music Group, the video director, producer and the production company in his lawsuit. He is seeking damages and wants the video removed from the internet.

Anyone who creates an original work like a piece of writing, song, movie or painting owns the copyright for that work. However, registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office establishes your official claim to that copyright. It also allows you to pursue a lawsuit against someone for infringement.

To prove a copyright infringement case, you must show the material was copyrighted. A copyright owner also needs to prove the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work, and the resulting pieces of art are substantially similar. It is often difficult to find proof the infringer accessed your copyrighted material.

The alleged infringer may claim he or she created the art without knowing about your piece. That is known as an independent creation defense. However, if the art was widely disseminated, that argument will not likely hold up in court. In this case, you would not need to show the alleged infringer accessed your work.

The accused infringer could also claim a fair use defense. Fair use states the work was only used for educational or non-commercial use, only part of the work was used and the use did not affect the market for the original copyrighted work.

In the case of Grande, the “God is a Woman” video was widely distributed for commercial reasons. Whether her attorneys will argue other elements of a copyright infringement defense remains to be seen. Grande settled another case of alleged copyright infringement with a songwriter in 2017.

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