Artist Jeff Koons Sued for Upwards of $2 Million for Copyright Infringement

Jeff Koons has been sued – yet again – for copyright infringement. The famed artist was named in a lawsuit filed by New York-based photographer Mitchel Gray, who alleges that Koons copied one of his original photographs without his permission. According to Gray’s suit, which was filed on Monday in the Southern District of New York court, Koons used his original 1986 photograph “nearly unchanged and in its entirety" to create his I Could Go For Something Gordon's piece, which was included in his 1986 "Luxury & Degradation” series. Gray further alleges that Koons “knew, or should have known, that he was required to obtain an artist's permission before he could lawfully copy a work by that artist." The photographer has also named Phillips auction house, which is responsible for selling the Koons work at issue in 2008 for $2.04 million, as a defendant in the suit.

As for why it took Gray roughly 30 years to file suit: It turns out, he only recently discovered Koons' infringing work, according to the complaint. Per Gray's attorney (and in accordance with federal copyright law), however, the multi-decade delay is not problematic, as the case falls within the three-year statute of limitations on copyright infringement actions, which only starts to run when "the plaintiff learns of the infringement." Gray is seeking unspecified monetary damages, plus any profits made by the defendants in connection with alleged copyright infringement - which will certainly amount to upwards of $2 million. 

And as you may know, this is not Koons' first dalliance with intellectual property law. In December 2014, he was sued twice within two weeks, first over his work Fait d'Hiver (1988), which French advertising executive Franck Davidovici claimed Koons copied from a 1985 advertisement for a French clothing brand, and then by the wife of photographer Jean-François Bauret over the illegal use of her husbands's work in Koons' sculpture Naked (1988).