Katy Perry, ‘Left shark’ copyright dispute heats up


Katy Perry

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

The copyright dispute between Katy Perry and artist Fernando Sosa over the ‘Left shark’ has heated up, with the pair’s lawyers exchanging arguments about the rights to the costume.

At the centre of the spat is the ‘Left shark’ costume, which was made famous shortly after Perry’s musical performance at the half-time show at the Super Bowl on February 1.

After the show, Sosa began selling models of the shark, which had been made using a 3D printer, on internet marketplace Shapeways, for $24.99.

Shapeways removed the models after Perry’s lawyers claimed the designs infringed her copyright and requested that the website take them down.

Since then, lawyers representing both parties have been at loggerheads, exchanging letters in which they debate whether the musician can protect the costume with copyright.

Perry’s lawyers, from law firm Greenberg Traurig, said in a letter dated February 10 that her design team “created multiple shark drawings” as the basis for the ‘Left shark’ costume and that “all of these” are copyrightable.

“It is clear that your client’s sculptures derive solely from the public’s association of them with Ms Perry,” the singer’s lawyers added.

The lawyers then asked Sosa to get in touch about obtaining a licence to sell his sculptures.

But Christopher Sprigman, a professor of law at New York University who represents Sosa, responded by claiming that Perry does not have a claim because costumes are a “useful article” and not eligible for copyright protection.

In a letter dated February 11, he said that the sketches are copyrightable, “but that doesn’t make the ‘Left shark’ costume copyrightable”.

“The drawings of ‘Left shark’ would be relevant only if my client had copied them in preparing his sculpture. But he didn’t copy the drawings—not least because he’s never seen them,” he added.

Before this exchange, Sprigman had written to Greenberg Traurig after it sent the cease-and-desist letter to Shapeways. He claimed that the shark costume could not be protected by copyright.

On Monday (February 9), Sosa resumed selling the 3D models on retail website Etsy. He has also made a ‘Right shark’ model and a ‘Drunk shark’ model available for sale on the website.

In addition, Perry applied to trademark an image depicting ‘Left shark’ with the US Patent and Trademark Office, on February 6. The application was abandoned four days later.

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