Nirvana, the famous grunge band from the 90’s that spawned Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters is facing yet another intellectual property dispute. The band has faced copyright infringement litigation for the last several years over its popular smiley face t-shirt after being accused of copying a similar smiley face from designer Marc Jacobs, and now it’s facing a similar claim.
Nirvana, Dante, and copyright infringement
In the new lawsuit, Nirvana is again accused of taking a piece of copyrighted artwork and using it on t-shirts and other merchandise like mugs and records. The image in question is a drawing of a circle-shaped map that encapsulates the seven layers of hell portrayed in Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The claim was brought forth by the granddaughter of the image’s creator, who goes so far as to argue that Nirvana has even wrongfully claimed copyright ownership over the image.
Some question the timing of the lawsuit. The plaintiff only argues that the infringement she seeks compensation for began in 1997, while the merchandise in question has been using the image since the late 80s. Either way, the lawsuit comes decades after the alleged misappropriation. The plaintiff, though, states that she wasn’t made aware of the infringement until January 2021.
Don’t like grunge music? That’s okay. There’s still a lesson to be learned from this case. One is that, as a business, you need to be careful in the images and other works of art that you use to promote your business. If you’re not diligent, then you could find yourself on the receiving end of a copyright infringement claim. Second, copyright protections are long-lasting and wide-reaching. Therefore, if you have protectable work, then you should do everything you can to register, police, and enforce your rights. Only then can you ensure that you’re protecting your work and its integrity as well as recovering any compensation that you might be entitled to.