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It seems that Rich Wilkerson Jr., the notoriously attractive Miami Gardens pastor who married Kim and Kanye West, didn't pay attention to last year's Ahol Sniffs Glue vs. American Eagle lawsuit. The pastor's ministry, Vous Church, has been reproducing the work of several artists in Wynwood to promote its Sunday service in the neighborhood without giving any credit, or compensation, to the muralists.
According to the Miami Herald, the church has been renting out the auditorium at Jose de Diego Middle School, where last year a handful of talented artists painted murals voluntarily to raise money for an arts program at the school. Vous Church and Wilkerson have been superimposing its logo over the art on invitations and fliers promoting the services both physically and on social media, which has prompted seven of those artists to sue. The artwork has since been removed from social media.
It's pretty similar to the American Eagle case; the artists are even being represented by the same New York attorney who represented Ahol Sniffs Glue. That case ended in a confidential settlement, but this one is a little bit more grey.
As Wilkerson's lawyer, John Malloy, puts it to the Herald, "The church is located inside the middle school and these murals are everywhere, so naturally some of them are going to be part of the background in photographs on church grounds." He continues, "That's fair use under copyright law."
One solution the church may have found is to paint over the murals without permission, says Robert de los Rios, an arts promoter who helped organize the effort at the school. He tells the Herald that church reps have also been calling artists to get them to back down from their claims and feels that this could ruin the whole premise of the project.
With an Oxygen reality show on the horizon, slated to premiere in December, things are going to get complicated. Malloy says they're working on a solution that would allow some of the artwork to be shown while Vous is on the school's campus, however at this point the artists are asking for damages, and one would even like to donate anything won from the lawsuit back to the school. Wilkerson declined to comment to the Herald, but stated that his church would like to be "peacemakers."