RED BANK: ARTIST v. BUD OVER VANILLA ICE

vanilla ice kusaA screengrab from KUSA-TV’s report Tuesday showing Vanilla Ice in an ice cream truck of Ben Douglass’ design. Below, a detail of Douglass’ drawing. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

douglass vanilla iceA Red Bank graphic artist was frosted this week to learn that that the makers of Bud Light used his work without permission at a marketing event featuring rapper Vanilla Ice.

Ben Douglass, art director at the Broad Street design shop Spitball Advertising, said freelance t-shirt artwork he did depicting a fictional “Vanilla Ice Ice Cream Truck” was transformed into an actual ice cream truck used by the beer maker at its “Whatever, USA” event in Crested Butte, Colorado last weekend.

After Douglass accused Anheuser-Busch, on Facebook page and Twitter, of stealing his work, the claim went viral, gaining thousands of shares and comments, many in support of artists citing widespread theft of copyrighted work. It also got attracted a television newscast in Crested Butte as well as pixelated ink on Fortune.com.

Douglass told Fortune he learned about the use of his imagery from a friend, and then posted this on Facebook:

Looks like Bud Light (or their agency) liked my work enough to use without my consent. Major bummer… it would have been a dream come true to be a part of this promotion.

He also took to Twitter:

ben douglass tweet

Douglass also contacted a lawyer, he told Fortune.

Complicating matters, possibly, was Douglass’ use of Vanilla Ice’s image in his design, which was printed on t-shirts, and whether he had permission to use the rapper’s name and likeness. Douglass told Fortune that his lawyer assured him he was on firm ground legally, but the article didn’t explain why.

According to various reports, Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light issued a statement Tuesday saying they “respect the property and creativity of artists, and we’re looking into the situation.”

Douglass, who alerted redbankgreen to the controversy Wednesday morning, later canceled a scheduled interview, saying in a emails that “the situation is now very much in flux” and was “potentially headed toward a resolution, but its been a very strange trip.