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Designer claims his Oldboy poster art was stolen; Spike Lee responds

11.29.2013by: Kevin Woods

Spike Lee's OLDBOY is out in theaters now (check out The Arrow's take on it HERE), but there is some trouble brewing behind the scenes as a designer is claiming that his poster artwork was 'stolen', with his concepts used without permission to market the remake.

Juan Luis Garcia has taken to his personal website and written an open letter in which he details his experience working on early artwork for OLDBOY. In short, he claims in January of this year he was hired by an ad agency, who was working directly with Spike Lee, to put together artwork for the film, and in the course of over two months the designer says he was "taken advantage of, lead on, lied to, manipulated, and harassed" by the agency but was told Lee really liked what he came up with. Here's what Garcia shared on his site:

The agency told me, “Congratulations, Spike loved a couple of the posters. Yours is going to be the key art.”, and I was thrilled. But when it came time to negotiate the licensing buyout fee the agency made an insultingly low offer. But they said that the important thing wasn’t the money it was the exposure and potential for more work. After thinking about it long and hard I had to decline. I tried to negotiate but they refused. I make the same amount of money in a single day as a photo assistant as what they offered and I had worked on these almost exclusively for two months. Plus there was still more work to be done so I had to refuse.

The agency was furious. They told me that I didn’t want to mess with Spike Lee, that I would never work again, that I was a despicable human, that they wish they never met me, and that they were going to sue my ass to oblivion. For what, I honestly don’t know. We never signed any contracts or work-for-hire agreements and I certainly never agreed to donating or selling any copyright of my work without a licensing fee. 

The worst part of all this is that I never even got paid the peanuts they owed me. I was fine with it as long as they were out of my life. I couldn’t take another condescending phone call because I was “only a designer.” Many sleepless nights forced me to chock it up as a loss and learning experience and try to move on with my life.

The artist pleads with Spike Lee to do the right thing (see what I did there? Ok, ok...I admit it was a bad line, but c'mon!) and see to it that he is renumerated for his work, but Lee took to Twitter to address the controversy in a way that many feel is unacceptable, tweeting:

Seems kind of douchey, huh? Maybe Garcia should borrow Brolin's hammer and exact some OLDBOY-styled justice himself.

Take a look at Garcia's poster design below (on the left) and compare it to the poster utilzed in the marketing of the film (on the right). What do you think? Hopefully this little matter is resolved soon.

Extra Tidbit: What do you think? Do you feel Garcia's concept was ripped off? And what do you think of Lee's response?

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12:18PM on 11/30/2013
This doesn't surprise me in the least. Spike lee tends to make his movies on a lower budget so the profit is higher if the movie is a success. In this case Spike lee and his people wanted to get premium advertising art at a deep discount. When they didn't get the deal they decided to copy the concept data and use someone else that would provide a discount. To protect himself Spike lee no doubt will probably claim it was the agency but in the end this definately sounds like him using a double
This doesn't surprise me in the least. Spike lee tends to make his movies on a lower budget so the profit is higher if the movie is a success. In this case Spike lee and his people wanted to get premium advertising art at a deep discount. When they didn't get the deal they decided to copy the concept data and use someone else that would provide a discount. To protect himself Spike lee no doubt will probably claim it was the agency but in the end this definately sounds like him using a double standard to make a profit.
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7:41AM on 11/30/2013
What was this designer's role in the design, exactly? Did he create the concept of the 'guy in trunk' and shot the pictures himself or did he just use pictures provided by the agency and play around with the layout? the difference between the two is that in the latter, he basically didn't do squat. Either way, this could very well be an easily made hoax since there is no way to prove it unless the graphic designer can provide the documented conversation between him and the ad company. But even
What was this designer's role in the design, exactly? Did he create the concept of the 'guy in trunk' and shot the pictures himself or did he just use pictures provided by the agency and play around with the layout? the difference between the two is that in the latter, he basically didn't do squat. Either way, this could very well be an easily made hoax since there is no way to prove it unless the graphic designer can provide the documented conversation between him and the ad company. But even if it's true, it's still hard to pin it on Spike Lee since this guy's beef is mainly with the ad agency where Spike is just a client of.
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4:39PM on 11/30/2013
Oh dear god in heaven! Dude really? No wonder people get ripped off if you're answer is typical of the take in the arse attitude of yanks.
Oh dear god in heaven! Dude really? No wonder people get ripped off if you're answer is typical of the take in the arse attitude of yanks.
1:23PM on 11/29/2013
Looks like dude was ripped off and the tweet was definitely douchey!
Looks like dude was ripped off and the tweet was definitely douchey!
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11:00AM on 11/29/2013
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