Art Market

Ariana Grande settled a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by artist Vladimir Kush.

Benjamin Sutton
Aug 21, 2019 5:07PM, via Billboard

Ariana Grande performs in Miami Beach. Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage.

Pop superstar Ariana Grande has settled a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by artist Vladimir Kush. The case revolved around a brief passage in Grande’s “God Is a Woman” music video of the singer’s silhouette dancing inside the flame of a candle, which Kush alleged “clearly copied [his] expression of this idea” in his 1998 painting Candle and subsequent works in the same vein.

The original complaint stated:

While there are many ways to depict a woman dancing in the wick of a candle—even with a heavenly background—Defendants clearly copied Mr. Kush’s expression of this idea. Specifically, Defendants chose to use the same color palette, the same background of a cloudy sky, the same ring effect of the clouds around the flame, the same light beams radiating from the flame, and the same color candle, light fading to dark.

Vladimir Kush, Candle, 1998. © Kush Fine Arts Limited 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Kush, who describes his work as “Metaphorical Realism,” operates galleries selling his work and related merchandise in Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Laguna Beach, California. The Kush Fine Shop’s offerings include a wall calendar, a set of temporary tattoos, and an app that lets users sketch scenes from their favorite Kush paintings. His work has yet to make an impression on the secondary market, though; his only current auction record, according to the artnet Price Database, is from 2013. His lawsuit against Grande is not the first time he’s taken a popstar to court; in 2007 he sued Pink on similar grounds over her “U + Ur Hand” music video.

The lawsuit, filed in district court in Nevada (Kush is based in Las Vegas), named not only Grande as a defendant, but also her record label’s parent company Universal Music Group, the director of the music video Dave Meyers, the video’s producer Nathan Scherrer, and his production company Freenjoy, Inc. A notice of voluntary dismissal filed on August 16th said “the parties have reached a resolution,” but offered few details of the settlement beyond each party bearing its own legal costs.

Lincoln Brandlow, an attorney for the defendants, told Billboard: “The matter was settled to the satisfaction of all the parties.”

Benjamin Sutton