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Ariana Grande accused of copyright infringement by Las Vegas artist

Updated February 1, 2019 - 5:02 pm

A Las Vegas artist is accusing pop star Ariana Grande of using his imagery in a hit music video without his permission.

The federal copyright infringement claim was filed in Nevada this week. In it, artist Vladimir Kush argues that an image of Grande in her 2018 “God is a Woman” music video is “nearly identical” to imagery in two of his paintings.

Attempts to reach Grande for comment were not successful.

The scene in question depicts Grande’s silhouette as the wick of a large candle. A flame surrounds and rises above her, and beams of light radiate outward into a cloudy blue sky in the background.

inline-regArtwork by Vladimir Kush of Kush Fine Arts Las Vegas Inc. (U.S. District Court filing)

It first appears 1 minute and 9 seconds into the video, which has garnered nearly 200 million views since it was first posted in July.

Both of Kush’s paintings depict the silhouette of a woman as the wick of a large candle. In each painting, a flame surrounds and rises above the female figure, her arms outstretched above her, and beams of light radiate outward. Both paintings are backed by a cloudy blue sky.

“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,” the lawsuit alleges.

Kush obtained copyright registrations for each of the fine art paintings about 20 years ago — “The Candle” in 1999 and “The Candle 2” in 2000. Copies of the images are available on his website.

According to the lawsuit, he was never approached about the use of his work in the music video.

Instead, he discovered the similar “God is a Woman” scene only after reading about it in an online story that discussed the video’s various religious or godlike imagery.

When he saw the similarities between the candle scenes and his paintings, Kush was “shocked,” according to the suit.

Kush is a formally trained artist who has galleries in California, Hawaii and Las Vegas. The corporation that operates his business, Kush Fine Arts Las Vegas, is also named as a plaintiff.

Veteran Las Vegas entertainment attorney Mark Tratos is representing Kush. He represented Teller of Penn & Teller in a 2012 lawsuit against a European entertainer. Teller was awarded more than $400,000.

In Kush’s lawsuit, Tratos notes that the video’s director and production company have faced copyright infringement lawsuits at least twice before by artists.

The Grande lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, asking to remove the video from the internet. Kush also is seeking damages and attorney’s fees.

No lawyers have been listed for the defendants in court records.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

Vladimir Kush-Ariana Grande… by on Scribd

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