BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Artist Casey Milbrand’s “Greetings From Buffalo” mural has become a huge attraction for Buffalonians to show off their Queen City pride.
It’s now at the center of a copyright infringement battle between its artist and a small business owner.
Marc Moscato owns Buffalo Bike Tours, which leads customers by bicycle to Buffalo landmarks.
His tour used to stop for a photo-op at Milbrand’s “Greetings From Buffalo” mural on Ellicott Street. Moscato featured those photos on his website and was slapped with an invoice from Milbrand to pay up or face legal action.
“Without any announcement, I got a $5,000 bill in the mail,” Moscato told News 4. “We call it the City of Good Neighbors. In this case, I think it’s more the city of litigious neighbors.”
“As an arts administrator, I have a master’s degree in arts management, I strongly believe artists should be compensated for their work,” Moscato added. “But, that doesn’t mean you can go around sending hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of invoices without even any kind of images without even any kind of discussion about the uses of images.”
Stuart Shapiro represents Milbrand and said Moscato is bullying his client over email.
Moscato said he has no plans of paying and is willing to go to court.
“There is no defense,” Shapiro said. “Okay, he’s admitted to using the image.”
“Personal use, somebody snapping a picture in front of this mural, Mr. Milbrand has no problem with that,” said Shapiro. “Where he has a problem is when you take a copyrighted image and start using it for commercial purposes. And in this case, there is a copyright notice right on the mural.”
In December 2021, Milbrand sent a similar invoice to the University at Buffalo for photos UB had on its website. The artist was asking for $180,000 in fees.
John Della Contrada, vice president for UB communications, told News 4, they removed the images from its website.
Shapiro added that Moscato has been difficult to work with and that he can expect a lawsuit headed his way.
Moscato said his business isn’t profitable and he wouldn’t have the cash to pay the $5,000.
“He can expect that we’re going to take this all the way,” Shapiro told News 4. “There will be a federal court lawsuit, and that the federal court lawsuit will be a judge or jury trial. These things unfortunately take some time to work their way through the system. So, it’s probably two to three years from the time that we file the lawsuit to the time we get it in front of a jury.”
Moscato said he’s removed all traces of the image from his website. As of Monday at 7 p.m., the mural still appears under the “about” section of his website.
Jason Rothschild of Signature Development, and the building manager where the mural is painted, spoke to News 4 by phone Monday afternoon.
He said the side of the building was offered to Milbrand at no cost in 2016 to paint the mural. Rothschild said he never thought the mural become an income source for the artist.
He added that he was disappointed with the whole ordeal.
As for the future of the mural, Rothschild said he’s keeping his options open.
And that painting over it isn’t out of the question.
New on WIVB.com
- News 4’s Chelsea Lovell places first runner-up in Miss New York
- Comey: Trump ‘could be wearing an ankle bracelet’ while accepting GOP nomination
- Bank of America CEO says company to slow hiring, predicts ‘mild recession’
- How a simple shipping error poisoned most of Michigan
- These are the most and least educated states, based on Census data
Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.