One of the great things about social media is its ability to act as an equalizer, giving non-famous people a platform to voice their concerns and speak out against powerful celebrities and corporations. Nobody wants bad publicity, so taking to Facebook, Twitter or a blog to expose a wrongdoing can attract some serious attention. Of course, it can also be abused and exploited when used irresponsibly. This week, with Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake about to hit theatres, an artist who worked on posters for the movie decided to use the power of social media to get some leverage against an ad agency that took advantage of him. He posted an open letter to Spike Lee detailing the situation, hoping for a response. Well, Spike Lee has indeed replied, but unfortunately it’s probably not the response he was looking for.
According to his open letter to Spike Lee, Juan Luis Garcia was given an opportunity by an ad agency to create some concepts for potential posters for Oldboy. He was paid very little, but was told that if Spike Lee liked what he saw, he would get fair compensation through the licensing buyout fee. He was eventually told that Spike Lee did like the posters, but the money they offered was insultingly low. He decided not to allow them to use the poster, but the ad agency went ahead and used it anyway without paying him even the initial fee he was promised.
Garcia was eventually forced into action when he later noticed his original comps posted on the Facebook page for Spike Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. Not only were the images being used without permission, they also claimed to have ownership and copyright. Now, one day after posting his open letter and attempting to bring the situation to Spike Lee’s attention, Lee finally responded via Twitter:
I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan Luis Garcia,If He Has A Beef It's Not With Me.I Did Not Hire Him,Do Not Know Him.Cheap Trick Writing To Me.YO
— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) November 28, 2013
And just like that, any hope of fair compensation has gone out the window. Still, looking at it from Spike Lee’s point of view, what could he really have done? He can’t be sure that the artist is telling the truth. It is a little unfair for Garcia to expect him to take his side just based on a plea for help and a little social media pressure. And yet… you have to feel for Garcia because we all know that artists get screwed like this all the time. What do you think? Is Spike Lee a jerk for brushing this guy off or did he “do the right thing”?