A popular music video director has been accused of serial plagiarism after fans noticed striking similarities between scenes from Billie Eilish’s new video and photographs published in Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s satirical art magazine Toiletpaper. Dave Meyers has previously directed videos for Ariana Grande and Kendrick Lamar—both of which resulted in lawsuits brought by artists who say their imagery was used without permission.
The music video for Eilish’s song “bad guy” has been viewed on YouTube more than 265 million times since it was released at the end of March. But some viewers are questioning its originality after spotting the similarities between several of the video’s tableaux and photographs originally published in Toiletpaper. The shared visual elements include Eilish pouring milk and cereal into a the mouth of a besuited man and disembodied heads submerged in plastic goldfish baggies.
The similarities were first pointed out on Reddit and picked up by outlets ranging from Perez Hilton to the Art Newspaper. An eagle-eyed Reddit user who goes by the handle whoatemyteeth made a handy photo-collage pointing out the offending shots. So far, it does not appear as though Cattelan, Ferrari, or creatives from Toiletpaper were consulted prior to the video’s release.
Another Reddit user claims to have reached representatives of the magazine via Instagram, and shared a purported screenshot of their response: “Actually we didn’t know about that video… and nobody from that project tried to contact us. Surely we will check how and why it happened.” We reached out to representatives for Toiletpaper, Meyers, and Eilish for comment, but did not hear back by press time.
The Grammy Award-winning video director has previously been at the center of controversies surrounding music videos he directed for Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, and SZA. In January, artist Lina Iris Viktor settled a lawsuit brought against Lamar and SZA for copyright infringement after her imagery appeared in the video for the song “All the Stars” despite her repeated refusal to grant producers rights to her work. Meanwhile, artist Vladimir Kush’s lawsuit against Grande over her video for the song “God Is a Woman” is still underway.
The question of where to draw the line between artistic inspiration and plagiarism has been raised before concerning music videos—and the results of legal battles have not always come out in favor of the artist. In May last year, the French visual artist Orlan was ordered to pay Lady Gaga and Universal $18,000 after bringing an unsuccessful plagiarism lawsuit against the musician concerning her video for “Born This Way.” It is unclear whether any legal action will be brought against Eilish or Meyers for copyright infringement.
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