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Curtis sues pizza chain over Rockwell painting in ad

June 8, 2010

Curtis Publishing Co., which produces a magazine with origins dating back to 1728, has sued a Michigan-based chain of pizza restaurants for copyright infringement.

The suit, filed June 3 in federal court in Indianapolis, accuses Hungry Howie’s Pizza & Subs Inc. of Madison Heights, Mich., of infringing the copyright to a Saturday Evening Post cover first published in 1943. The cover, “Freedom from Want,” is by the late Norman Rockwell, and features the image of a family at a Thanksgiving dinner as a large roast turkey is being brought to the table.

Curtis and the Saturday Evening Post Society, both based in Indianapolis, accused the pizza chain of using the Rockwell painting in an “unauthorized, multistate advertising campaign," according to court papers. The ads, which began in November 2009, featured a “precise mimicry of the various nuances” of the Rockwell painting,” with the alteration of replacing the turkey with a pizza, Curtis said in its complaint.

Despite having been sent a cease-and-desist letter and “numerous other communications,” the pizza chain continued to use this advertisement throughout the 2009 winter holiday season, according to court papers.

Curtis, which commissioned Rockwell to paint the cover art, says this particular image is one of the “most popular and valuable” of the images it and the Saturday Evening Post Society owns and licenses.

The publisher asked the court to bar the pizza chain from any additional use of the image, and for an award of both the chain’s profits attributable to its alleged infringement, and for money damages. Additionally, Curtis and the society seek recall and destruction of all infringing materials, and for litigation costs and attorney fees.

The publisher is represented by law firm McNeely Stephenson Thopy & Harrold of Shelbyville.

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