A Florida artist again is suing the Indianapolis-based Wine & Canvas chain, claiming its owners infringed upon the copyrights of her paintings by using them at the chain's painting parties without her permission.
Megan Aroon Duncanson filed her complaint Monday in federal court in Indianapolis and named corporate entity Wine and Canvas Development LLC, in addition to a dozen separate Wine & Canvas locations. Husband-and-wife founders Tamra and Anthony Scott also are listed as defendants.
Founded in 2010, Wine & Canvas now boasts more than 50 licensed locations nationwide offering classes for painting while imbibing. Customers typically pay $35 each to sip wine while an instructor teaches them to paint a copy of a featured piece of artwork.
Duncanson, described in the suit as a “prolific artist who makes a living off her artwork,” claims she did not give Wine & Canvas permission to use her paintings as guides for students.
“Her artwork is very popular; she sells a lot of prints,” Cynthia Conlin, the Florida attorney representing Duncanson, told IBJ. “It has been copied numerous times through the Wine & Canvas entities, and she never granted any authorization for them to use the artwork.”
But Indianapolis lawyer P. Adam Davis, who defended Wine & Canvas in a similar suit brought by Duncanson in Florida, said the company and the licensed locations have no way of knowing a painting’s true history.
That’s because Wine & Canvas hires independent artists to teach the classes by using their own paintings, he said.
“Before they ever get in there to teach a class, they sign an agreement that says this is their original artwork,” Davis said. “We have no reason to know. Wine & Canvas itself has nothing to do with that.”
Duncanson first notified Wine & Canvas of the alleged infringement in 2012 and again in 2013, according to the suit. Believing the infringement was still occurring, she first filed suit in 2014 in the Orlando division of the federal court’s Middle District of Florida.
Wine & Canvas argued that the Florida court lacked jurisdiction, given the company is headquartered in Indianapolis, and Duncanson voluntarily dismissed her suit in February.
She now is suing Wine & Canvas, the owners and several locations—this time in federal court in Indianapolis.
Davis dismissed the suit as “a nothing case.”
Duncanson charges that Wine & Canvas violated 36 counts of infringement, 24 of which are considered “willful” because the company knowingly infringed upon her copyrights even after it was notified, according to the complaint. On those charges, Duncanson can seek up to $150,000 in damages on each count.
IBJ profiled Wine & Canvas in November 2014.