RIVER NORTH — A new electronic dance music festival in River North not only had trouble attracting crowds last weekend, but a promotional poster for the Third Rail Music Festival has striking similarities to a poster used to promote a similar event in Washington D.C. two years ago.
The Third Rail poster that circulated online contains a central image that appears to be identical to one advertising the Trillectro Music Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
Lizzie Schiffman discusses the controversy on DNAinfo Radio:
Marcel Marshall, co-founder of Trillectro, said that after news of the poor attendance at the Chicago festival spread online, he was inundated with messages alerting him that the original artwork from his poster appeared to be circulating but with information advertising the Chicago fest superimposed over the image.
"We do know that no one on our side gave them any permission to use it," Marshall said. "Not the designers, certainly not our festival and our business partners."
Alex Blackshire, event coordinator at MO events, which produced Third Rail Music Festival, declined to comment on the similarities between the posters, but denied any wrongdoing on the festival's behalf.
"I'm not touching this," he said when reached Wednesday.
Sadeli declined to comment, citing a pressing deadline for another project.
Her signature, originally under the cartoon dog's left hand, is not found on the Third Rail Music Festival poster.
"It's really weird, because the fairground is this venue that's very unique," Marshall said of where his inaugural fest was held. "It's contained by these shipping containers, so that was part of the aesthetic that we wanted to show in the flyer, because that's what the venue looks like."
Marshall's poster shows the stadium where the Washington Nationals play, which was in the background of the venue. The Third Rail poster has labeled the building in the background the ''Tribune'' — which was in the background of the Chicago fest.
"Not only did they steal it, but they hacked it," Marshall charged. "I don't necessarily want to say that they butchered it, but they hacked this thing, and it's just a bad representation, because people are seeing her artwork, and there's pieces of it that she wouldn't ever have put there."
Marshall said he doesn't know if his festival will pursue legal action over the alleged infringement.
"The first step is to sort of reach out to them and get their side of the story," he said. "But I don't want to take that off the table."
Marshall declined to say what they paid for the original artwork, but said "the prices aren't cheap when you're working with an agency, let's just say that. It's definitely an expense that you have, and when you plan a festival, you need to account for that cost."
Although his festival owns the rights to the artwork, Marshall said he's "more sad for the designer than anything."
Marshall says he understands the challenges of getting a first-time festival off the ground.
"You're put in a tough spot when you have a first-year event because you need material to promote it, so I understand what they were trying to do," Marshall added. "We're on our third year now. Our first year of promotion, we didn't have a crowd shot, so we didn't use any. You just have to be creative and use what materials you have. It's not ethical to use somebody else's work."
In its second year, Trillectro Music Festival drew between 7,000 and 8,000 people.
Blackshire said earlier this week that despite only attracting about 500 people — a fraction of the expected turnout — he plans to resurrect the event next year.
"I'm happy as a first-year festival," he said. "We did not lose anything. It was a good first festival. We profited, but not too much over" what we spent.
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