Meow Wolf Wins a Partial Victory in a Copyright Lawsuit Brought by an Artist Who Made Work for Its Santa Fe Flagship

The motion brings the knotty lawsuit one step closer to conclusion, though many claims in the case still need to be resolved.  

Lauren Adele Oliver, Space Owl at Meow Wolf's "House of Eternal Return." Photo by Gabriella Marks Photography.

A federal court in New Mexico has granted a partial summary judgment to Meow Wolf in a knotty $1 million copyright and contract infringement case brought against the company by artist Lauren Adele Oliver. 

Oliver’s suit, filed in March 2020, alleges that, in 2016, when she agreed to exhibit her sculpture Space Owl in Meow Wolf’s flagship “House of Eternal Return” immersive installation in Santa Fe, the art outfit—which at the point had not yet become a corporation—promised her an “artist revenue share.”  

But after the installation became a hit, and Meow Wolf a multimillion-dollar enterprise, Oliver said she only received $2,000 for her work. The artist also claimed that Meow Wolf used images of Space Owl—a furry, otherworldly creature that stands seven feet tall—to promote the installation, despite not having her permission to do so.  

Late in 2020, Meow Wolf attempted to have the case dismissed, arguing that its employees’ verbal agreement with Oliver did not constitute a viable contract, but the court denied the motion.  

Lauren Adele Oliver with a Space Owl toy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lauren Adele Oliver with a Space Owl toy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Now, some of Oliver’s claims are reaching a resolution. Last Friday, June 16, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa issued a summary judgment on several points in the case.  

Among other conclusions, Khlasa found that Meow Wolf has an “implied, irrevocable, nonexclusive license to use images” of Oliver’s installation, so long as it is titled correctly. The judge also pointed to evidence that Oliver approved of images of her work being used for promotional purposes, including instances of the artist reacting positively to examples on social media. 

Khlasa’s partial summary judgment only applies to these specific claims in Oliver’s lawsuit. The artist’s other allegations against Meow Wolf, including those of contract infringement, unjust enrichment, and misrepresentation, still must be litigated.  

Representatives for Oliver and Meow Wolf did not immediately return requests for comment.  

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