Art Law Report

Did Philadelphia Inadvertently Step on First Amendment and VARA in Painting Over Cosby Mural?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 28, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Few things have brought consensus recently more than the revulsion over the allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, a Philadelphia native. Yet in a desire to distance itself from Cosby, the city may have crossed a First Amendment line when a well-known mural entitled “Father’s Day” that depicts Cosby was painted over. And even if the city did not run afoul of that constitutional protection, the artist of the mural may have had under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, 17 U.S.C. § 106A (VARA) rights too. Ultimately it will come down to whether the artist or artists object to the fact or the timing of the removal—an objection that would not necessarily be any endorsement or support of Cosby (or have anything at all to do with Cosby), but which might relate more to the right of expression.

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Topics: Philadelphia Inquirer, King Jr., Philadelphia, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Martin Luther, VARA, Philadelphia City Mural Arts Program, Temple University, University of Massachusetts, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Nelson Mandela, Bill Cosby, The Washington Post, First Amendment

5Pointz Property Owner Sued Again Over Whitewashing of Graffiti—Measure of Damages Bears Watching

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 16, 2015 at 6:33 AM

Several street artists have sued the property owners of the building in Queens that became known as “5Pointz”—a “Mecca” of graffiti and street art. This is the second such lawsuit, after another group of artists failed to obtain a preliminary injunction in November, 2013, and the owners whitewashed nearly all of the painting on the buildings. The new lawsuit seeks damages related to the whitewashing itself, alleging that it was done hastily and secretly without giving the artists sufficient time either to remove or document their work. It relies on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), the lone moral rights provision of the Copyright Act.

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Topics: HBO, Copyright Act, Ishmael, Moral Rights, Richard Miller, Cady Nolan, Rodney Rodriguez, FCEE, Christoph Büchel’s, Graffiti Art, Visual Artists Rights Act, Patch Whiskey, Kai Niederhausen Semor, Kenji Takabayashi, recognized stature, Banksy Does New York, Jimmy C, VARA, Jerry Wolkoff, Bienbenido Guerra, Luis Gomez, MassMoCA, Banksy, TOOFLY, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Carlo Nieva, Copyright, 5Pointz, PANIC, James Cochran, Sotheby's, Maria Castillo

“Copyrights on the Street” at Copyright Society Annual Meeting June 9, 2015

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 26, 2015 at 5:27 AM

I am pleased to be participating in a panel discussion in two weeks at the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.’s annual meeting in Newport, Rhode Island. The panel, entitled “Copyrights on the Street: Creating and Preserving Graffiti and Other Art in Public Spaces,” will explore:

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Topics: Copyrights on the Street Creating and Preserving G, Newport, Rhode Island, Graffiti Art, Visual Artists Rights Act, Deirdre A. Fox, Copyright Society of the U.S.A., Peter Caruso, VARA, Kernochan Center for Law Media and the Arts, Phillippa Loengard, Events, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Columbia Law School, Copyright, Christopher J. Robinson

Graffiti, Vandalism, and Public Expression: Public Art and its Uneasy Relationship with the Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 2, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Recurring events involving public art have underscored the tension between that expression and the law. Banksy’s “residence” in New York last fall broached this subject, but this summer’s Brooklyn Bridge flag incident, and several new lawsuits asserting copyright in graffiti will test the bounds of what the law protects and what it permits. As Banksy says in one of his murals, "graffiti is a crime."

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Topics: Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, Ahol Sniffs Glue, David Anasagasti, Steel, City as Canvas, Moral Rights, Argentina, Public Art, Graffiti Art, Philippa Loengard, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Leonardo’s Last Supper, Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law Med, Chicago, Museum of the City of New York, VARA, Public Expression, Michael Bloomberg, American Eagle, Terry Gilliam, Banksy, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Copyright, Buenos Aires, 5Pointz, Revok, Roberto Cavalli, vandalism, Reyes, Graffiti, The Atlantic, New York

Registration Open for 2015 National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition at DePaul Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 10, 2014 at 6:43 AM

For students following the various issues we cover here, there is an exciting opportunity next winter. Registration is now open for DePaul University College of Law’s 2015 National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition in Chicago on February 27-28, 2015. The competition is open to twenty-six two- and three-member student teams from ABA-accredited or provisionally accredited law schools. Schools may register up to two teams.

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Topics: National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competit, Moral Rights, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, Morag Kersel, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Copyright, Lubna El-Gendi, First Amendment, Depaul Center for Art Museum & Cultural Herita, Patty Gerstenblith, Fifth Amendment

5Pointz Not of "Recognized Stature" Under the Visual Artists Rights Act? Court Takes the Narrow View and Paintings are Whitewashed

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 24, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Amidst all the coverage over famed graffiti artist Banksy’s recent "residence" in New York and questions about how artistic license would fare against trespassing and graffiti laws (short answer: poorly), another graffiti case in New York this month has explored the reach of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA). Ultimately, the law did not suffice to prevent the owner of the so-called "graffiti Mecca" from proceeding with its intended use of the property (and obliteration of the graffiti).

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Topics: Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, Copyright Act, Inc., Graffiti Art, Visual Artists Rights Act, recognized stature, VARA, Jerry Wolkoff, Banksy, 17 U.S.C. § 106A, Erin Thompson, Copyright, 5Pointz, Litigation

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