Art Law Report

“Charging Bull” Sculptor Articulates VARA Complaint, But “Fearless Girl” Still Standing Firm

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 13, 2017 at 4:13 PM

After a recent discussion about whether the new Fearless Girl sculpture by Kristen Visbal in Lower Manhattan might implicate the copyright of the earlier Charging Bull sculpture that has been there for nearly three decades, the sculptor who created Charging Bull has stepped to the foreground to complain that the recent installation infringes his rights.  In addition to copyright arguments, that artist (Arturo di Modica) suggests that he has a moral rights claim under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (17 U.S.C. § 106A).  But since Charging Bull predates VARA it is probably ineligible for any protection.  Even if it were eligible, the elements of VARA rights are not implicated by the installation of The Fearless Girl because nothing has actually happened to Charging Bull.  Artistic confrontation is not “distortion, mutilation or other modification” under VARA.  In short, none of the arguments he advances would bestow on him the kind of right to be asked first that he proposes.

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, VARA, The Fearless Girl, Charging Bull, Arturo Di Modica, Kristen Visbal, State Street Global Advisors, Christina Cauterucci, Slate, Carter v. Helmsley Spear, Inc., 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c), Derivative Works, Trademark dilution

"Fearless Girl" Sculpture Near Wall Street Prompts Copyright Allegation That is More Bull than Bear

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 29, 2017 at 5:06 PM
The sudden appearance near Wall Street on March 8, 2017 of The Fearless Girl, a bronze life-sized depiction of a roughly ten-year old girl staring defiantly at the famous Charging Bull sculpture has prompted headlines throughout the world.  Now, a defender of Charging Bull has leveled an accusation of copyright infringement against the sculptor of The Fearless Girl, an allegation that misapprehends how copyright law affects the interplay between works of visual art.  In short, the recent sculpture is conclusively (1) not infringement of Charging Bull, but even if it were (2) would equally clearly be considered a fair use.  This example from the headlines is thus instructive to review what copyright does, and does not, cover when commentary and political statements are at issue.

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, Copyright Fair Use, The Fearless Girl, New York Stock Exchange, Charging Bull, Arturo Di Modica, Mr. Robot, Kristen Visbal, International Women’s Day, State Street Global Advisors

Naruto, We Hardly Knew Ye—Judge Calls Monkeyshines on "Monkey Selfie" Case

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 7, 2016 at 10:21 AM

It appears that the much-maligned “monkey selfie” case is destined for a quick exit.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California posted a brief order expressing the sentiment of the presiding judge as expressed at a hearing on a defendant’s motion to dismiss.  Specifically, the Hon. William H. Orrick made a tentative ruling that the photograph of a crested black macaque cannot be copyrighted on behalf of the animal itself.

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, monkey selfie, Congress, PETA, David Slater, Copyright, Blurb Inc., Naruto, Hon. William H. Orrick, authorship, Cetacean Community v Bush, Ars Technica

"Free Brady" T Shirt Battle and Copyright: Who was First?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 14, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Somewhat tongue in cheek, we looked on Wednesday at the potential copyright implications from a back and forth between Governor Charlie Baker and Barstool Sports, which sells “Free Brady” T shirts (playing on Shepard Fairey’ famous Hope image) challenging the New England Patriots’ quarterback’s suspension by the National Football League (“DeflateGate” or “Ballghazi,” depending on who you ask). Gov. Baker recently wore a competing vendor’s “Free Brady” T shirt when doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Given the sales potential arising out of one of the biggest stories in the country right now (insert decline-of-society comment here), however, the financial stakes are no laughing matter. The response to Wednesday's post has been overwhelming; we had more visitors in a three-hour window than we typically get in a month.

Read More

Topics: National Football League, Copyright Act, David Portnoy, Free Brady, Barstool Sports, DeflateGate, Trademark, I Love Boston Sports, Ice Bucket Challenge, Shepard Fairey, Copyright, Senator Obama, NFL, Hope, Tom Brady, Ballghazi, Charlie Baker

Free Brady!—Did Governor Baker’s T-Shirt Have a Copyright Problem?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 12, 2015 at 6:17 AM

Tom Brady will be in New York today at a hearing in the litigation over his 4-game suspension by Roger Goodell for allegedly being “generally aware” of the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts last winter. For good legal analysis of the absolute fiasco that is the NFL’s attempt at a middle-school science project (instigated by the condition of a football introduced from the opposing team—but congratulations on another AFC Finalist banner) and the resulting adjudicatory process, I suggest John Dowd’s blog (“The NFL's investigation of and rules against Tom Brady are a travesty, and they've resulted in uncalled-for penalties. And it's all based on a report that lacks basic integrity, fairness and credibility.”). Dowd is an experienced federal prosecutor and led the investigation, among others, into Pete Rose and gambling for Major League Baseball. Most notably, he was sufficiently offended by the whole exercise to take the issue up with no relationship to the parties. Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk and Steph Stradley have also covered the story well.

Read More

Topics: Left Shark, ProFootballTalk, ALS. Metro, Copyright Act, Pete Frates, David Portnoy, Indianapolis Colts, AFC Championship, Free Brady, Mike Florio, Barstool Sports, Jacqueline Kennedy, Trademark, John Dowd, Ice Bucket Challenge, Shepard Fairey, Major League Baseball, Copyright, Roger Goodell, Senator Obama, Hope, AFC Finalist, Andy Warhol, Tom Brady, Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Governor, Fair Use

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.

Read More

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

Richard Prince, Social Media and the Public Domain: Reports of Copyright’s Demise are Premature

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 29, 2015 at 6:15 AM

Reactions to the Richard Prince Instagram story continue to filter in, and highlight the perpetual confusion between what is publicly available and what is in the public domain. They are not the same thing, with important legal consequences.

Read More

Topics: Richard Prince, Missy, Copyright Act, Prince v. Cariou, Canal Zone, Patrick Cariou, Suicide Girls, vulture.com, Yes Rasta, 17 U.S.C. § 107, Jerry Saltz, Instagram, Copyright, transformativeness, Fair Use, ArtNet, New York Magazine, § 107

Fair Use Fool me Twice, Shame on Me—Richard Prince Goes Trolling on Instagram But May Have a More Pedestrian Problem

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 27, 2015 at 10:35 AM

Few art law cases have received as much attention as that of Richard Prince and his dispute with Patrick Cariou over the latter’s Yes, Rasta photographs that Prince altered, defaced, and otherwise rearranged for his Canal Zone series. Prince has now garnered renewed attention for his appropriation of Instagram images in a set of works he has been selling at a Gagosian Gallery show called “New Portraits" (and in various other venues over the last few months). He escaped liability for infringement of Cariou’s pictures (though the case settled after remand; several infringement claims were still in play when the parties settled). Can he do so again? If this recent effort is not infringement, it certainly begs the question of whether the fair use exception has swallowed the rule. Lastly, Instagram itself may have prohibited the entire exercise in its terms of use, a possible avenue to short-circuit the entire copyright exercise.

Read More

Topics: “New Portraits", Richard Prince, Copyright Act, DoeDeere, 2LiveCrew, Prince v. Cariou, Roy Orbison, Canal Zone, Patrick Cariou, Internet, Yes Rasta, 17 U.S.C. § 107, Instagram, Copyright, Gagosian Gallery, transformativeness, intellectual property, Fair Use, § 107

Order Restored—Copyright Claim to Individual Performance in “Innocence of Muslims” Fails

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 19, 2015 at 7:44 AM

The full en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the earlier three-judge panel decision concerning a claimed copyright in the notorious Innocence of Muslims film. The full panel rebuked—wisely—the earlier panel’s holding that Cindy Lee Garcia had an independent and enforceable copyright in her acting performance that would allow her to enjoin reproduction of the video (on YouTube, in particular). Garcia’s case failed both for threshold reasons of fixation, and larger issues of copyright and the First Amendment. The case is a sympathetic one, but the ruling that has now been overruled was an unworkable one that needed to be corrected. Many of the problems and ramifications of the earlier opinion that we have noted were echoed in the decision.

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, Libya, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, First Amendment, Google, Benghazi, work for hire

Full Ninth Circuit To Rehear “Innocence of Muslims” Copyright Appeal, Could Right Earlier Panel's Error

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Fresh on the heels of accepting en banc review of the appeal over the constitutionality of the California Resale Royalties Act, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to rehear Google’s appeal of the injunction against it after actress Cindy Lee Garcia claimed a protectable copyright in her performance of “Innocence of Muslims.” While, as before, one should hesitate to read too much into the mere fact of en banc review, the three-judge panel under review now stands a good chance of being overturned (as it should).

Read More

Topics: Copyright Act, en banc, Libya, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Copyright, First Amendment, intellectual property, Cindy Lee Garcia, Fair Use, Google, Benghazi, work for hire

About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

Meet the Editor

Learn more about our Art & Museum Law practice

Subscribe to Blog

Posts by Topic

see all