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

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