As the ball teeters above Times Square, and the Glühwein begins to mull on the Art Law Report stove (don’t forget the cinnamon!), a gimmicky but apropos act of reflection is to look back at the biggest stories of 2014, both in art law generally and for yours truly and Sullivan & Worcester LLP. In highly subjective, unverifiable, and immediately criticizeable order, here they are. Thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for in interesting, prosperous New Year. If you agree, disagree, or otherwise, please continue to stay in touch and carry the conversation forward.
Topics: Comedy Central, Deaccession, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Charitable Foundations, National Gallery of Art, Knoedler, Cornelius Gurlitt, Blogs, authentication, authenticity, parody, William Corcoran, Moral Rights, Above the Law, Germany, George Washington University, Glühwein, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Norton Simon, Graffiti Art, Superior Court, Cy Pres, Washington DC, VARA, Detroit Institute of Arts, Bankruptcy, Corcoran College of Art + Design, Dumb Starbucks, Preemption, Asher Edelman, DIA, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Artmentum GmbH, Bavaria, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, World War II, Copyright, Times Square, Art Fairs, Kunstmuseum Bern, Corcoran Gallery, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Raubkunst, Detroit Bankruptcy, Fair Use, Münchner Kunstfund, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Graffiti, Civil Forfeiture, Art Law Report
Readers will recall the strange case of “Dumb Starbucks” earlier this year, which initially seemed to pose the question of whether a coffee shop that transparently used the marks and copyrights of Starbucks could claim fair use as an art gallery. It turned out that the entire performance was just that, a lead up to a Comedy Central series that has since debuted. We are not, of course, television critics, but in addition to being hillarious (and undoubtedly tongue in cheek), the full episode is an interesting platform for questions about the players and entities that can claim fair use to copyrights or trademarks over visual and creative works. In the end, the parody/fair use question could never really be answered, but the coverage the numerous news clips that the show included is a reminder of the difficulty of applying art critical concepts to legal analysis.
News that a coffee shop had opened in Los Angeles entitled "Dumb Starbucks" has again raised the proper interpretation of fair use under U.S. intellectual property law into the realm of popular culture and commerce. Whereas last year’s Beastie Boys/GoldieBlox dustup (still ongoing) revolved primarily around copyright law, here the potential issue is one of trademark infringement. To stave off accusations of liability, the new enterprise has preemptively labeled itself an "art gallery." Will this hold up? Even Starbucks seems puzzled.
Topics: 505 U.S. 763, parody, Landham Act, Weird Al Yankovic, @dumbstarbucks, Green Day, Bad Starbucks, Trademark, 17 U.S.C. § 107, 15 U.S.C. § 1115(b)(4), GoldieBlox, Copyright, Dr. Evil, Starbucks, Number Two, Twitter, intellectual property, Two Pesos Inc. v. Taco Cabana Inc., Beastie Boys, Fair Use, Merriam-Webster, Austin Powers