Friday, April 18, 2014

City Settles Lawsuit Against Photographer

The City of Snohomish has settled with a University of Washington fine art professor arrested shortly after she was seen photographing power lines.

Scheier’s suit followed an earlier legal action filed by Bogdan Mohora, who was arrested in 2004 after being seen photographing the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard. The City of Seattle later paid Mohora $8,000 to settle the claim.


Chapman Kelley: My Work Is Original

Seems like a district court judge in Illinois is not up on his critical theory readings, particularly those of Walter Benjamin. Ruling that Kelley’s work lacked originality, the district court judge held that the Visual Artists Rights Act did not protect Kelley’s work because it lacked “originality,” a critical precursor to establishing a copyright violation (VARA is part of U.S. copyright law). This is quite odd given the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the standard for creativity is extremely low: it need not be novel, but rather possess only a “spark” or “minimal degree” of creativity to be protected by copyright. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

More from The Art Newspaper here.


Yale University Accused of Accepting Stolen Painting

The heir to the Russian Morozov collection alleges Yale University accepted stolen property and conspired in “art laundering.” According to the Boston Globe, Pierre Konowaloff “argues in recent court papers that Russian authorities in the 1917 revolution unlawfully confiscated the painting owned by Konowaloff’s ancestor and that the United States deemed the theft a violation of international law.”

Yale received the painting through a bequest from Yale alumnus Stephen Carlton Clark. The school says Clark bought the painting, which shows the inside of a nearly empty cafe, with a few customers seated at tables along the walls, from a gallery in New York City in 1933 or 1934. But Konowaloff alleges Clark knew of the painting’s ownership history and that “Yale engaged in a policy of willful ignorance” when it accepted the piece in 1961.


Prosecutors Drop 14 Against Shepard Fairey

Finding that proving 14 vandalism charges against Shepard Fairey would be near impossible, Suffolk County prosecutors decided to drop these charges filed in Roxbury District Court last March.

Fairey, who lives in Los Angeles, still faces 13 similar charges in other city courts, including an allegation that he posted graffiti on an electrical box in Allston in 2000. Police officers caught him in the act, according to the prosecutor’s office.

However, he’s not out of the criminal woods yet. Neighbors around Mission Hill and the Back Bay said they are hopeful authorities will still prosecute Fairey on some of the remaining charges.

More from the still breathing Boston Globe.


National Gallery of Art Profits From Fraudulent Transaction

The National Gallery of Art has made out like bandits in a recent legal dispute.

According to ArtInfo:

In June 1981, court documents show, Canadian Jolles Shefner found herself in Paris, where she purchased Le boeuf (Piece of Beef), one of a series of 10 butcher-shop paintings by expressionist Chaim Soutine, for $68,000. She had the painting wrapped to go, and it was shipped to her home in Montreal, where it hung in the living room until the spring of 2004.

Like any good hanging beef, the Soutine work became more valuable as it aged. In May 2004, Shefner sold it for $1 million — and half a year later, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., bought the painting for $2 million.

Shefner’s heirs claim that after Shefner passed away in 2007, they discovered that she’d been taken advantage of and sued the middlemen in the transaction, as well as the National Gallery of Art, for what amounts to fraud.

The Soutine experts, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, were involved in the purchase of the painting from Shefner and the sale to the NGA. They have agreed to pay $210,000 to settle the suit in a complex deal that will send the painting back to the Shefner heirs and provide a small profit to the NGA.

For its part, the NGA seems to get out of the deal with nothing lost except for what might have been a bargain on the painting. Besides the cash from Tuchman and Dunow, the museum will receive from Ariela Braun and her brother Barry Shefner $1,325,000 in cash and a seven-year, interest-bearing promissory note for $650,000. Together, all three payments total $2,185,000, which seems to compensate the NGA for the original payment plus the time and legal bother of defending the suit.

A NGA spokesperson stated that although this is a (rare) deaccession, it will be profitable.


L.A. Muralist Sues Caltrans

Frank Romero, a noted muralist and pioneering Chicano painter, is suing Caltrans for painting over a mural he created along the Hollywood Freeway downtown in conjunction with the 1984 Olympics.

Romero’s suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, contends that sometime after June 1, 2007, a Caltrans work crew painted over his 102-foot-long, 20-foot-high mural, “Going to the Olympics,” erasing it from a wall at Alameda Street. The episode took place, the suit says, without Romero having been given the advance notice required under a 1980 state law protecting artists’ “moral rights.” The notice provides 90 days for the artist to save or relocate works of public art before a building’s owner can have them removed.

More from the L.A. Times.


What Sonia Sotomayor Means to Cultural Production and Intellectual Property

Last week Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to The U.S. Supreme Court. Although unfortunate that Mr. Obama draped such a momentous event in the pernicious cloak of identity politics, a Sotomayor confirmation could bring dramatic changes to the reading and application of cyberlaw and intellectual property law.

Although her early career as a corporate lawyer prosecuting trademark infringers for Fendi would lead one to believe she is pro property and copyright owners, and thus pro-original author, at least one of her most important copyright rulings shows an inclination to read into federal statutes in complete disregard of the literalness of the text, and at the expense of property owners and original authors’ rights. This is a concern not only for the intellectual property and cyberlaw conflicts she is sure to face if confirmed to the Supreme Court, but also because this tendency to “read into” texts may very well rear its head in other legal issues of grave concern. Let’s take a look into one case the clearly demonstrates this concern.

Read the rest of this entry »


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