Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Who’s Behind the William Kentridge Art Thefts?

Last week, four William Kentridge artworks were stolen from the Parkwood Gallery in Johannesburg. This week, police are investigating whether two men arrested in connection with the stolen Kentridge artworks could be behind other incidents of art theft.


Will the Real Warhol Please Stand Up?

Law student Gareth Lacy, from the University of Washington School of Law, has just published a law review article concerning the Simon-Whelan v. Andy Warhol Foundation authentication lawsuit. The article, Standardizing Warhol: Antitrust Liability for Denying the Authenticity of Artwork, also covers what Lacy calls the “rise of class action lawsuits in the artworld.” The article was published in the Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts. Here’s the abstract:

Art authentication boards are powerful; their determinations
of authenticity can render artwork worthless or add
millions of dollars to market value. In the past, boards that
denied authenticity of artwork typically risked tort liability
for disparagement, defamation, or fraud. In Simon-Whelan v.
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., however,
an art collector alleged monopolization and market restraint
after an authentication board denied the authenticity of his
Andy Warhol painting by stamping “DENIED” on the back of
it. The case is the first antitrust lawsuit against an authentication
board to survive the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
The decision therefore suggests potential liability exposure
under the Sherman Antitrust Act for art professionals who
render opinions on the authenticity of artwork. This Article
discusses how Simon-Whelan provides a framework for
pleading antitrust claims against authentication boards and
considers what standard could be appropriate for analyzing
similar claims at trial. This Article also describes how
antitrust law governing standards setting and product
certification outside the art world could apply to art authentication
and organizations setting authenticity standards.


Sex, Law, and Cinema, and How ‘X-Rated’ Became Synonymous With Porn

Documentary filmmaker Tony Comstock has just published a very interesting article on the legal and moral challenges faced by filmmakers during the 20th Century, particularly when dealing with issues of sexuality and nudity. Comstock gives a timeline from 1934 to 1968 “of important court cases, movies, and [Motion Picture Association of America] decisions that led to the MPAA abandoning the Production Code (aka Hays Code) in 1968, and replacing it with a four-tier content advisory system that included an adults-only rating available to producers whether or not they were working within the MPAA system.”

Check it out via The Atlantic here. Today he has How ‘X-Rated’ Became Synonymous With Porn.


Mardi Gras Indians Ready to File Copyright Lawsuits

It’s that time again for…Mardi Gras and, yes, copyright infringement law suits. Almost a year ago I wrote of the New Orleans based Mardi Gras Indians and their interest in protecting their costumes from commercial exploitation by commercial photographers.

NPR ran a story today on this dilemma, particularly since some of the costumes have now been registered with the U.S. copyright office, thus making them ripe for potential copyright infringement lawsuits. What’s the problem with people taking pictures of the Mardi Gras Indians? Nothing, so long as you use the pictures for personal reasons. But if you’re looking to profit from them the way some photographers have been doing–think calendars, posters, mugs–then expect to get hit with either a licensing offer or a copyright infringement lawsuit.

If you’re wondering if U.S. copyright law protects costumes, the general answer is a simple “no.” This is what makes these situations interesting: the question of how far courts will go in expanding the definition of art and sculpture. Let’s see what happens. NPR story here.


Ascalon VARA Case Settles

Who said moral rights cases don’t have happy endings?

Remember last year’s Visual Artists Rights Case, David Ascalon v. The Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg? If you don’t, here’s a quick recap.

In July 2010, the New Jersey artist David Ascalon filed an action in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania asserting that his rights under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) had been violated with respect to a sculpture he created for the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg: a Holocaust Memorial on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania’s state capital, which was installed in 1994.  The complaint alleged that Ascalon’s rights under VARA, which limits how an artwork may be altered or disposed of, were violated by restoration of a decaying element of the original sculpture in which a rust-colored “barbed wire” serpentine element was replaced with stainless steel.

The case has come to a conclusion, as both parties have reached an amicable solution.

The substance of the settlement provides the sculpture will be retrofitted in a manner that upholds the artist’s original intent at minimal costs to the defendants.  The original artist shall be provided access to the sculpture to remake the “barbed wire” serpentine element in a highly durable rust-colored steel, and the original artist’s name shall be restored to the sculpture.

David Ascalon’s son, Eric Ascalon, had these words to say regarding the case and the settlement.

Under the terms of the settlement, I am happy to announce that my father’s sculpture will be restored in accordance with his original vision.  Although the case did not get to trail and therefore no legal precedent was established, I nevertheless believe that this positive outcome for artists’ rights.  VARA, here, ultimately did what it was intended to do without the need to got through a lengthy trial and appeals process.  As knowledge of VARA and cases like these become more widely disseminated, those who would otherwise violate the moral rights of an artist will give pause.

Congrats to both parties for the amicable settlement!


Koons Balloon-Dog Battle Ends

According to The Bay Citizen, the Jeff Koons balloon-dog book-end fiasco has come to an end (pun intended).

Park Life’s co-owner, Jamie Alexander (defendant), noted that the store did not agree to a confidentiality agreement about their resolution with Koons, “which was important to him, as he and lawyer Jed Wakefield saw this as a win for underdogs. ‘This is a victory for the little guy standing up to a bully. Also, it’s about the absurdity of the art world,’ said Alexander.”


Is It Legal to Take a Picture of a Federal Building?

The public has the right to take pictures of public buildings from public spaces.

According to the paper of record, last October, the New York Civil Liberties Union reached a settlement with the Federal Protective Service (FPS) of the Department of Homeland Security, where the FPS pledged to inform its officers through a bulletin of the public’s general right to photograph the exteriors of federal courthouses. The three-page bulletin reminds officers, agents and employees that, “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” they “must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces” like streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.

If you’re a photographer, videomaker, or filmmaker, you can download the bulletin here. Make sure to carry it with you just in case.

Many thanks to my good friend for sending this along.


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