Saturday, May 23, 2015

FBI Recovers Stolen Painting

No good news on the Gardner Heist, but the FBI did announce that a Juan Gris painting, stolen in 2004, has been recovered in Florida and a suspect, Robert Dibartolo, has been charged with transportation of the stolen art work.

According to the criminal complaint and affidavit cited by the FBI and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, the painting was taken by unknown thieves who forcibly broke into the home of Clifton Hyatt in Saint Louis, Missouri in 2004. The Juan Gris untitled canvas, a 1926 cubist impressionist still-life valued at around $1 million, was hanging in the front entryway of the house.

Via The Art Newspaper.


Art or Hate Speech?


The City of Chicago wants Federal authorities to investigate a message which they perceive to be racially-charged. Michael Corrigan posted the message, “Say no to the ghetto. White Power. Mt. Greenwood, the next Englewood,” on his own garage facing a home that is currently for sale. A white noose hung next to the words. Corrigan calls this “lawn art.” The Human Relations Commission called it “racist and deplorable,” and asked the Justice Department to investigate whether this display is in fact intimidation and in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Via Fox Chicago News.


Artist Sues Chicago Gallery

English-born artist Frederick Phillips has sued the Atlas Galleries of Chicago. The Complaint includes claims for declaratory judgment seeking to declare the contract between the parties unconscionable; fraudulent inducement; breach of contract; and violation of the Illinois Consignment of Art Act.

The case is Phillips v. Atlas Galleries, Inc., 07 CV 003385.


Father Sues Son for Copyright Infringement

Readers may remember that back in December 2009, a certain Alfonso Frazetta Jr. was arrested and accused of breaking into his father’s museum and stealing $20 million worth of his father’s paintings. Well, it seems like the family feud continues.

Frazetta’s father has now sued Frank Frazetta Jr. claiming that his son is copying and selling lithographs, books, jewelry, drawings, T-shirts, sweatshirts, statues and “so-called Masters Collection” reproductions in violation of Frazetta Sr.’s copyright.

Courthouse News Service has more on this story as well as the complaint here.


4th Circuit: ‘Hurt Feelings’ Not Part of Actual Damages

I’ve written previously on the increase in copyright litigation (here and here), especially between artist against artist. Ray Dowd over at his Copyright Litigation Blog reminds us what can happen when an artist does not register her/his work with the copyright office before her/his work is infringed by another person or entity. Remember that under US Copyright law, in order to have access to statutory damages and attorney’s fees, the plaintiff must have registered her/his work with the copyright office before the infringement, otherwise, the plaintiff must prove actual damages (under actual damages the copyright owner is entitled to recover the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the infringement, and any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages).

Dowd discusses a recent decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court overturned a recent decision where an artist was awarded $201,550 in actual damages based on claims of conversion and copyright infringement against another artist. The Fourth Circuit found that the artist had not proved actual damages sufficient to support the jury’s award and reversed for remittitur or trial. The case is Hofmann v. O’Brien. Plaintiff Hofmann’s website can be viewed here, and defendant O’Brien’s here.


FBI Still Offering Full Immunity in Gardner Heist

On the heels of the 20-year anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the FBI and US Attorney’s Office in Boston are  redoubling efforts to re-publicize their offer of full and unconditional immunity to anyone who helps locate or return 13 artworks. The artworks missing include works by Vermeer, Degas, Manet, and Rembrandt, and are estimated by the FBI to be worth $300 million. Images of the stolen artworks are available on the FBI’s Art Theft Program website, here.

Persons with information regarding the Gardner Museum theft should contact the Boston F.B.I. office at 1-617-742-5533. Callers will be assured confidentiality by use of a code name. The Boston Herald’s story on this case is here.


Obama: “We’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property”

Good news for visual artists and for those interested in art law. Yesterday President Obama, speaking at the Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference, declared intellectual property “essential” to the prosperity of this country, and that this essential asset and competitive advantage will be protected from those who seek to steal these assets and replicate them with cheaper inputs and labor. Kudos also for his support for the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Here’s the snippet from his speech.

What’s more, we’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property.  Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people.  It is essential to our prosperity and it will only become more so in this century.  But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor.  There’s nothing wrong with other people using our technologies, we welcome it –- we just want to make sure that it’s licensed, and that American businesses are getting paid appropriately.  That’s why USTR is using the full arsenal of tools available to crack down on practices that blatantly harm our businesses, and that includes negotiating proper protections and enforcing our existing agreements, and moving forward on new agreements, including the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Let’s hope he keeps his word on this one.


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