Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lawyers Acquitted of Conspiracy Over da Vinci Masterpiece

Three lawyers have been acquitted in an alleged conspiracy attempt concerning a $6.5 million ransom sought from one of the United Kingdom’s richest peers, in exchange for the return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece valued at perhaps $75 million. Via The Guardian.


Supreme Court: Depiction of Animal Cruelty Constitutional

Today, the US Supreme Court handed down the correct decision concerning free speech and the depiction of animal cruelty. The case, United States v. Stevens, involved a challenge to a federal law that prohibited the sale or possession for “commercial gain” of material that depicts living animals being “intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed.” The Court declared the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that it was overbroad. Justice Alito was the lone dissenter. Chief Justice Roberts seemed to suggest that a law limited to “crush” videos instead would pass muster.

You may remember that this was the case where UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh (The Volokh Conspiracy) and two other lawyers wrote a “friend of the court brief” (“amicus”) on behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the College Art Association. The amicus focuses in part on “avant-garde and conceptual art,” Duchamp, Herman Nitsch, and Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigs. You can access the amicus via an earlier post I wrote, here.

BBC coverage here; NPR here; Chicago Tribune here;  LA Times here; Thomas Jefferson Center here.


Chuck Close Joins Fight Against Polaroid Photo Sale


Readers may remember that Polaroid filed for bankruptcy twice in the past decade, most recently in 2008 in connection with a Ponzi scheme at parent company Petters Group Worldwide. The Polaroid name and assets—not including the photography collection—were acquired by a private equity firm and a liquidator for $88m in 2009. The photography collection remained behind with the defunct Polaroid Corporation, renamed PBE, and is now in the hands of PBE’s liquidators.

According to The Art Newspaper, Chuck Close has agreed to become a plaintiff in this case, hoping to stop the sale of works from the Polaroid Collection, which numbers around 16,000 works according to court papers filed in Minnesota in 2009. An auction of around 1,200 of these is scheduled to take place at Sotheby’s on June 20th and 21st in New York. Close told The Art Newspaper, “These were not Polaroid’s works to sell. [...] I gave my best work to the collection because it was made clear that it was going to stay together and be given to a museum.”

Former Magistrate Judge Sam Joyner has taken charge in trying to persuade artists in this Polaroid Collection to voice their concerns and become fellow plaintiffs. Joyner has written a concise analysis of this case outlining the relevant facts, substantive legal issues and procedural issues (Note: the analysis is from September of 2009). For background to this story, here’s my post from April 2009.


New York Seeks to Restrict City Art Vendors, Protest Planned

Last week, The NY Times covered The NYC Department of Parks’ proposal of new rules for street artists who display or sell art in NYC Parks. It was published in The City Record on 3/24/2010. According to Robert Lederman, president of advocacy group ARTIST, there will be a public hearing on April 23, 2010 at Chelsea Recreation Center, 430 West 25th Street, New York, NY  10010 at 11:00 AM. The ARTIST group will hold a large protest before the hearing.

The full text of the proposed rules and a link to maps showing each vending spot are located here. The most significant change is that First Amendment protected street artists will now be severely limited as to where they can set up an art display in a park and as to how many artists can set up in each park.

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Justice John Paul Stevens’ Legacy on Intellectual Property

Last week, Clancco reader Matt Marco asked me who I liked for Justice Stevens’ seat on the US Supreme Court. I answered, albeit briefly, that much would depend on that Justice’s views on intellectual property, free speech, and cultural production.

Last week, had a good article on Justice Stevens’ legacy on IP, in particular his authoring the seminal Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios (or, the Betamax decision, which granted couch potatoes the right to videotape MTV videos and QVC infomercials and watch them any time and at our leisure, yet for personal and non-commercial use). Washington Post entertainment critic Tom Shales called the decision “one small step for man, one giant kick in Big Brother’s pants.”

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Fashion Outlaws…and Fashion Panels

If you think art law is the new black, well, you’re wrong. It’s sexy, but not as sexy and black as fashion law.

Last week, Property Outlaws authors, Sonia K. Katyal and Eduardo Moisés Peñalver, wrote a brief but concise critique of intellectual property monopolies and the current attempt by Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk and Senator Charles Schumer to provide fashion designs with copyright protection. Katyal and Penalver argue that not only do we see increased litigation, but, similarly to drug patents,

creating intellectual property protection comes at a steep social cost. Providing a limited-time monopoly to innovators allows them to charge monopoly prices. While this is arguably necessary to allow innovators to recoup development costs, it also puts the protected goods out of reach of many consumers[.]

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Does True Dissent Need First Amendment Protection?

Well, for some it does.

Nate Harrison mentioned this to me on Monday, and Artforum has some succinct coverage on UC-San Diego Visual Arts Professor Ricardo Dominguez and his avant-garde shenanigans. It seems Dominguez “recently helped launch an ‘online sit-in’ against the website of University of California president Mark Yudof. The strategy had about four hundred participants visit Yudof’s website repeatedly for about ninety minutes, in an attempt to slow it down (similar to what is called a ‘denial of-service attack,’ which floods a website with traffic, freezing it), as a protest against budget cuts to the UC system and the administration’s priorities.”

Now, Dominguez is wanted for questioning by university administrators, while the professor has publicly defended himself by claiming the right of free expression.

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