Wednesday, May 22, 2019

When is art “art”?

For those that follow the now-historic debacle concerning Giuseppe Panza, the Guggenheim Museum, and numerous Conceptual and Minimalist artists, here’s the low-down on this week’s two-day symposium concerning heady “art law” issues.


What? Humor, grace and wit in cease and desist letters?

Humor and grace in a cease-and-desist letter can avoid any hurt feelings, copyright lawyers say.

Also for PR purposes. More here.


Contemporary art’s undercurrent of repression

the new threat to artists stems ultimately from the growing power of the media in which they work. “The 21st century is a visual culture,” he says. “It’s beginning to be our dominant form.”

Interesting article in the Financial Times on how repressive regimes leverage the facade of contemporary art and freedom of expression for financial and cultural gains.


Mercedes Benz sues artists, argues no copyright infringement

We’ve seen this before, most recently about a year ago in the H&M v. Jason “Revok” Williams lawsuit. (This case ultimately settled.)

Now we have Mercedes Benz preemptively suing artists Daniel Bombardier, James “Dabls” Lewis, and Jeff Soto and Maxx Gramajo in a Michigan district court arguing that their use of the three artists’ “graffiti” murals in commercials does not infringe the artists’ copyrights or other rights. Mercedes is also asking the court to award Mercedes its costs to bring the lawsuit and attorneys’ fees.

Curious if Mercedes Benz will take this all the way or bow out in settlement. We’ve said before that this legal issue is ripe for courts to answer, so why not now?

More on the lawsuit here (story includes links to the three complaints).


More on Harvard and daguerreotypes lawsuit

I’m quoted in this Artnet article regarding the lawsuit making its way through the courts concerning Harvard University and the plaintiff who claims she is the direct descendant of slaves depicted in several 19th-century daguerreotypes owned by Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.


Who owns the band name?

Band names typically qualify as trademarks, and trademarks can be assigned by contract. “A band agreement, in a lot of ways, is like a prenup,” Chodosh said. “It’s about what will happen if things go wrong and somebody leaves, which nobody wants to talk about. Bands don’t start to hate each other until they’re successful.”

Most bands…never establish contractually how the band trademark is owned. In the absence of a contract, she added, “Trademark law prevails. And because trademark law is not uncomplicated, it’s difficult to say who owns that trademark.”

This has happened with Queensryche, Guns-n-Roses, and LA Guns, to name only a very, very few.

More here.


Do light projections infringe property rights?

Interesting law review article just out on light projections and property rights. Given the increasing number of artists and political protesters using this format of expression, this is a timely and important issue to discuss. University of Virginia Law Professor , Maureen Brady, writes:

In cities across the country, artists, protestors, and businesses are using light projections to turn any building’s façade into a billboard, often without the owner’s consent. Examples are legion: “Believe Women” on a New York City Best Buy; a scantily clad male model on the side of an apartment building; a nativity scene on the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Two courts have considered claims by owners seeking to stop these projections under theories of trespass and nuisance. In each case, the courts held that because light is intangible and the projections result in no economic harm to the property, the common law affords no relief.

This Article argues that property law can and should address projection claims by private owners.

Article available here.


Clancco, Clancco: The Source for Art & Law,, and Art & Law are trademarks owned by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento. The views expressed on this site are those of Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and of the artists and writers who submit to They are not the views of any other organization, legal or otherwise. All content contained on or made available through is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed, nor is anything submitted to treated as confidential.

Website Terms of Use, Privacy, and Applicable Law.

Switch to our mobile site