Artist and writer, Nate Harrison: “Artists should be encouraged to explore the possibilities that copying provides. But that doesn’t absolve them from taking responsibility for their actions. Artists are obligated to the images they re-use. It’s important that they do critical things with them, and not merely reproduce cultural and economic capital for the one percent while feigning comradeship with the social media masses.”
In June, a Danish-Vietnamese artist, Danh Vō, lost a case against collector Bert Kreuk in a ruling by a Rotterdam court which ordered the artist to produce, under Kreuk’s oversight, a “large and impressive” artwork to be delivered to the collector by July 8, 2016. In the suit, filed in September 2014, Kreuk claimed that Vō agreed to produce one or more new works for a 2013 exhibition, titled “Transforming the Known,” for the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague, which Kreuk would then acquire. Instead, Vō loaned an existing work, which Kreuk still holds (and has now placed an injunction on for attorneys’ fees). The court did not award Kreuk the €898,000 he claimed in damages; instead, Kreuk was ordered to pay €350,000 for the new work and to return the loaned work. Vō responded to the ruling with a pledge to appeal, as he told The Art Newspaper, “I will appeal the decision on the shortest possible notice. I believe that my artistic integrity has been violated by the court, ordering me to produce a ‘large and impressive work’ for Kreuk. I am happy that Kreuk’s seizure of my work, Fiat Veritas, at the museum has been lifted.” This week, Vō’s gallerist and co-defendant, Isabella Bortolozzi, released a statement criticizing the ruling and discussing the effect decision could have on the freedom of expression beyond the Dutch legal system. While American courts are reluctant to remedy the breach of service contracts with specific performance, the case highlights the difficulty courts face given the nature of art production in a market which extends enormous value to the aura of individual artists.
More via Blouin ArtInfo.
The New York State Senate has passed legislation which amends the New York Art and Cultural Affairs Law to limit the liability of art authenticators and appraisers. The bill needs to be voted on by the State Assembly before it passes into law. The legislation attempts to address the chilling effect of recent high cost litigation and encourage experts to authenticate artworks. Experts and boards created to authenticate art have been sued not only for pronouncing art inauthentic, thereby radically devaluing it in the market, but also for expressing an attribution which is later questioned, for refusing to voice an opinion as to its authenticity, for omitting a work from a catalogue raisonné, and for determining that it is unclear whether a work is authentic or not. These lawsuits, often brought by very wealthy collectors or dealers in the art market, intimidate experts and scholars, compelling them to withhold valuable information from the art market and art scholarship in general by refusing to offer opinions.
The new legislation attempts to incentivize these experts by protecting them from such suits and the accompanying astronomical legal fees. The bill broadly defines “authenticators” protected under the amendment, though it specifically excludes those who authenticate art in which they have a financial interest. Additionally, the bill heightens the pleading requirement for plaintiffs bringing actions against authenticators, making it more difficult to bring a claim into court. A discretionary fee shifting provision authorizes the court to grant legal costs to prevailing authenticators and also precludes prevailing plaintiffs from recovering legal costs. However, the passed legislation does not include a heightened pleading “with particularity” requirement which was included in a previous version of the bill. Even in its previous form, legal scholars questioned the effect the legislation would have on the art market. It is doubtful the amendment in its current form will convince experts to return to the market.
More via The National Law Review.
Although probably dismissed by the all-appropriation-is-fair-use posse, here’s a very poignant (feminist) take on (white male) appropriation artists.
As if the cleverness of the theft excuses the theft itself. These loopholes benefit the thief, have you noticed? They rely on this power, and they’ve habitually used it only to profit on the backs of people less powerful, with much more to say. It’s a reflection of art history at large, upheld by art law itself. You know what? Art law is misogyny. It defends the abilities of those already in power. Of course it doesn’t defend me and other women who’ve had our work appropriated. Of course Richard Prince and his children of the corn will get away with this. It’s written on the walls. How many women artists have been erased from museums through pre-Instagram modes of re-appropriation: their works attributed to male colleagues in their studios, their mentors or their lovers or more visible friends. How many women only get into museums by being muses, and never the artist themselves?
This month, nine graffiti artists filed suit in federal court under the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”) against developer Jerry Wolkoff, the owner of the 5Pointz site in Long Island City, Queens, for damages caused by the destruction of their artwork when the site was whitewashed without notice in 2013. The artists claim that because they were not granted notice, they were unable to retrieve and preserve their work. Wolkoff had allowed graffiti artists to create work on the interior and exterior of the property for many years; this work transformed the neighborhood into a tourist attraction, increasing its value as a development site. They initially sued Wolkoff for an injunction in 2013 following his announcement that the buildings would be demolished, and while Brooklyn Judge Frederic Block recognized the artistic value of the graffiti, some of which may have qualified for legal protection under VARA, the building owners’ rights prevailed. The new suit claims the whitewashing was “entirely gratuitous and unnecessary” given the slated demolition, and that the artists were entitled to written notice and a 90-day period to remove their artwork. More than 350 works of visual art adorned the site, inside and out, at the time of destruction.
More via artnet News.
A Las Vegas federal court recently awarded artist Steven Liguori over $2 million for violations of copyrights and a licensing agreement. In the 1990s, Liguori created two large scale sculptures for Bert Hansen, the owner of the High Scaler Café and Hoover Dam Snacketeria, including a bronze piece depicting a worker on the Hoover Dam and another which serves as a monument to the Café. The judgment stems from a 2011 suit filed by Liguori against Hansen for breach of a licensing agreement for products based on the artworks and failure to pay royalty fees, the majority of compensation for the works. According to the suit, Hansen agreed to pay a 17% royalty on all licensed products for the right to sell souvenirs based on Liguori’s sculptures, but used likenesses of the pieces in ways which far exceeded the terms of their agreement and refused to fulfill the royalty obligation.
More via the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
A fine art photographer in Seattle, Christopher Boffoli, has filed suit against Pinterest for infringement of copyright in his photographs. This suit is the most recent in a series Boffoli has filed against Twitter, Google, Imgur, and other websites for copyright infringement based on the failure to remove his photographs from their sites. Under current law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), internet service providers and other intermediaries are exempt from liability for the copyright infringement of users if the site removes the copyrighted material on request by the copyright holder. However, according to the complaint filed against Pinterest, Boffoli claims that despite submitting multiple DMCA-compliant takedown requests since August, 2014, at least 56 of his photographs have not been removed and are still accessible on Pinterest’s server.
By permitting access to his work without attribution, Boffoli loses any potential traffic to his own website. Boffoli has attempted to articulate the impact of piracy on the creators of artwork. He told MyNorthwest.com, “[P]eople aren’t going to my website because they can go to Pinterest and see these images, out of context, a lot of times without attribution. It doesn’t help me the least if people don’t know who created the image. I worked 30 years to hone my craft. I spend a lot of time working on these images. I use a lot of expensive equipment. Why should anybody else profit from my work?… I don’t think these people ever think that when you’re downloading, pirating that film, you’re stealing from a lot of people that depend on this for their livelihood.
Boffoli’s other suits were settled out of court under undisclosed terms. If artists must take such drastic measures to protect copyright in their work, the DMCA “notice and takedown” provisions may need to be revisited.
More via PetaPixel.