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Robin Thicke and Co. are seeking a declaratory judgment that the summer hit “Blurred Lines” (or is it #blurredlines?) does not infringe upon the Marvin Gaye song, “Gotta Give it Up.” Decide for yourself here and here. Talk about “blurred lines”….  GET IT?

The Attorney General of the SDNY and New York office of the FBI charged James Meyer, Jasper Johns’ studio assistant, with the theft of 22 “unauthorized” Johns works.  Meyer was charged with one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and one count wire fraud.

Another forgery scheme involving Knoedler & Company has been uncovered.  This time, a dealer sold the gallery paintings mimicking those of American masters.  Pei-Shen Qian, a 73-year old Chinese immigrant, is suspected of forging the paintings in his Woodhaven, Queens apartment.  Glafira Rosales, a dealer accused of hawking the forgeries in Manhattan, has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion in connection with the sales.  The FBI became involved when suspicions were raised about the authenticity of some Robert Motherwell paintings.

Detroit Update:
The Oakland County Art Institute Authority, one of of the three counties that sends DIA $9.8 million a year as part of a three-county tax, unanimously passed a resolution that would dissolve its financial obligations if the city sells any of its collection.

Also, twenty-something blogs hosted a “Day for Detroit” last week to raise awareness about what might be lost if the DIA collection is forced to a fire sale.  Check out the favorites of artists, art insiders and Detroitians on Art F City.  Special shout out to Isaac Richard Pool for selecting a piece by my girl, Artemisia Gentileschi and also, the Eva Hesse piece Devon Parrott selected because I rammed my hand into my computer screen trying to touch it…


News Heavy…

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Judge Oetken of the S.D.N.Y. issued his Biro v. Condé Nast opinion. J. Oetken granted The New Yorker and Grann’s motion to for an order finding Biro to be a public figure, as well as their motion for judgment on the pleadings, and granted the remaining defendants’ motions for dismissal for failure to state a claim. Notably, the claim against Gawker Media was dismissed as time barred, the statute of limitations is one-year in New York.  J. Oetken reiterated that, under the single publication rule, a story’s continued presence online does not affect how time accrues.  Additionally, J. Oetken determined Biro met all four prongs of the Lerman test, constituting as a limited purpose public figure.  Thus, in order to survive dismissal, Biro’s complaint had to sufficiently plead actual malice (“a term of art denoting deliberate or reckless falsification [J. Oetken, 30]).  The opinion heavily referenced the affects of the “Twiqbal” standard on defamation actions, as well policy concerns for First Amendment rights.  In the end, Biro could not surmount the heavy “actual malice” standard.  Check out additional coverage here and here.

Christie’s has confirmed they will assist in appraising the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection.  Although the museum will cooperate, they have reiterated their belief in the Attorney General’s statement that the collection is a charitable trust which cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.  So, then why is Christie’s being paid $200,000 for their appraisal services?  In any case, even though the city is an economic sinkhole, its art scene is flourishing according to the New York Times.

This week has seen a few different copyright lawsuits:

Music publishers sued Fullscreen, one of the largest suppliers of videos to YouTube, after a breakdown in licensing negotiations.

A federal judge in Manhattan refused a motion by Arrow Productions to block the release of the movie “Lovelace,” alleging that the movie contains unlicensed footage.

Lastly, a Court of Appeals judge for the 9th Circuit ruled that Green Day did not infringe on the rights of a street artist when they incorporated his art work into their video backdrop.

A Manhattan doctor bought a deserted island off the Keweenaw Peninsula, MI then put a conservation easement onto the property and started an artist’s colony.

Also, BUY LOCAL. Local art that is, apparently community supported art organizations are springing up everywheeeeeeere.

In Memoriam

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Image from Arts & Culture: 104

Walter de Maria died yesterday at the age of 77.  Although de Maria was not a household name, he had a huge influence on the Earthworks movement. Check out his piece, “Lightning Fields” (above), and maybe you’ll see why he is one of my favorites.

In other art law related-ish news:

In a statement made last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital, with supervising and profiting from insider trading.  Cohen is one of the world’s biggest art collectors (he bought the Damien Hirst shark tank. yeah, that guy.) and a trustee at MOCA Los Angeles.

House Republicans seeking to cut NEA and NEH funding by half.  This is definitely the right avenue by which to address our fiscal woes (FRUSTRATED SARCASM).

Meanwhile, over in Europe, a five year global art project called Metabody was given 1.9 million by the EU Culture Program.  The project is set to launch this month.

Apparently, Christie’s sent employees to assess the DIA collection at some point over the past two months. Here come the vultures.  Although there are no clear plans for the museum, everyone has an opinion.  Some believe that selling the collection would hurt the art market.  While others are more supportive, framing the issue as saving the art versus people’s pensions.  While I, surprisingly, tend to agree with the latter.  I do take issue with the city having the ability to sell donated the pieces in the first place. I can’t imagine donors would have gifted their pieces if they had anticipated that they might be auctioned off in order to save Detroit from mismanagement.

The head of security for the V&A museum expressed fear for their Chinese collection, pointing to other recent thefts of Asian art.

The National History Museum’s science laboratory in Bucharest has submitted an initial report stating the ashes discovered in a suspected art thief’s home contained fragments of oil paintings.  This could indicate that the suspect burned a Picasso (see last post) he allegedly stole among other pieces, including two Monet works.

In other plunderous affairs, some ill-informed thieves stole 10 paintings and two drawings from the Van Buuren Museum in Brussels.  One of the drawings was a Van Gogh scholars have fingered as a potential fake.

Heat Waves, Hot Topics: A Tale of Two DIAs

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Some great links from around the Internets.  Stay cool people.

DIA drama over deaccessioning plan.  Try to say that three times, fast.

Also, Detroit has officially filed for bankruptcy.  This does not bode well for the Detroit Institute of Art.

A member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council has announced that he plans to fight future art funding endeavors. Spoil sport. I was lucky enough to visit to Hong Kong last summer.  The trip was incredible, particularly because of noticble investment the city has made in developing publically available art.  It would be a shame to see this pass.

Graffiti art knows no bounds in Iceland where the police are looking for the parties responsible for painting giant words on the rocky landscape in the Myvatn region.  The Environmental Agency of Iceland has called the act “nature terrorism”.

A Finnish museum has refused a request from the Iraqi government to return six artifacts which were donated to the museum in the 1970s.

Over in the UK, Freddie Mercury’s estate had a spat with Go Go Gorilla charity over a gorilla statute painted in the likeness of the singer.  The estate claimed that the clothing, “worn” by the gorilla, breached their copyright on the iconic suit.

The US has confirmed its commitment to restoring relations with UNESCO after withdrawing support in October 2011.

A stolen Picasso may have turned up, albeit in ash form.


Picking Up Where We Left Off.

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It’s still raining in New York.  In other news:

The State Senate thinks DIAs’ collection is important, but less important than summer vacay.  Over on Bloomberg, Virginia Postrel makes a pretty good case for why the collections should be sold off.

Richard Prince posted a video of him burning a “Canal Zone” painting, one of the pieces at issue in the copyright infringement lawsuit brought against him by photographer Patrick Cariou.  It may or may not be the actual painting….

Sotheby’s pulled 10 pieces from the Latin American auction that took place in May out of authenticity concerns.

Museums appear to be falling short of their pledge, made over fifteen years ago, to settle Holocaust restitution claims on the merits.  Watch the interview with Marty Grosz, it offers a compelling face to the cause.

Even if successfully pursued, restitution claims do not provide a speedy resolution.

Interesting op-ed in support of an approach to the Fair Use doctrine that is less of a “lottery”, and more expansive.

Not necessarily art law related (yet at least), but an interesting project at MIT allows you to turn your metadata into a more readily-digestible infographic.

In Lieu of Sunshine….

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here are some links to get you through this rainy Friday:

The Velvet Underground went bananas over some iProducts, then they settled for an undisclosed amount.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville-R has proposed a bill to prevent the sale of the DIA collection, and protect cultural assets from bankruptcy proceedings in general. However, it is unclear how the Legislature proposes to go about this, particularly in light of the fact that federal bankruptcy court trumps state law.

Ontario has designated Richard Serra’s outdoor sculpture, “Shift,” a protected heritage site.  Viewers no longer have to trespass for art’s sake.

The Rijksmuseum is offering their high-resolution images of their collection online.  The National Gallery in London and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington have made parts of their collections available, however, they are lower-grade images.

A New York trial court dismissed dealer Marc Jancou’s suit against artist Cady Noland for tortious interference with his contract with Sotheby’s.  Noland disclaimed the piece, owned by Jancou, asserting her right under the Visual Artists Rights Act permitting an artist to prevent use of her name as the author of a work if it would cause reputational harm.

Friday Link Round-Up

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Danish artist, Martin Martensen-Larsen, plans to turn the body of a convicted murderer, currently on death-row in Texas, into a work of art. The prisoner, Travis Runnels, has donated his body for the piece, which will be painted gold and modeled on Lincoln’s Memorial.  The artist has already begun to prepare his argument against the Texas “Abuse of a Corpse” statute.  Definitely curious about how this will turn out. I have a hunch Texas courts will have a strict interpretation of the word “offensive”…
Censorship at the British Pavilion? Jeremy Deller left a banner with the words, ‘Prince Harry Kills Me,” out of his exhibition at the request of the British Council.
New updates on the potential sale of the DIA collection here and here.  Apparently, the Philadelphia Museum of History resorted to deaccession in 2011. What does a gift agreements to a museum entail? Is it assumed that the donation won’t be sold, or must it be explicitly stated? If so, will people continue to give unrestricted gifts? So. many. questions.
Happy weekend, y’all.

“With all due respect your Honor, that has nothing to do with anything.” OR: What I Learned at the Biro v. Condé Nast Oral Arguments

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The number of defendants has grown since Peter Paul Biro filed his libel complaint against David Grann, a writer for The New Yorker, in 2011. In addition to Condé Nast (parent company of The New Yorker), Biro also seeks to recover from Gawker Media, Jackson Pollock biographer Evelyn Toynton and Yale University Press, and Paddy Johnson, editor of Art Fag City.  All parties appeared before J. Oetken of the Second Circuit for oral arguments on May 17, 2013 regarding the four actionable statements from the article.
In New York, a party seeking to recover for libel must establish five elements, articulated in Celle v. Filipino Reporters Enterprises Inc., 209 F.3d 163 (2d Cir. 2000).  J. Oetken’s line of questioning primarily revolved around the third element; fault, particularly whether the defendants exhibited actual malice.  Biro’s attorney was briefly questioned about the assertion that his client could not be classified as a public figure.  Additionally, all of the defendants questioned the sufficiency of Biro’s complaint at one point or another, leading to some debate over the effects of the Twombly/Iqbal standard (or “TwIqbal” according to J.Oetken, for which he got some laughs).
It was interesting to hear about the varying degrees to which the additional parties are connected to the case.  Attorneys for Gawker Media and Art Fag City argued that the sites simply reposted the original New Yorker article, and the attorney for Yale UP brought J. Oetken a copy of the book at issue so he could see for himself that Toynton did not once refer to the article at issue.  No decision was made on the spot but J. Oetken promised a full opinion providing a full and fair report of his views.  We’ll be keeping an eye out.
Sources: New Yorker ,  ArtNet
In the meantime, here’s a round up of art law related news from over the long weekend:
The Detroit Institute of Arts might sell off some of its art collection to settle some the city’s debts.  People all over the internet are freaking out.
Museums face new issues of repatriation when it comes to human remains.
Ai Weiwei is reconstructing six scenes from his illegal detention for exhibition in Venice. The six fiberglass dioramas were furtively transported out of China and will be available for the public to view this Tuesday.
The alternative artist collective, Silent Barn, may have finally found a new (legal) spot to call home in Bushwick.