Sunday, April 30, 2006

More "Genuine Fakes"

John Myatt, "the man believed to be the world's most-prolific art forger," about whom I blogged here, has another exhibition of his so-called "genuine fakes" opening in a couple of weeks, this time featuring paintings "in the style of" Miro and Monet among others. I said earlier that I think "he's eliminated any risk of a fraud or misattribution claim, but I'm not so sure he doesn't also have to worry about copyright," and, despite the careful way he presents what he's doing -- for example he's quoted in this news story as saying, "I'm not copying a painting, I'm making a new painting that someone such as Picasso may have painted in say, 1911" -- I still think he should be concerned. Consider the story I mentioned a few days ago about the Miro estate's complaints about Google's (one-day) use of a logo "in the style of" a Miro. If the family was upset about that, it's hard to imagine their not objecting to what Myatt is doing here.

ADA Suit Settlement

In response to the lawsuit I mentioned here, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art has made its (now closed) King Tut exhibit more accessible to disabled visitors. See here. Apparently the settlement was only partial, however: for one thing, it did not address what policies will be in force when the exhibit travels to its subsequent venues, the first of which is Chicago, where it will open May 26.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Chihuly

The Seattle P-I's art critic, Regina Hackett, had a long and interesting story last week about Dale Chihuly's recent legal (and other) battles. In addition to the copyright lawsuit I first mentioned here, there is apparently a second litigation: "An art dealer Chihuly fired won't go away. Even after an arbitration that Chihuly won on nearly all counts, the dealer, Doyle LaCount, claimed victory on his Web site,"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Bloomberg has this story on Sotheby's increased use of "guarantees" to attract business. In a "guarantee," the auction house commits itself to pay a fixed amount to the seller of a work, whether or not it sells at the auction. The Bloomberg story notes that "If a picture sells for more than the guaranteed amount, the auction house keeps the extra money. If a picture doesn't sell, the house risks losing all or part of the guarantee if it can't resell the picture for enough money later." But the first part is not quite right: typically the seller also shares in the profits if the sales price exceeds the guarantee amount (which is what makes it such an attractive deal to sellers).

Miro v. Google

To celebrate the anniversary of his birth last week, Google came up with a Miro-inspired version of its logo. The Artist's Rights Society, which represents Miro's family, claimed it was a copyright violation and asked Google to take it down, which they did. See here, including a screen shot of the offending logo. Professor Patry calls it the kind of thing that gives copyright a bad name.

I leave for a week . . .

. . . and the biggest theft -- not just art theft, but theft period -- in U.K. history happens.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Programming Note

Traveling this week. Blogging will resume next week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When does a copyright claim "accrue"?

In today's New York Law Journal ($) my old Paul Weiss colleague Lew Clayton discusses a recent Southern District decision on the still-unsettled question whether a copyright claim accrues at the time of injury or, rather, when the claimant discovers the violation. (The question is an important one because "accrual" is what starts the three-year statute of limitations running.) The court followed another Southern District decision from 2004 (by another former Paul Weiss colleague, Judge Lewis Kaplan) in holding that accrual occurs at the time of injury. The court also rejected the so-called "continuous wrong" doctrine, which allows recovery for all infringements as long as the lawsuit is commenced within three years of the last infringement. Professor Patry reproduces the decision, Roberts v. Keith, 2006 WL 547252 (SDNY March 7, 2006), here.

Doonan's Response

In this week's New York Observer Simon Doonan responds to what he calls artist Jack Pierson's "desire to maintain a worldwide monopoly on the use of found lettering" (referring to the email from Cheim and Read gallery that I mentioned here).

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Barnes Bonanza"

David D'Arcy has much more on Pennsylvania's $25 million grant to the Barnes, which I wrote about here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Copyright in Jewelry Designs

From Canada, a lengthy story in The Globe and Mail about a recently settled lawsuit involving the question whether jewelry designs can be protected by copyright. I was surprised to learn the question is not settled. As the story correctly notes, in the U.S. there is no doubt that such designs are protected under the Copyright Act.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Still Building

The Denver Post looks in on the progress of the planned Clyfford Still Museum there (via Tyler Green). Still died in 1980. Under the unusual terms of his Will, his entire collection (amounting to about 2,000 works, including some 750 oil paintings) was to be given to “an American city that will agree to build or assign and maintain permanent quarters exclusively for …” the collection. The Will also places strict limitations on the sale and exchange of the works once received by the designated city. In 2004 Denver entered into an agreement with Still's widow to become that city. According to the Post, the agreement "forbid[s] such amenities as a restaurant and auditorium. The museum is also banned from collecting or showing any other artist's work."

Not So Accidental After All?

The story of the museum visitor who tripped over his shoelaces and smashed three 17th century Chinese vases just got a little more interesting.

Phony sheik, Fake Rembrandt (or is it the other way around?)

Either way, the result is five months in prison.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Is that what it says on his business card?

Two men -- one 79 and one 80 years old -- face charges in Vienna for vandalizing a sculpture of Mozart they considered pornographic. The 80-year old, Martin Humer, apparently calls himself the "porn hunter." See here.

More on Art as Litigation Tool

Today's New York Sun has more on the attempt to seize Persian antiquities as a way to enforce a terrorism-related federal court default judgment against Iran, which I alluded to briefly here:

Mr. Strachman represents five Americans who brought suit against Iran over a Hamas-led bombing on Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in 1997. In 2003, a federal judge in Washington ordered Iranian agencies and officials to pay $97 million to the five plaintiffs, who suffered injuries in the bombing. As in the other cases, the Iranian defendants never showed up to contest the lawsuit. In 2004, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute announced it was going to return to Iran 300 ancient tablets loaned to the university in 1937. ... Mr. Strachman caught wind of the impending return and swooped in, filing court papers to take possession of the artifacts, as well as other Persian treasures at the Field Museum. In December, a federal magistrate, Martin Ashman, ruled that neither the university nor the museum had standing to block the seizure of the Iranian property. He said Iran could object, but noted it has not made any effort to appear in the case.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More on the Right to Destroy

A timely follow-up to my post below on the right to destroy: The New York Times reported yesterday on the controversy surrounding the publication of a collection of previously unpublished pieces by the poet Elizabeth Bishop, who died in 1979. Helen Vendler took no prisoners in The New Republic:

This book should not have been issued with its present subtitle of “Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments.” It should have been called “Repudiated Poems.” For Elizabeth Bishop had years to publish the poems included here, had she wanted to publish them. They remained unpublished (not “uncollected”) because, for the most part, they did not meet her fastidious standards ....

The take-away lesson for artists is to either (a) get rid of anything you wouldn't want to see the light of day during your lifetime (Vendler mentions, ominously, that "I am told that poets now, fearing an Alice Quinn [editor of the new collection] in their future, are incinerating their drafts"; poet Billy Collins updates the sentiment for the age of the word processor, where it comes out sounding much less dramatic: "I don't save my drafts ... I just press delete, so the early work just vanishes into cyber void. A motto I've adopted is, if at first you don't succeed, hide all evidence you ever tried") or (b) leave very clear instructions about what can and can't be done with drafts, fragments, etc. and, perhaps even more importantly (in light of the Franz Kafka example discussed in my earlier post), put the decision-making authority (including copyright ownership) into the hands of people you trust will carry out your wishes.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Daniel Johnston Movie

A documentary about Daniel Johnston, previously mentioned here, opened in New York yesterday. The New York Times review is here; more here. Johnston also has work in the current Whitney Biennial, which you can see here.