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Gregor Kleinknecht comments on the ‘artist’s copyright’ row gripping New York in iNews

  • April 18, 2017
  • By Hunters Law

On the eve of International Women’s Day this year, a symbolic protest appeared just around the corner from Wall Street in Manhattan.

In front of “Charging Bull”, the Sicilian sculptor Arturo Di Modica’s iconic tribute to New York, arrived “Fearless Girl”, a small statue facing down the powerful beast. It was immediately popular, and the statue will stay in its place for another year. But Di Modica is not happy – and he’s threatening legal action to have “Fearless Girl” removed.

“Fearless Girl” changes the meaning of Di Modica’s work, which could amount to an infringement of copyright law within the art world, known as an artist’s “moral right”.

Moral right is an aspect of copyright law that includes the right not to have your work treated in a derogatory way.

“That includes anything that takes the artwork out of context or changes its meaning or interferes with the artist’s intention,”  says Gregor Kleinknecht, an art law specialist at the UK law firm Hunters.

“It may have been well and good for the bull to represent what it does in the heyday of Wall Street in the 80s and 90s, but in the meantime we’ve had a financial crash and people look at Wall Street and what it represents differently,” says Kleinknecht.

“The artist who created the ‘Fearless Girl’ may well say, ‘I’m not the first one who has negative associations with the bull and what it represents. That’s the public perception in general.’”

“‘Fearless Girl’ is an artwork that expresses itself through the context in which it has been put. If there was to be court proceedings about this, the court would have to try to balance the competing rights,” says Kleinknecht.

The question remains whether Di Modica would really win a court case if he were to take legal action against the installation of “Fearless Girl”.

Kleinknecht doesn’t think the artist stands a strong chance of winning a lawsuit. “I wouldn’t take it on as a surefire winner. I probably wouldn’t give it more than 50/50,” he says.

Americans are defensive of their free speech, and they have more wide-ranging defences to copyright infringement, according to the art law specialist.

Also, “Fearless Girl” is a temporary sculpture – it has permission to remain in place for a year but no longer, despite a Change.org petition.

“That’s probably why the artist has threatened legal proceedings rather than actually taking them,” says Kleinknecht.

Read the full article in iNews here.

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