Cenedella v. Metro. Museum of Art,No. 1:2018-cv-01029 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2018). Artist Robert Cenedella filed a $100 million antitrust class action in Manhattan federal court against the giants of the New York art world, namely the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. On behalf of himself and “innumerable other deserving artists”, he claims that the museums violated antitrust laws by showing artists represented by five galleries merely because of close financial ties between the museums and the galleries.
Zuckerman v. Metro. Museum of Art, 1:16-cv-07665 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2018). In another case the Met, the Southern District of New York ruled that the Museum does not have to give back a Picasso painting back to previous Jewish owners, who sold it in 1938, for a price below market value in an attempt to flee Italian Fascism, because the sale “occurred between private individuals, not at the command of the Fascist or Nazi governments.”
Beale v. Wallace Gallery et al, No. 2:2018cv00871 (E.D.N.Y, Feb. 8, 2018). The cousin of Jackie Onassis Kennedy has filed a suit against the owners of a portrait of the First Lady in her teenage years, alleging that it was stolen from the East Hampton family estate in the course of a theft in the 1970s that was never reported.
Cohen v. G&M Realty L.L.P.,1:13-cv-05612 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 12, 2018). In a hundred-page long decision, Judge Frederick Block of the Eastern District ruled in favor of the group of street artists who painted the “art mecca of the 5Pointz”, a highly decorated building in Long Island City. Artists sued Gerald Wolckoff, a developer who whitewashed the building without warning to make condos. This is a big win, worth $6.7 million, for street art and for moral rights. More information here, and stay tuned for an article on the blog!
Viktor v. Lamar,No. 18-cv-1554 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2018). Visual artist Lina Iris Viktor has sued musical artists Kendrick Lamar and SZA, along with Top Dawg Entertainment for allegedly using Viktor’s art to create a scene in the music video for “All the Stars,” the lead single for the Black Panther soundtrack. Viktor further alleges that she was approached by representatives two times for the use of her art in the movie and promotion for the movie. However, she turned them down both times. Viktor has alleged copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and vicarious contributory infringement against the defendants and demands a declaration defendants violated the Copyright Act, a permanent injunction on defendant’s use of her works, and damages. The Complaint can be read here.
Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 138 S. Ct. 816 (2018). On February 21, 2018, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that victims of an Iran-sponsored terrorist bombing cannot seize Iran’s “Persepolis Collection” at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute to fulfill payment of the damages they were previously awarded. The Court held that a 2008 amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act did not remove the requirement of commercial activity from the Act’s bar on seizure of a sovereign nation’s assets unless the assets are used in commercial activities within the United States. The full opinion is available here.
Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc., No. 15-35509 (9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2018). The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff photojournalist’s copyright infringement suit against Defendant Nike. Plaintiff alleged that Nike’s “Jumpman” logo infringed on a photo he took of Michael Jordan mid-dunk with the ball raised above his head. The court held that, while Plaintiff held copyright over the photo and the way the pose was expressed in it, the pose itself was not subject to copyright protection. The court further held that the logo was not substantially similar to the photograph, and thus Nike had not copied enough of Plaintiff’s work to constitute an unlawful appropriation. The full decision can be read here.
US v. Kyriacou, Canaye, et al., CR-18-0102 (E.D. N.Y., Filed Feb. 28, 2018; Superseding Indictment Submitted March 20, 2018). In March 2018, a press release by the Department of Justice revealed that six individuals and four corporate entities were indicted on charges of “conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering conspiracy”. British art dealer Matthew Green is among the defendants. He is charged with conspiring to launder money using art: Green and others agreed to help an undercover agent clean “over $9 million dollars, which [he] represented to be the proceeds of securities fraud”, by selling him the Picasso painting “Personnages” and thus providing him with paperwork for the purchase. The operation was halted before the painting’s ownership was transferred. Original indictment available here.