U.S. v. Van Dyke, No. 2:21-cr-00216 (D. Wash. 23, 2021).
In two closely related but separate cases, two Washington-based artists, Jerry Chris Van Dyke and Lewis Anthony Rath, plead guilty to misrepresenting their heritage as Native Americans. Rath and Van Dyke claimed to be descendants of federally-recognized tribes San Carlos Apache and Nez Perce, respectively. However, when federal agents investigated their membership, neither defendant was found to have ever had a registered membership. Subsequently, both defendants violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 by misrepresenting their artistic goods as authentically made by Native Americans with tribal heritage. Read more HERE. LD
Free Holdings Inc. v. Keven McCoy, Sotheby’s et al, No. 1:22-cv-00881-LGS (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2023).
In a precedent-setting case, defendants Kevin McCoy and Sotheby’s prevailed in a copyright infringement suit against them by an anonymous plaintiff suing through the private holding company, Free Holdings. Free Holdings claimed that the plaintiff was the owner of the “first-ever NFT,” despite the fact that in 2014, McCoy created an NFT using a blockchain known as Namecoin, for which he preserved his original metadata using a token on a different blockchain, Ethereum. In 2021, McCoy sold Quantum, which included the Ethereum token. Prior to the transaction, the plaintiff created an NFT on the Namecoin blockchain, using McCoy’s namespace and original metadata. In addition to dismissing the plaintiff’s claim of ownership, the court found that several of the plaintiff’s claims, including false advertising and unjust enrichment, among others, were invalid as a matter of law. Read more HERE. LD
Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC v. Detroit Institute of Arts, No. 23-1062 (6th Cir. 2023).
On January 10, 2023, art collector Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC sued the Detroit Institute of Arts, seeking to prohibit the Institute from returning The Novel Reader, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, to a private collection from which the museum originally borrowed it. The plaintiff claimed that the painting was stolen from them by the private collector. The Sixth Circuit’s decision granted the Detroit Institute of Art’s motion to vacate the injunction despite the case’s imminent dismissal. The court found that the museum “bore no responsibility whatsoever for rendering the case moot” because the plaintiff settled with another party and was therefore outside of the scope of the museum’s control. READ THE COMPLAINT HERE. LD
Creative Photographers, Inc. v. Julie Torres Art, LLC, No. 1:22-CV-00655-JPB (N.D. Ga. Mar. 13, 2023).
On March 13, 2023, Judge Boulee of the Northern District of Georgia dismissed a copyright infringement case concerning derivative works of a famous photograph of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, holding that the exclusive agent did not have statutory standing to sue for copyright infringement. The defendant, artist Julie Torres, created interpretive portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg derived from the photograph by Ruven Afanador. These portraits have sold for as much as $12,000, and one is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Prior to this suit, Afanador granted Creative Photographers, Inc. an exclusive license as his agent. However, the court ruled that rights from licenses granted to agents sounded in contract law, not copyright law. This was especially incontrovertible as the contract did not contain explicit language reciting any §106 rights, rather merely stating that Creative Photographers was the artist’s exclusive agent. Furthermore, the artist still retained ownership of the copyright, not Creative Photographers. However, this case was dismissed without prejudice, so it will remain to be seen whether the plaintiff, Creative Photographers, will revise their complaint. READ THE COMPLAINT HERE. NG
Compeau v. Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, No. 159354/2019 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 2023).
On February 22, 2023, the New York Supreme Court granted the City of New York’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Goeffrey Compeau’s action against both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the city itself. Compeau alleges to have injured himself after tripping on the MET’s premises. As a result, Compeau filed suit against the city of New York as the owner of the building, and the MET as its tenant. The City of New York moved to dismiss this claim on the ground that the city is an out of possession landlord and is therefore not responsible for the upkeep of the museum. The city provided their lease with the MET as evidence of the MET’s full obligation to the maintenance, operations, and control of the property. Compeau argued that the court may not grant a motion to dismiss prior to discovery. However, the court held the lease was sufficient evidence to find the city not liable. Read the decision and order on motion HERE. (KJK)