Adrian Falkner v. General Motors Company et al., 2:18-cv-00549 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 17, 2018). A California federal judge allowed the street artist Adrian Falkner to move forward in his copyright lawsuit against General Motors over an advertisement that incorporated his work. GM failed to convince the judge on summary judgment that the mural was inseparable from the parking garage. This sets aside the classification of the mural as an architectural work, which copyright law permits pictorial representations. Nonetheless, the court denied Falker’s punitive claim for punitive damages. Order available upon request.
US v. Chowaiki, 1:18-cv-00323 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2018). Manhattan art dealer Erza Chowaiki plead guilty to charges of fraud, and was sentenced to spend 18 months in prison. This is the end of a procedure following his bankruptcy and three years of supervised release for defrauding art dealers and collectors of millions of dollars. He was also ordered to give up his interest in more than 20 works of art involved in the fraud, including pieces by Picasso and Alexander Calder.
Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art,897 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 2018). Lucas Craner the Elder’s “Adam and Eve” painting was the subject of a long battle between the family of the original owners and the Norton Simon Museum in California. The Renaissance painting was forcibly sold by Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish art dealer in the Netherlands during WWII, but the Dutch court denied the heirs’ claims based on their failure with the statute of limitations for Nazi-era looted art restoration. The Ninth Circuit court ruled in favor of the museum, to avoid overruling the Dutch decision. Full text of the decision here.
Williams v. Nat’l Gallery, No. 17-3253-cv, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25519 (2d Cir. 2018). The New York Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the restitution of a Matisse painting, entitled “Portrait of Greta Moll”, who was one of the painter’s muses. The painting was in the possession of the National Gallery in London and Greta’s heirs sought to have the piece back, claiming it was stolen from her home in 1947. The Court denied the claim on grounds of lack of jurisdiction because the alleged theft would have occurred two years after the end of WWII. More information here.
Tobin v. Rector, Church-Wardens, & Vestrymen of Trinity Church, No. 17-4010-cv, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 23761 (2d Cir. 2018). The Second Circuit denied VARA claims to Steven Tobin, the artist behind a 9/11 memorial at the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. The claimant sought relief for the removal of his “Trinity Root” sculpture from the church site to a Connecticut seminary, which he claims violated his moral rights. However, the court held that he had signed a contract with Trinity, where he waived any such right. Full decision here.