Legal Information

New Orleans Mural Sparks Constitutional Battle

Anti-Trump Mural Sparks ACLU Lawsuit and Public Art Dispute in New Orleans
Shortly after putting up a mural on his private property last year, Neal Morris received a letter from the city demanding its immediate removal and threatening jail time.
Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic

<< Cashy-D's anti-Trump mural in New Orleans (photo courtesy and © Neal Morris

Late last year, New Orleans developer Neal Morris commissioned the local artist Cashy-D to paint a mural on his private property. On November 4, the artist completed the piece, which features text from the 2005 Access Hollywood recording, in which President Trump boasts of sexually assaulting women. In the mural, select nouns have been replaced by images, like emojis in a text message.

Ten days later, Morris received a letter from the city’s Department of Safety and Permits faulting him for not following the proper permit process, demanding the mural’s removal, and threatening a “maximum fine or jail time for each and every day the violation continues plus court costs as prescribed by law.” Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Morris against the City of New Orleans, alleging that it has violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

“The ideal outcome is for the City to scrap its burdensome, confusing (and unconstitutional) permitting process for murals,” Bruce Hamilton, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Louisiana who is representing Morris, told Hyperallergic. “We don’t believe the government should get to decide what is art, which art is deserving of expression, and which art the public is allowed to see.”

H&M Lawsuit Against Street Artist Could Have Changed Copyright Law

H&M Lawsuit Against Street Artist Could Have Changed Copyright Law [UPDATED]
The clothing company claims it has dropped its lawsuit against the artist Revok after widespread outcry and calls for a boycott, though the artist’s lawyer claims that is not true.
Claire VoonMarch 15, 2018
Hyperallergic

Update, 3/15/2018, 4:30pm: According to the Daily Beast, H&M has withdrawn its lawsuit. It shared the following statement:

H&M respects the creativity and uniqueness of artists, no matter the medium. We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter. It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art.  As a result, we are withdrawing the complaint filed in court. We are currently reaching out directly to the artist in question to come up with a solution.

Update, 3/15/2018, 6:45pm: When reached by email, Revok’s lawyer said he was unaware of H&M’s decision to withdraw the lawsuit. “I don’t know what they are talking about and have not seen them make any public statement,” Gluck told Hyperallergic. “The lawsuit is not dismissed, and the artwork is even still being used on their website.”

We have reached out to H&M’s lawyers for clarification and will update when we hear back.

Update, 3/15/2018, 10:00pm: Revok’s attorney Jeff Gluck told Hyperallergic via email that he has spoken to the counsel for H&M, who told him that “that they are not in fact dismissing the lawsuit.” Hyperallergic has reached out to H&M’s attorneys and to the company’s PR department to confirm this but has received no response. Its statement noting that it is withdrawing the complaint has been shared as a story on its Instagram account.

Update, 3/16/2018, 11:20am: Court records indicate that the case was withdrawn this morning by “Voluntary Dismissal.”

Street artists are calling for a boycott of H&M after the Swedish clothing company took legal action against a graffiti artist to refute his rights over his own work. Across social media, artists including INSA, KAWS, and Lady Aiko are denouncing H&M for what they describe as an “assault on artists’ rights,” and calling for a boycott of the company.

5Pointz Artists Win $6.7m in NYC VARA Case

Decrying Real Estate Developer’s ‘Insolence,’ Judge Awards Street Artists $6.7 Million in Landmark 5Pointz Case

The ruling is a decisive victory for street artists.

Eileen Kinsella, February 12, 2018 (Artnet)

In a dramatic conclusion to a landmark case, a judge has ruled that a New York developer must pay $6.7 million to a group of graffiti artists to compensate for painting over their work without warning in 2013. The decision represents a decisive victory for street artists in a case that pitted their rights against those of a real estate executive.

The artists sued the developer, Gerald Wolkoff, for violating their rights after he whitewashed their work at the famous 5Pointz art mecca in Long Island City to make way for condos. A jury ruled in favor of the artists in November, but it remained up to a judge to determine the extent of the damages.

In a 100-page decision handed down today, Judge Frederic Block awarded $150,000 for each of the 45 works for a total award of $6.75 million.

“5Pointz was its temple, though it can never be replaced, this judgement is a monumental step for our culture and our art form,” Jonathan Cohen (also known as Meres One), the former director of 5Pointz, said in an email to artnet News. “Judge Block’s decision will change the art form perception for generations to come.”

Judge Block had harsh words for Wolkoff and the 2013 whitewashing episode in particular. He wrote: “If not for Wolkoff’s insolence, these damages would not have been assessed. If he did not destroy 5Pointz until he received his permits and demolished it 10 months later, the Court would not have found that he had acted willfully.”

fnnch Wants SF to Decriminalize Stickers and Posters

Street Artist 'Sign-Bombs' Downtown Neighborhoods With 450 'Honey Bears'
Mon. January 29, 2018, 4:34pm
by Nathan Falstreau for hoodline
 

Street art is part of San Francisco's landscape, but one local artist recently installed hundreds of pieces of his work to spark a conversation about using public spaces as a canvas for self-expression.

Over the weekend, fnnch [Stencil Archive album], best known for his depictions of honey bears, ladybugs, seashells, flamingos and turtles, fastened 450 pieces to utility poles between Market and Harrison and the Embarcadero and 5th Street. To comply with city rules for posting signs, he mounted the artwork using zip ties.

The installation, which features an array of honey bears and was billed as "sign bombing," aims to bring attention to what the artist deems "an excessive and absurd amount of [legal] signage." According to fnnch, adhering a "simple sticker" to public property could result in possible felony or misdemeanor charges.

The artist hopes to sway future legislation with the work and has teamed up with Care2 to start a petition urging members of the Board of Supervisors to decriminalize certain types of street art. As of this writing, the petition has garnered 10,816 signatures of support out of a goal of obtaining 11,000.

In particular, fnnch wants the city to decriminalize the application of stickers and wheatpaste—a removable adhesive that's commonly used by street artists.

“What I want to do is show the absurdity of our laws," he said in a statement. "Had these signs been affixed with adhesive to the poles, I could go to jail, but if they are put up with tape or a zip-tie, then it not only becomes legal to hang them up, but illegal for anyone to take them down.”

Coming Soon: Shepard Fairey's New LA Show and Hulu Doc

After ‘Hope,’ and Lawsuit, Shepard Fairey Tries Damage Control
By JORI FINKELNOV. 3, 2017 (LINK)

LOS ANGELES — By just about any measure, it’s been a long time since the street artist Shepard Fairey managed to capture the optimism of Barack Obama’s candidacy in his “Hope” poster, the stylized portrait in red, white and blue tones that easily ranks as the most famous, also ubiquitous, artwork of 2008.

Mr. Fairey’s oldest daughter, then 2 years old, is now almost a teenager. The “Hope” image became the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit by The Associated Press that was both expensive and embarrassing for the artist. Mr. Fairey, who is 47, has since gone on to create art for activist movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March.

And now “Damaged” — his biggest gallery show yet, with about 200 new paintings, prints and illustrations made since 2015 — is set to open on Nov. 11 in a Chinatown warehouse, the same day a documentary on the artist has its premiere on Hulu. The mood of the exhibition: what happens when hope gets trampled but not killed.

Street Artists Threaten McDonald’s with Lawsuit

Six Street Artists Threaten McDonald’s with Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

ARTSY EDITORIAL
BY ANNA LOUIE SUSSMAN
APR 19TH, 2017

In another chapter of 2017’s incredible streak of “multinational corporation tries to appeal to the kids; mayhem ensues” episodes, McDonald’s stands accused of copyright infringement and false endorsement for using the work of New York City graffiti artists in a promotional video entitled “McDonald’s Presents the Vibe of Bushwick NY.”

On Wednesday, lawyers representing six street artists sent a letter to the burger chain threatening legal action and seeking “compensation for damages to their work and reputation, as well as profits derived from McDonald’s unauthorized use of their artwork,” according to a statement released by their lawyer Andrew Gerber of Kushnirsky Gerber PLLC.

The burger chain hired six Bushwick-based street artists to paint its new bagel sandwich in public spaces around the Netherlands while being filmed, using that footage for an ad alongside the “Vibe” video. While the four-minute-long video focuses mostly on the hired artists, who are part of the Bushwick Collective group, work by many other street artists appears in the video without permission.

117 Million Americans in Face-Recognition Databases

African Americans are more likely to be targeted by face recognition software

By Sidney Fussell, Fushion.net

On Tuesday, a 150-page report released by Georgetown University’s Center for Privacy and Technology found that an astounding 117 million Americans, nearly half of all adults in the country, have their images stored in face-recognition databases searchable by federal, state, and local authorities. The databases are compiled primarily from images like mugshots, driver’s license photos, passports and visa pictures. Georgetown found that 1 in 4 police departments use face recognition databases, more than 4,000 total departments. The FBI’s database, many times larger than those of local police departments, is also sourced largely from non-criminal images, meaning that inclusion in the face recognition database (unlike fingerprint and DNA databases) isn’t reserved for criminal suspects.

Titled “The Perpetual Line-Up,” the report finds that African Americans, who are arrested at higher rates and thus more likely to recur in databases, are disproportionately impacted because of the increased level of policing in black communities. The report notes that, in certain states, black Americans are arrested as many as three times that of their share of the population, over enrolling them in face databases. (For context, in 2013, Ferguson issued 1,500 arrest warrants for every 1,000 people in the mostly black city.) And the Maricopa County, Arizona police department “uploaded the entire driver’s-license and mug-shot database from the government of Honduras, a major source of immigration to Arizona.”

Copyright war: Street artists accuse big corporations of stealing their artworks

Copyright war: Street artists accuse big corporations of stealing their artworks
The family of the deceased artist Dash Snow have accused McDonald's of stealing Snow’s graffiti signature to decorate the walls of hundreds of their restaurants – and his case is not the only one

Enrico Bonadio Monday 17 October 2016 for the Independent UK

The family of late street artist Dash Snow say McDonald's stole his graffiti signature and put it on the walls of their restaurants

Fast food giant McDonald’s has its own, very recognisable logo, but it may soon need to defend itself against a copyright lawsuit for allegedly appropriating someone else’s, in this instance the stylised name of a street artist.

The family of the deceased artist Dash Snow recently brought the case to a Californian court. Also seeking to protect Snow’s anti-consumerist reputation, they claim that McDonald’s has committed copyright infringement by using a “brazen copy” of Snow’s graffiti signature and featuring it on the walls of hundreds of its restaurants. Snow started his career as a graffiti artist with the crew IRAK.

Justin Giarla flees SF, but not lawsuit

This story, where a gallery owner allegedly doesn't pay artists, is a good addition to the Stencil Archive legal feed. Before I saw this Vandalog post (with links to statements made) pop up on my social media streams, I overheard a reporter ask Shepard Fairey about it while I was watching his mural go up in Hayes Valley. Fairey replied, on the record, that he had heard about Justin Giarla's plight. "He owes me money too, but I don't really need it," Fairey said. "What makes me sad is all the money he owes to the artists that really need it." A few days later, a link showed up with more of the story, including past and future litigation over money owed to artists from Giarla's various galleries. Moral of the story: ARTIST BEWARE!

Justin Giarla closes galleries, moves to Portland, allegedly screws over his artists
by RJ Rushmore for Vandalog

There was a time not to long ago when Justin Giarla loomed large over the street art/graffiti/low-brow/Juxtapoz-friendly art scene in San Fransisco. He owned three galleries simultaneously: White Walls Gallery, Shooting Gallery, and 941 Geary. All three closed quietly earlier this year, with their final shows opening in February. The building was sold. Last month, Giarla and his girlfriend Helen Bayly packed up their things, apparently abandoned his truck on the side of the road, and skipped town for Portland. That’s when the truth finally became public: Giarla hadn’t been paying his artists.

Broken Windows Policing Doesn't Work

'Broken windows' policing doesn’t bring down felonies, study says

New York's police department believes that enforcing laws against petty crime helps with felony deterrence, but many departments are shifting away from this model.

By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press JUNE 23, 2016
Read the NY OIG report (PDF)

NEW YORK — A data analysis found no link between enforcement of low-level quality-of-life crimes and the felony crime rate, the office charged with overseeing New York City's police department said Wednesday.

The report took pains to make clear it was not commenting on the New York Police Department's overall "broken windows" policing approach, but critics of the policy said the findings were proof that going after low-level crimes as a way of deterring larger ones doesn't work. The NYPD called the report flawed.

The inspector general for the police, which is part of the city's Department of Investigation and independent of the NYPD, looked at data for offenses like public urination and public drinking from 2010 to 2015, as well as felony arrest data. In that period, the number of summonses and misdemeanor arrests issued for those acts decreased, but there was no increase in felony crime.

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