Access practice tools, as well as industry leading news, customizable alerts, dockets, and primary content, including a comprehensive collection of case law, dockets, and regulations. Leverage...
Graffiti artists won $6.75 million from a federal court after a Queens property owner painted over their works.
The Visual Artists’ Rights Act of 1990, a federal law protecting visual artwork from destruction, covered the artists’ work, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled Feb. 12.
The destruction qualified for heightened damages because it was a willful violation, the court said.
The ruling may stand as a warning to property owners who allow street artists to decorate abandoned properties. Owner Gerald Wolkoff allowed a group of graffiti artists to occupy what became known as the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center in Long Island City for about two decades.
When Wolkoff moved to have the property developed, the group of 21 artists sued and sought a preliminary injunction. The court denied that request but said it would issue a written opinion shortly. Wolkoff painted over the artwork in the eight days between the court’s denying the request and issuing the opinion.
The property owner “remains undeterred, and unrepentant that his thoughtless act violated the law and had a devastating impact on people he claims he was trying to help,” wrote Judge Frederic Block, quoting testimony in which Wolkoff stood behind his decision.
VARA protects a creator’s rights of attribution and integrity; intentional destruction, mutilation, or modification of a work of visual art violates that integrity.
Under the law, if a work is part of a building that will be torn down, its creator must have a chance to remove it. But Wolkoff’s hasty whitewashing denied the artists that chance, the court said.
The court also rejected Wolkoff’s argument that any damages should be tied to a valuation of the works. Deterring such behavior, it said, was “perhaps the most important factor” in deciding the case.
“If potential infringers believe that they can violate VARA at will and escape liability because plaintiffs are not able to provide a reliable financial valuation for their works, VARA will have no teeth,” the court said.
Eisenberg & Baum LLP represented the artists. Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti LLP represented Wolkoff.
Cohen v. G&M Realty LP , 2018 BL 46284, E.D.N.Y., No. 13-3230, 2/12/18
To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at email@example.com
Copyright © 2018 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)