Wall Street’s Bull Sculptor Demands Removal of Fearless Girl

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...

By Anandashankar Mazumdar

The creator of Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” sculpture is demanding that a statue of a girl standing up to the bull be removed by the city government and the companies that put it there.

The “Fearless Girl” statue violates Arturo Di Modica’s rights as the bull’s creator under federal copyright and trademark law, as well as a law protecting the integrity of visual art works, according to cease-and-desist letters sent to the city and companies that sponsored the work.

The positioning of the new statue “has undermined the integrity of and modified the Charging Bull,” according to the letter.

Di Modica’s lawyer, Steven J. Hyman of McLaughlin & Stern LLP, told Bloomberg BNA said that he hopes that the dispute can be settled without his having to file a lawsuit. The letters went out April 11 to the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York, Boston-based investment company State Street Global Advisors and advertising company McCann Worldgroup.

Fearless Girl a Hit With Public

Di Modica made “Charging Bull” and placed it front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989 without authorization. The city government later allowed it to be moved to nearby Bowling Green Park, where it stands now.

State Street commissioned Kristen Visbal’s “Fearless Girl” statute to commemorate International Women’s Day in March and obtained a permit from the city to place it near the bull. The statute proved so popular that Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided that it will stay in place until February 2018.

According to the letters sent by Di Modica, putting the new statue where it is amounts to creating an unauthorized derivative work, violating his federal copyright interest in his sculpture.

Federal Law Bars Modification of Art

The “Fearless Girl” also violates the original artist’s right to preserve the integrity of his work under the Visual Artists Rights Act, according to the letters.

“The Charging Bull no longer carries a positive, optimistic message,” Di Modica’s counsel said in the letters. “Rather, it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat.”

However, there are questions about how much protection federal law gives artists in these situations.

“There is nothing in VARA that protects artists against other art being placed near it, particularly when the location of the art is not an element of the work,” New York-based art lawyer Leila Amineddoleh told Bloomberg BNA. “Artists do not have the right to dominate an area and state which other statues can be present.”

Hyman acknowledged that this question has not been tested in court, but, he said, “I think it’s an issue on which we can prevail.”

According to the letters, State Street and McCann also violated federal trademark law by appropriating the bull statue to promote State Street’s services. When the girl was first positioned in front of the bull, it was accompanied by a plaque stating “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” “SHE” being the name of a State Street financial product.

A representative of State Street said that it had received the cease-and-desist letter and was reviewing it.

“Our goal with Fearless Girl was to create a powerful symbol to stand as a reminder to corporations across the globe that having more women in leadership positions contributes to overall performance and strengthens our economy,” according to State Street.

McCann and the mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg BNA.

Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP and McLaughlin & Stern LLP represent Di Modica.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Intellectual Property on Bloomberg Law