Copyright Fight Over Famous Wall Street Bull Statue

from the well,-that's-a-lot-of-bull... dept

What is it with statues and copyright claims lately? Following closely on stories about copyright claims against a town’s statue of a mermaid (since resolved) and a still ongoing fight over a photo and US postage stamp of the DC Korean War monument, comes the news that the guy who created the famous (infamous?) Wall Street “bull” statue, is suing both the publisher and authors of a new book about the fall of Lehman Bros., for using a photo of the statue on the cover of the book. Apparently (I had no idea), the statue was made by Arturo Di Modica back in 1989 — totally uninvited — and he just dumped it in front of the New York Stock Exchange unannounced. It was soon moved nearby, and it’s stuck around ever since. Apparently, this is not the first time he’s sued over such things, though it’s unclear what happened in that lawsuit. Still, um… shouldn’t there be a rule, that if you just dump a big sculpture on the sidewalk somewhere without permission and leave it for twenty years, you no longer own it? Isn’t it like throwing something out?

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Comments on “Copyright Fight Over Famous Wall Street Bull Statue”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Facts? How about you check your facts. You suggested (or at least the previous AC) that the bull was donated. A donation is giving something to someone without expecting payment. It’s a transfer of ownership. Thus the reply from Res2

At this point it isn’t a donation tough. He left the bull on city property for years and never once complained when they moved it. Thus it is abandoned property and is now in the possession of whomever claimed it (the City). This is the way all garbage works.

scarr (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's in public view!

By that flawed logic, the owner of the World Trade Center should get a cut of every book/show/movie/t-shirt/keychain that’s been made about it, or had it displayed with the skyline.

If it’s in public, anyone can take a photograph to use however they like. If that weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be any paparazzi.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re: It's in public view!

If only that were true. Sadly it is not. The Space Needle in Seattle is trademarked. You can take a picture of Seattle that has the Space Needle in it and sell it. You cannot take a picture of just the Space Needle and sell it. If the Space Needle is not the subject of the photo you are fine. Otherwise, it is a no go.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's in public view!

The cover image of a book is actually often shockingly important to it’s sales potential. Remove the bull, replace it with a white cover with Arial lettering with the book name and the authors name in simialr sizes in black print, and see how well it sells. The answer is likely much less.

In the end, the image is being used as part of the marketing of the book, and that is more than enough to violate copyright. The guy should have just used the ML logo instead.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's in public view!

So.. you think that there’s nothing wrong with this law suit? You *honestly* believe that the guy who made a statue and put it out for the entire word to see should be compensated for a someone taking a 2 dimentional picture of it and putting it on the cover of a book?

C’mon now.

However, back to my original question:

Remove the bull, replace it with a white cover with Arial lettering with the book name and the authors name in simialr sizes in black print, and see how well it sells.

I don’t see anywhere where I said “No picture.” I said “A different picture.” Hint: The answer is “Probably not.”

Along the same lines, do you feel that a blank book with this picture on the cover would sell? What about the book is valuable? The cover or the content? (Another hint: I throw away dust covers, they annoy me– which happens to be where the picture usually is.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It's in public view!

“I don’t see anywhere where I said “No picture.” I said “A different picture.” Hint: The answer is “Probably not.””

It is the point though – the image on the book is part of the sales process. It is part of the marketing. Just like anyone, he is entitled to use another picture, but he choose this one. He choose to use an image to sell his books without permission of the owner. It’s not a big thing, you have the same right on your house too (which is visible from public land). If someone uses an image of your house to sell a product without your permission, you can sue.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It's in public view!

Are you trying to claim that I have a copyright claim over a picture of my house that I didn’t take, taken from public property?

Citation, please. (That’s my polite way of saying I think you’re making that up.)

Also, if he took the picture, wouldn’t he be the owner of that picture? It’s not like the actual statue was glued to the cover.

Still seems like fair use to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It's in public view!

No, please read more carefully.

You have the copyright on the likeness and image of your house. Nobody can take a picture specifically of your house and use it to sell a product (such as paint, siding, or pest control) without your permission. You own the rights to your house’s appearance.

It’s one of the reasons when making a movie or shooting a video, one of the important model releases to get is a location release. You need to have the permission to use the likeness of the place you are shooting (unless it is entirely public). Accidental appearance, such as a house in a series of houses in the background of a shot, or say that the featured bull in this set happens to be in an image in passing doesn’t always rise to the need for such a release / permission, but it is considered normal procedure to get a release for almost anything that appears near the front of an image or in the case of a video that is “dwelled” on.

So basically, you can shoot New York in general, you can shoot the skyline, etc. But if you want to film in the lobby of the Empire State Building, you need a permit and you need a release to use it’s image. Further, while you can take a picture of the Empire State building and show your friends, if it is the main focus of the image and it is used for a commercial purpose (selling condoms, example), then a release and permission is required to use it’s likeness.

Stupid US Copyright laws says:

In both the UK and in Canada, it’s perfectly legal to market photos of sculptures placed in public venues without any fear of breaching copyright. In the US, however, because of our lousy copyright laws, you may only do so if the photo is considered falling under the “fair use” doctrine, and that’s open to the court’s interpretation of whether or not a 2D representation of a 3D object is transformative enough to be considered fair use.

Di Moda’s first suit against walmart has been re-filed with a different plaintiff, as it seems he had to go after those who produced the book, and not those who sold it. 3 years after his initial filing, it’s been amanded to Di Moda V. Random House.

Crashoverride says:

In Portland Oregon there is a Statue on a Public building. Quite a big statue being several stories high (If I guessed I would say over ten stories high) Anyways the sculptor has all image rights to the sculpture and thus the sculpture lives in obscurity that very few people other than die hard Portlanders even realize it exists. It’s ironic one of the largest sculptures on the west coast something named after Portland and few know about it.

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