Trailer: Arturo Di Modica claimed installation of the “Fearless Girl” sculpture facing his Wall Street symbol turns the Charging Bull’s intended ‘positive, optimistic’ message into a ‘threat’

Where: New York

When: April 2017

Law stated as at: May 2017

What happened:

In the midst of the big market crisis of the late 1980s, Arturo Di Modica, one of the most famous Italian sculptors, decided to build a large bronze bull and place it, without asking permission, before Wall Street. After its initial vicissitudes, its sculpture has become one of the most beloved symbols of the city. Until last March, when a statue by Kristen Visbal of a little girl with her hands on hips and challenging attitude was placed a few feet away from the bull.

The work was commissioned by a business bank for the first anniversary of SHE, the Wall Street women’s index, and transformed the bull, according to Di Modica and his lawyers, into a symbol of patriarchy – the ‘Arrogance of Wall Street, against which girls have to fight in order to succeed.

For this reason, the artist and his lawyers have written to the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, and the companies that commissioned the work to ask that the statue of the “Fearless Girl” be moved and that the Sicilian artist be compensated for damages suffered in terms of intellectual property and commercial rights.

Mr Di Modica’s attorneys stated that the statue of the young girl becomes the “Fearless Girl” only because of the Charging Bull: the work would be incomplete without Mr. Di Modica’s Charging Bull, and as such it constitutes a derivative work.

Di Modica’s copyright on his sculpture would last for his lifetime, plus 70 years. Similarly, the artist’s trademark on the “Charging Bull” would remain in effect as long as Di Modica keeps it registered and in use.

The Italian artist might bring an action for copyright infringement based on moral rights infringements, notably the right of integrity.

Article 6bis of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works states that, independently of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, her/his own work, that would be prejudicial to her/his honor or reputation.

Di Modica filed a similar copyright infringement case in 2006 against Walmart, the parent company of North Fork Bank and others. That case, which accused the companies of improperly using the bull image in television programs, photographs, commercials and other venues without permission, also ended with settlements, federal court records show.

Why this matters:

It will be interesting to see whether any proceedings are actually brought – bearing in mind also that litigation based on moral rights alone might be hard to win.