How Suite It Is for Some Artists

A friend brought up a topic the other day. She said she heard about some law where an artist who sells a work for a relatively small amount of money early in her career can be entitled to a small percentage of the profits if that work is later sold again for a larger sum of money (presumably when the artist has garnered some fame and her work has increased in value). Did my friend hear right?

Yes, she did. It's a legal doctrine known as droit de suite. As you can probably guess from the name, it was originated in France some years ago, and it has been embraced by other European countries.

Here in the United States, though, only California has some form of droit de suite, and it applies only to art that's either sold in California or where the art seller lives there.

Even Warhol Can't Paint from Beyond the Grave, Can He?

Oh, you've just gotta love this story out of the Salt Lake Tribune...

It seems a couple of people in Utah sold an art collector a painting by Andy Warhol that was a 1996 portrait of Matthew Baldwin, one of the famous Baldwin clan of actors. Just two little problems. First, there is no Matthew Baldwin in the famed Baldwin family, and, second, Andy Warhol died in 1987, a full nine years before the date written on the portrait.

I suppose, based on the above information, we could say there's also a third problem—one that's likely to involve some legal troubles for the sellers in this odd transaction. The painting is obviously a fraud. Or, more accurately, the painting really exists, but there's no question any claims that it's a genuine Warhol are, shall we say, a bit exaggerated.

According to the article, the sellers were charged with forgery as well as theft by deception and communications fraud. Does this count as their fifteen minutes of fame?

Norwegian Museums Need to Munch on Security

What is it about the paintings of Edvard Munch that makes them regular targets of art thieves? And, perhaps more importantly, why do these thieves repeatedly manage to successfully steal the Norwegian master's work from the museums that house them?

It made news a few years ago when Munch's classic works, "The Scream" and "Madonna", were pilfered in broad daylight from the Munch museum in Oslo. And that wasn't the first time "The Scream" was stolen, either. Okay, the paintings were eventually recovered. But c'mon! You'd think security would have clamped down pretty tight after the first attempt.

Apparently not tight enough. This past week another Munch was stolen. This time it's a lithograph titled "History." It was stolen when thieves broke a gallery window and just snatched it.

Maybe this is why Munch's most famous work is of a figure who just stands there screaming.

Playboy Sues Former "Lawyer of Love" over Trademark

Corri Fetman isn't your typical straight-laced, button-down lawyer. In fact she gained substantial notoriety when she unlaced and unbuttoned to pose nude for Playboy magazine, a publication in which she also used to write a legal advice colum titled "Lawyer of Love."

Well, now she's got a legal issue of her own to deal with. Playboy is suing the Chicago-based divorce lawyer over the "Lawyer of Love" trademark.

According to a Chicago Tribune blog, Fetman attempted to register the "Lawyer of Love" name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Playboy says it owns the intellectual property rights to that title and Ms. Fetman is just trying to capitalize on the Playboy name.

According to the blog, Ms. Fetman was a freelance writer when she wrote her column for Playboy. Freelancers, like other independent contractors, have different intellectual property laws that apply to them as compared to employees of a company. Who owns "Lawyer of Love" may come down to an analysis of both contract language and other matters.

Leaving It to the Arts

The New York Times reports that a recently deceased woman in Scotland has left the Metropolitan Opera in New York $7.5 million dollars in her will. Mona Webster was apparently a great fan of opera and especially impressed with the Met. (According to the story, she left only $167,000 to the U.K.'s Royal Opera Trust.)

Most of us aren't in a position to be as generous as Ms. Webster was. However, everyone should have a will or a living trust, or both, to set out how her or his worldly possessions will be distributed after death. Leaving some portion to an arts-related entity is no more complicated than leaving it to anyone else, and arts patrons should know that's an option.

One caution though...Cash gifts will likely always be welcomed. Gifts of other sorts (such as art collections) may not always be something an arts entity can absorb into its own collection. If such gifts are refused by the intended beneficiary, the property would then likely pass to someone other than whom you intended to receive it. So, if you're planning to leave something other than cash to the arts, the smart move is to first contact that entity to make certain the gift will be accepted.