“Stealing” Abandoned Works of Art and Moral Right

On April 25, 2019, it was reported in ArtNews that a man was convicted of theft and fined $3,500 for taking sketches rejected by the well-known artist Gerhard Richter and thrown in the trash outside his home in Cologne in 2016.[1] The definition of theft is basically the same in Germany as in the United States—a taking and carrying away of the personal property that belongs to another with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property.[2] If property is <Read More>


Given the tenor of the present historical moment I thought it not inappropriate to suggest that we all should read or re-read Frost’s famous poem–Mending Wall–published just over a century ago in 1914. That era was filled with conflict and on the brink of a devastating war. The poem is subject to many interpretations–historical, cultural, and personal. I have often read it to my property students, especially after discussing nuisance law. But asking us all to read it anew and <Read More>

Banksy, Shredding, and the Fantasy Life of Art

In what some call the greatest art prank of the modern era, Banksy managed to half shred one of his Girl With Balloon compositions just as it was auctioned off for a bit over one-million pounds. When he framed the work, Banksy installed a shredder capable of being triggering remotely. As the gavel fell an alarm went off and the shredder did its job. When the event unfolded on Friday, October 5 at Sotheby’s in London, the crowd looked on <Read More>

H&M v. Revok: Use of Street Art in Commercial Ad Campaigns

In March, a law suit was filed by H & M against Jason “Revok” Williams, a wall art painter, seeking a declaration that it’s use of one of Williams’ pieces as background for an advertising video was lawful.[1] They claimed that the work, painted illegally on a wall of a New York City hand ball court, was vandalism and therefore unprotected by the copyright law of the United States. Responding to vocal criticisms from the artistic community and clothing industry <Read More>

“Jane Crow” Laws and Contemporary Sexual Harassment

For much of our history men and women frequently occupied separate spaces. Political arenas, courts, and places of public amusement typically were off limits for women. Some of these customs began to break down during the nineteenth century as women commenced speaking publicly to “promiscuous” audiences, claimed rights of participation in economic activities as married women’s property legislation was adopted, and sought access to legal and political forums. But certain places—especially political and legal forums, drinking establishments, and some accommodations <Read More>

Redux: Gender, Stamina, and Politics

Last September Hillary Clinton left a memorial observance for 9/11 in New York City and stumbled as she approached her car. She had pneumonia and spent the next few days recuperating. Not longer after, Donald Trump responded publicly with a mocking, tawdry response to her stumble. “She’s supposed to fight all these different things,” he said. “And she can’t even make it fifteen feet to her car. Give me a break. Give me a break.” After Trump enacted a fake stagger away <Read More>

The Anti-Rebellion Graffiti Heritage of 5Pointz

Graffiti has become much more than spray-painted tags and quickly disappearing pieces on train cars and underpasses. In some quarters it is now high art. The artists use their publicly visible, spray painted works to develop artistic credibility, publicity, designer contracts, and sales potential for works made on more traditional surfaces or for installations in large spaces. In some neighborhoods commercial establishments, businesses, and warehouse owners encourage artists to paint large, complex pieces on their walls to attract artists to <Read More>

President Trump and Respect for Law

As this semester began I taught materials in both Civil Procedure and Property related to the authority and power of courts to enforce their judgments. In Civil Procedure, the focus was on the law of contempt. We read the famous case of Walker v. Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 (1967). A state court judge issued an ex parte injunction in 1963 ordering Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others to stop organizing demonstrations in downtown Birmingham demanding desegregation of facilities and <Read More>

Performance Rights in Pre-1972 Sound Recordings: Confounding Result in New York Court of Appeals

The New York Court of Appeals has left the world of pre-1972 sound recording performance rights at sea. In the spring of 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified the following question to the state court; “Is there a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings under New York law and, if so, what is the nature and scope of that right?”[1] Though the question was answered in the negative, the three opinions <Read More>

Property Ownership: Right or Duty?

In 2003, with ten other adult men, I became a b’nai mitzvah, a son of the commandments, at the age of 60 at Adas Israel in Washington, DC, where we lived until 2008. Both during and since that day, I have been trying to figure out the deeper meanings of the bar mitzvah ritual I undertook as an elder. If I had trouble with that you can imagine how hard it must be for a thirteen year old with a <Read More>