Mural ©ontroversy: Kerson v. Vermont Law School

      In 1993 Samuel Kerson painted a two-panel mural on the second floor of Vermont Law School’s community center with the permission and encouragement of the administration of the school. He intended for the murals to be a tribute to abolitionists, the underground railroad, and other activist opponents of slavery. Among those portrayed are Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. There also are slave masters, slave auctioneers, and displays of brutality. But in 2020 <Read More>

Half Shredded Banksy to be Reauctioned—Shredder and Moral Rights Problem Both Disabled

Three years ago Banksy’s Girl With Balloon was famously auctioned at Sotheby’s in London for over $1,000,000 and, immediately after the hammer fell, half-shredded by a device inserted in the work’s frame. The auction “winner” elected to accept the sale, after which Banksy renamed the work as Love is in the Bin and reauthenticated it.[1] The half-shredded work is now returning to the auction block.[2] This time the expected take is well above the original hammer price. None of this <Read More>

Blog Revisited: Mutilated Haring Stairwell Mural Reappears in Denver Exhibition

In November 2019 I posted a blog about a Keith Haring wall mural in a building used by Grace Church as a center for children and teenagers in New York. The Church sold the building but before doing so had the typically playful Haring figures removed from the three-story stairwell they were originally painted in and sold at auction for just under $4,000,000. I criticized the church for taking this action, which almost surely would have been barred as a <Read More>

$6.75 Million Judgment in Favor of Aerosol Artists Now Final After the United States Supreme Court Refuses to Review the Case

[This Blog was originally posted on February 20, 2020 and updated on October 8, 2020,]

In a major development in the law of moral rights in the United States, the $6,750,000 judgement entered by the United States Federal District Court in Brooklyn for destruction of the aerosol art complex at 5Pointz became final on October 5, 2020 when the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case. That result left intact the decision of the United States Court of Appeals <Read More>

Shame on a Church for Mutilating a Keith Haring Mural

[Originally published Nov. 8, 2019; Edited Nov. 14, 2019]

This past October articles appeared in a number of newspapers about the removal of a Keith Haring mural from a stairwell at Grace House, a building owned by Ascension Church and leased for use as a Catholic youth center on the upper west side of Manhattan.[1] Befriended by members of Grace House at a dance hall nearby in the early 1980s, Haring agreed to show up one night at the youth center <Read More>

“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>