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Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc.

Citation. 71 F.3d 77 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1996)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Helmsley-Spear sought to overturn an injunction that prevented them from removing artwork previously installed in a building they purchased.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

An artist cannot protect his work after title for the artwork passes to someone else.


John Carter, John Swing, and John Veronis (Jx3) were hired to do artwork for the SIG Management Company (SIG). Helmsley-Spear, Inc. (Helmsley-Spear, Inc.) took over management of SIG’s building and terminated Jx3’s contract to do artwork in the building and removed their previous creations. The district court enjoined Helmsley-Spear from removing work by Jx3 that was already installed in the building under the Visual Arts Rights Act of 1990 (VARA).


Whether an artist can protect his work after title for the artwork passes to someone else?


No. A sculpture is considered work for hire and work for hire is not protected under VARA. The judgment of the district court is reversed.


VARA was not designed to protect work for hire artists. Work for hire is considered work that was created in the scope of employment.

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