By Simon J. Frankel & Sean Howell
2018 saw a number of developments in the field of art law of interest to California litigators. These include the severe curtailment of the only route for U.S. artists to recover resale royalties on works of fine art; a conclusion to litigation over "monkey selfies" that raised larger questions about copyright protection for works generated by non-human processes; the finale of a decade-plus dispute over two masterworks with a Nazi history at a Pasadena museum; clarification of the statute of limitations applicable to stolen works of art in California; the resolution of constitutional challenges to local ordinances requiring developers to fund public art; and the consideration of a novel legal defense to claims of copyright infringement brought by muralists and street artists.
Au Revoir, Droit de Suite: California’s Resale-Royalty Statute Severely Curtailed in Close v. Sotheby’s
While United States copyright law does not entitle artists to royalties for the resale of original works, some saw a path to recover such royalties under a 1976 California statute. That path was all but closed by the Ninth Circuit in Close v. Sotheby’s, Inc.,1 a 2018 case in which the court held the California law to be almost entirely preempted.