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To prevail on Visual Artists Rights Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 106, claim, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the work is a "work of recognized stature," and (2) that the defendants destroyed the work in an intentional or grossly negligent manner. 17 U.S.C.S. § 106A(a)(3)(B).
Defendants Peter Dixon and Candida Dixon asked plaintiff Linda Scott to create a work of art for the back yard of their property. The specific work of art that the plaintiff was asked to create was a sculpture of a swan. In response to defendants' request, the plaintiff created a large sculpture of a swan, which was fabricated out of steel and was approximately 40 feet long and 10 feet high and weighed approximately 6,000 pounds. The sculpture was painted and maintained by defendants during the time it remained on their property. Subsequently, defendants sold their property. Prior to the closing of the sale of the property, the sculpture was removed from the property. Plaintiff filed suit against defendants pursuant to the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), 17 U.S.C.S. § 106, alleging that defendants destroyed her work of art, in violation of her rights under VARA.
Could the plaintiff artist prevail on her Visual Artists Rights Act’s claim against the defendants?
The court concluded that the plaintiff had not presented evidence showing that the sculpture was a work of recognized stature within the meaning of Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). The court reasoned that while the plaintiff had achieved some level of local notoriety, that stature was not so great as to afford VARA protection to each and every work she created. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.