Did you know about the artwork titled “Comedian”?
Last year, Am Badar & Am Badar also wrote an article on the same topic, discussing the latest developments in this case. This article will discuss the judge’s decision and the latest consequences of the previous case.
To briefly review, this artwork is a contemporary piece created by an Italian artist named Maurizio Cattelan. He made the artwork by attaching a banana to a wall using tape. Interestingly, this artwork was valued at IDR 1.7 billion/ $120,000.
According to Emmanuel Perrotin, the founder of Perrotin Gallery, the meaning behind this artwork is that the banana symbolizes global trade, dual purpose, and humor. Therefore, in the point of view of art enthusiasts, this artwork holds significance and is reasonably valued highly.
However, in 2022, this painting faced a copyright lawsuit from a Miami-based artist named Joe Morford. He claimed that the concept of the artwork “Comedian” was plagiarized from his work titled “Banana & Orange,” which also featured the concept of attaching bananas and oranges to a wall with tape. Morford also stated that he had registered his work with the US Copyright Office.
From 2022 until 2023, the dispute between the two artists has been legally processed in a US district court. However, Robert Scola, the judge in the US district court, rejected Morford’s lawsuit and stated that “Comedian” was not a plagiarism of “Banana & Orange.” Robert stated, “Until now, there is not enough evidence to prove that Maurizio Cattelan’s artwork is a plagiarism of Joe Morford’s work. The concept of attaching a banana to a vertical surface using tape is also not protected by copyright law,” as quoted from AP on Friday (June 16, 2023). According to his statement, attaching the banana to the wall was legal and did not infringe on Joe Morford’s creative work.
Judge Scola dismissed Morford’s lawsuit against Cattelan, who was accused of copying Morford’s artwork titled “Banana and Orange.” Morford claimed that his work had been available online since 2008 through various platforms. However, Cattelan denied any knowledge of Morford’s work prior to the lawsuit. Instead, Cattelan testified that his own artwork, “Comedian,” was inspired by a different piece featuring a banana and red adhesive tape in a billboard, which was published in New York magazine in 2018.
The dismissal of the lawsuit was based on three main points. Firstly, Morford failed to provide sufficient evidence that Cattelan had reasonable access to view and plagiarize his work. Secondly, the judge concluded that “Comedian” and “Banana and Orange” were legally distinct from each other. Lastly, Cattelan successfully demonstrated that “Comedian” was an independent creation.
Judge Scola emphasized that mere availability of a work in a particular place or situation was not enough to prove access. Additionally, the judge noted that the presence of “Banana and Orange” on various online platforms did not establish its popularity or any connection to Cattelan.
Although the ruling was enough to dismiss the case, Judge Scola proceeded to analyze the protectable elements of “Banana and Orange” to determine if any were copied in “Comedian.” It was concluded that the most prominent element shared by both works, a banana affixed to a vertical surface with silver adhesive tape, fell under the category of an expression that could not be protected under the amalgamation doctrine. This doctrine recognizes that certain expressions are so closely tied to conveying an idea that they merge with the idea itself, and copyright protection does not extend to ideas.
While “Banana and Orange” had some potentially protectable elements, such as a large green panel with two plastic fruits attached, Judge Scola ultimately found that “Comedian” did not closely resemble Morford’s work as a whole, and thus did not constitute legal plagiarism.
Lastly, it was noted that Morford did not challenge Cattelan’s defense of independent creation, which was supported by a detailed description of the circumstances surrounding the creation of “Comedian” and verified by one of Cattelan’s employees. Therefore, even if Morford could prove factual and legal plagiarism based on access and similarity, the doctrine of independent creation would prevent Morford from seeking remedies for copyright infringement against Cattelan.
After reading this article, we must be more aware of the importance of legal protection for intellectual property rights in our works. Intellectual property law grants us moral and economic rights, preventing others from using them indiscriminately.
However, legal issues often arise despite taking preventive measures. Just like maintaining good health, someone who consistently follows a healthy lifestyle may still experience illness during their lifetime. Therefore, in addition to strong preventive measures, responsive actions are also crucial.
Am Badar & Am Badar, as an IP Law Firm with over five decades of experience, is confident in our quality expertise to assist you with your legal matters. If you require our assistance, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.