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NYC Litigation Blog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creator of the Wall Street Bull Accuses “Fearless Girl” of Copyright Violation

Does the “Fearless Girl” statute infringe on the copyright of the “Charging Bull”?

The 7,000-pound bronze statue of a charging bull has long been a part of New York City’s landscape.  Created in the 1980’s by artist Arturo Di Modica, the bull located outside of the New York Stock Exchange was intended, according to its creator, to be a symbol of strength.  Recently, the statue of a young girl appeared triumphantly standing a few feet from the bull.  This statue is known as the “Fearless Girl” and it was created by Kristen Visbal.  The “Fearless Girl” has attracted a huge fan base for its message of female empowerment, but now the creator of the “Charging Bull” is calling for its removal.

Is the “Fearless Girl” a Derivative Work of the “Charging Bull”?

The artist who made the “Charging Bull” has publically stated that he believes the “Fearless Girl” has infringed on his copyright.  According to Di Modica, the addition of the bronze statue of a young girl close to his bull has transformed the meaning of the bull statue.  Now, instead of a symbol of strength, the “Charging Bull” has become a symbol of patriarchy.  Di Modica has called for the statue to be moved elsewhere, or he plans to file a copyright infringement action.

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to prepare derivative works of their copyrighted work.  A derivative work is a work based on the original copyrighted work.  Derivative works can be thought of as adaptations, sequels, or spin-offs.  Under the Copyright Act, derivative works are said to be any work that may transform or adapt the original work.  The question becomes whether the placement of the “Fearless Girl” in proximity to the copyrighted bull transformed or adapted the “Charging Bull.”

Di Modica is urging that yes, the statue of the young girl changed the message of his original piece of work due to its posture close to and facing the “Charging Bull.”  Others may argue the new addition statute is more akin to two works of art hanging next to each other in a museum, which does not result in copyright violation.  If the issue goes to court, a New York judge will be tasked with determining whether Di Modica has a valid action for copyright infringement.  In the meantime, it appears the “Fearless Girl” will remain where she is—fearlessly staring down the “Charging Bull.”


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