The New York Post reports that the sculptor of the famous golden calf frozen in stampeding fury on lower Broadway — symbolizing the charge of capitalism in all its mammalian frenzy, its sinewy dynamism, its hirsute excess, its snorting effluvium — is suing Wal-Mart for exploiting his steely beast by selling pictures of it and, as the paper says, horning in on all the profit.
Whether it’s a copyright claim or, perhaps, something else, I’m skeptical. Can you enforce intellectual property rights in photographic depictions of a public monument or a feature of the built environment? I don’t think so. But I’m open to persuasion.
UPDATE: This happened again, more or less, in 2009. Carolyn Wright, of the Photo Attorney blog, has dealt with the issue a couple of times, as she explains here. As Mike Masnick points out, no one ever seems to report what happened in these lawsuits, which usually more or less answers the question.
But that’s not good enough for LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®! Because I love PACER. The first case, as it turned out shlepped out for about two years until it was voluntarily dismissed (i.e., settled) in June of 2008. Terms not disclosed. The second one, filed in 2009 against Random House — the bull was charging across a book cover — was settled early in 2010. (Free link to the docket here.)
The terms not disclosed there either, but they clearly didn’t include any change of the cover on the aptly-name work (see at right), which still shows Elmer snorting proudly.