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The Bull and the Girl – A Case for Collage and Derivative Works!

Christopher Penler /

The world was abuzz on International Women’s Day in March 2017 when Kristen Visbal’s fifty inch, two-hundred-and-fifty-pound Fearless Girl stared down Arturo Di Modica’s eleven feet, seven thousand one-hundred-pound Charging Bull in Manhattan in the Wall Street District.  The little girl, with her hands on her hips, seemed to signal to the world and specifically Wall Street that it is time for women to take their place among the financial giants of the world.

However, now a new question has arisen:

“What is the real work of art?”

Arturo Di Modica took to social media claiming that Fearless Girl changed the meaning of his thirty-year Charging Bull sculpture and icon.   State Street Global Advisors, the force behind Fearless Girl, has gone on record to state that the purpose of the statute was to show that women are an important part of Wall Street and that the role of women needs to increase.

Why Should Creatives and Copyright Holders Care?

Di Modica’s claim that Fearless Girl incorporated Charging Bull or changed his work would make his claim a basis for copyright infringement.  The bundle of rights that accompany copyright protection include the right to display a work, make copies of a work, and create derivatives of a work.  Di Modica’s assertions that the Fearless Girl incorporated his work to create Visbal’s work goes to the heart of copyright infringement since the assertions cover the rights of display, copy, and derivatives.

State Street Global asserts that Fearless Girl stands for the role women have in Wall Street.  The intent of the girl standing in a power pose is to demonstrate women are and should be a power to be reckoned with in the financial sector.  State Street Global could argue that the Fearless Girl could stand alone and the fact that the girl standing in front of Charging Bull is incidental. (Please note that the following arguments are conjecture on the part of the author of this blog.)

So, the real questions for all of us are:

Does the original intent of the subject work prevail if other works “could” transform the subject work?

When does transform of a work from one intended purpose to another take place?

Does it matter if a work has its own purpose if alone and another if placed with/near another work?  Which purpose is protectable?

The Answer is in the Eye of the Beholder

The controversy of Charging Bull and Fearless Girl causes all creatives to think about the basis of a work and even where the work will be displayed or performed.  Since this controversy is ongoing, I will not give possible answers and smoking guns to answer the questions.  I will challenge those who create to think about the ENTIRE work – that is what this controversy causes one to do.

Creatives are not known for their love of paperwork and documentation (however, there are some creatives that I know who are the best record keepers I have ever seen).  Perhaps this controversy is meant to remind all who create or own rights that the preparation and even documentation of inspiration, past works and the like are important and part of the provenance of a work and may one day prove ownership or your case in a court.

Perhaps this controversy is meant to show creatives that the meaning of a work is all about location, location, location or even audience, audience, audience or so many other factors that are not found on the actual work itself such as time, politics, weather, news events and so many more.  Can a creative truly plan for all those factors or perhaps that is considered part of the glory of art?  While some creatives do account for and even take advantage of outside factors, but can a creative truly account for all outside factors?  Does planning stifle creativity?  As a copyright owner, do these factors come into play when you purchase or acquire the rights to a work or should they?

Charging Bull and Fearless Girl leave us with more questions than answers.  The City of New York has already made it clear that Fearless Girl will be around for at least a year.  At the end of the day the real question for those who create is simple:

Are You Fearless Enough to Charge Ahead?


Please remember – this post is for educational and editorial purposes only.  It does not constitute legal advice or the practice of law.  All opinions are those of the author only.  Each reader is encouraged to seek his or her own legal counsel.  Author is not liable for any use of the information.