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Carter v. Helmsley-Spear Inc.

Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc. (861 F. Supp. 303, 312 (S.D.N.Y. 1994), 71 F.3d 77, 80 (2d Cir. 1995), cert. denied 116 S. Ct. 1824 (1996)).

John Carter, John Swing, and John Veronis (artists) created art and sculpture work together in New York City. 474431 Associates was the owner of a commercial building at 47-44 31st Street, Queens, New York. 474431 Associates leased this building to 47-44 31st Street Associates, L.P. and from February 1, 1990 to June, 1993, SIG Management Company ["SIG"] managed the property.

On December 16, 1991, the artists entered into a contract with SIG "to design, create and install sculpture and other permanent installations" in the building. The artists had "full authority in design, color, and style" of the artwork they installed. SIG could direct the location and installation of the artwork within the building. SIG agreed to pay the artists one thousand dollars a week for at least forty hours of work. The artists retained copyright in their work, but SIG was to receive 50% of all proceeds from the exploitation of the art.

On March 31, 1994, Helmsley-Spear, Inc. assumed the management of the property. Helmsley-Spear's representatives forbade the artists from installing any further artwork, and stated that they were going to remove the completed art from the building. The artists believed that this was a mutilation of their artwork under VARA and filed a lawsuit to enjoin the defendants from taking such actions. The District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the artists an injunction under VARA prohibiting removal of the work. That decision was appealed to the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit found that the sculpture was a work made for hire and vacated the injunction.

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