Nearshore Americas
In Copyright as In Real Estate, Sometimes, It’s All About Location

In Copyright as In Real Estate, Sometimes, It’s All About Location

The premise might sound funny, but the truth of the matter is that, in some cases, when speaking about copyright, location does matter.

Of course, it may not be applicable to some forms of art. Why would music have anything to do with location? But when speaking of plastic art, such as sculptures and even paintings, the placement of the work may determine its own nature and may even be as important as the expression of art itself.

Some works of art are not considered complete or its full meaning may not come to life if not for their location. The following examples may illustrate this better.

Charging Bull

Also known as the Wall Street Bull, this 3,200 kg bronze sculpture was created by Arturo Di Modica just after 1987’s Black Monday, the zenith of the crack of the New York stock market in that same year.

Di Modica used Black Monday as an inspiration for his sculpture, which aimed to lift the morale of Americans after one of the worst financial crises, symbolizing the strength and resilience of the American people. In 1989, in the middle of the night, he strategically –and illegally– placed the sculpture in one of the squares in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

It is obvious that the location rounded up the whole message that the artist wanted to convey. Even though it was intended as a gift to all New Yorkers –Di Modica was never commissioned by the city of New York to create it–, the local police department did not agree and ordered the impoundment of the 3.2 ton bull.

New Yorkers, however, seemed to like this blunt expression of guerilla art and demanded the reinstallation of the bull. It was later placed at the Bowling Green Plaza, in the Financial District of New York, where it remains to this day.

Even with the nuance of illegality, this example clearly depicts how, in some artforms, location is paramount to the art itself. Should the bull have been placed in, let’s say, Ocean Drive, it may not have had the same impact. The message would have required a much more in-depth philosophical analysis, at least.  

Could you even say that the location is part of the work? By answering this question affirmatively, one may even consider that the permit of the holders of the copyright of any background architectural work would be required, right? This issue wasn’t experienced by the bull, but the possibility can’t be completely dismissed.

Works in public roads are susceptible to attacks that can threaten their integrity. Not only can they be physically damaged, but there’s the threat of copyright law.

Charging Bull has been vandalized on various occasions, but maybe the biggest attack it has suffered was inflicted by a little girl. Yes, a little but fearless bronze girl.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl is also a bronze statue, created by Kristen Visbal. Initially placed facing –some may say defying– Charging Bull in 2017, the sculpture aimed to denounce disparity against women in the finance and corporate world.

Unlike Di Modica, Visbal was commissioned by a publicity agency who got the authorization to place the statue in front of Charging Bull.

The problem was that the placement face-to-face of a girl, hands on hips and with an arrogant and defiant, upward tilt of the chin, changed the meaning of Charging Bull. The composition of both creations seen side to side, in Di Modica’s eyes, corrupted the purpose and message of the bull. However, given the significance of the bull and the message that was intended by Fearless Girl, would the latter have been complete without the first? Would the initial message have been as strong? Probably not.

The closeness of both statues created a composition with powerful messages, but such composition was considered by some a derived work of the bull. Since no authorization was provided by Di Modica to add new elements that altered the meaning of his work, a copyright infringement was in order.

The city attended to Di Modica’s claims and moved both sculptures. The girl and the bull are now neighbors, though not close ones, in the Financial District. Fearless Girl still defies the system, but now facing the NYE. The bull remains the symbol of resilience, but, in my opinion, it has suffered a blow to its integrity. Not on the bronze structure, but on its deepest meaning, way harder to repair.

Currently, Fearless Girl is under controversy due to alleged copyright infringement from the sculptor, who sold replicas of the statue on her own and without the participation of the commissioning agency, but still stands tall, without crossing state lines, different to what happened to Picasso’s Guernica. 


Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso that depicts the bombing of the city of its namesake in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

It started as a commissioned work without a particular subject or storyline to be followed for an Art Exposé in Paris, but ended up being a protest piece against the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and one of the most important works of art of the twentieth century.

As part of Picasso’s protest to the regime, Guernica remained under the custody of the Museum of Modern Art in New York until the dictatorship fell. It was until 30 years after its inception that the painting returned home to a new, democratic Spain.

Picasso also stood strong in regards to the location of his work, but rather than saying where it should be, he decided where it shouldn’t.

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The examples above depict, hopefully, with a reasonable percentage of clarity, how location and copyright not only have points of encounter but sometimes define one another. From the moral standpoint, and bearing in mind that art always seeks to convey a message from the author, placement is particularly important. It shapes and completes the work, defines its purpose and may also serve as a muse.

So, yes: in copyright as in real estate, sometimes, it’s all about location.

Monserrat Soto

Monserrat Soto is an Associate at ECIJA in Costa Rica. She received her Law Degree by the University of Costa Rica with honorary distinction in her graduate thesis on copyright and associated rights. In 2018, she graduated with honors with a degree as Specialist in Commercial Law.

Her experience is centered on private law, with emphasis in corporate, mercantile, and contractual law, as well as intellectual property and real estate. In a ten years of professional career she has gained broad experience in the handling of local and international clientele.

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