Charging Bull Artist Charges at Fearless Girl, Claiming Copyright Infringement

Charging Bull Artist Charges at Fearless Girl, Claiming Copyright Infringement.The sculptor of Wall Street’s renowned “Charging Bull” statue has accused New York City of violating his copyright by allowing “Fearless Girl,” a four-foot statue of a girl defiantly staring down the bull, to be installed without his permission.[1] After demonstrations of widespread public support for Fearless Girl, city officials recently issued a permit for the statue to stay until February 2018.[2]

Sculptor Arturo Di Modica’s attorneys sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding that Fearless Girl be moved.[3] According to the attorneys, the girl is “fearless” only because of the Charging Bull’s presence—without the bull, Fearless Girl is incomplete and is therefore a derivative work of the Charging Bull.[4] Specifically, they argue that by creating the girl out of bronze, the same material used to create the Charging Bull, and by extending the cobblestone paving beneath the bull onto the adjoining plaza where the girl stands, Fearless Girl has appropriated the Charging Bull by utilizing key design elements, violating Di Modica’s copyright.[5]

17 U.S.C. §106 grants the owner of a copyright the exclusive right “to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.”[6]

Di Modica further argues Fearless Girl infringes his copyright by changing the creative dynamic of his work.[7] His attorneys insist the girl transforms the bull from a symbol of optimism into a threatening force.[8] They allege that, in doing so, Fearless Girl violates the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which grants visual artists the right “to prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of [their] work which would be prejudicial to [their] honor or reputation…”[9]

Fearless Girl was installed on the eve of International Women’s Day, purportedly to draw attention to the scarcity of female power within large U.S. corporations.[10] But Di Modica claims the statue is merely corporate advertising, commissioned by investment firm State Street Global Advisors and its advertising firm.[11] State Street developed the Gender Diversity Index SHE, which monitors companies that are gender diverse.[12] Di Modica’s attorneys say Fearless Girl exploits the bull for commercial purposes.[13]

Ironically, when Charging Bull was installed—to symbolize America’s resilience after the 1987 stock market crash—it was done without a permit, and was allowed to stay only after city officials acknowledged public support for the piece.[14]

Fearless Girl artist Kristen Visbal has praised Di Modica’s art as “exceptional.”[15] “The bull is beautiful, it’s a stunning piece of art,” Visbal said.[16] “But the world changes and we are now running with this bull.”[17]

For more information on artistic copyright, check out O’Connor’s Federal Intellectual Property Codes Plus. O’Connor’s Federal Intellectual Property Codes Plus 2017-2018 is now available—visit our online store to order your copy!


[1] Verena Dobnik, ‘Charging Bull Sculptor Accuses NYC of Violating His Rights Over ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue, WBUR, Apr. 12, 2017.

[2] Id.

[3] Letter from Attorneys for Arturo Di Modica to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Apr. 11, 2017.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] 17 U.S.C. §106(2).

[7] Dobnik, ‘Charging Bull Sculptor Accuses NYC of Violating His Rights Over ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue.

[8] Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

[9] 17 U.S.C. §106A(a)(3)(A).

[10] Dobnik, ‘Charging Bull Sculptor Accuses NYC of Violating His Rights Over ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue.

[11] Id.

[12] Katie Mettler, Charging Bull Sculptor Says Fearless Girl Distorts His Art, So He’s Fighting Back, Chicago Tribune, Apr. 12, 2017.

[13] Id.

[14] Dobnik, ‘Charging Bull Sculptor Accuses NYC of Violating His Rights Over ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue.

[15] Mettler, Charging Bull Sculptor Says Fearless Girl Distorts His Art.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

flickr image by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC by 2.0.

,