Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Vacant, Commercial Symbolism Of "Fearless Girl" (And How She Could Be Forced To Go Away)

I wanted to pass on an excellent essay by Noah Rothman at Commentary about "Fearless Girl", the statue in New York City opposing the Wall St. bull:

Via Wikimedia
 Rothman notes that
The statue’s alleged purpose—both stated by its sponsors and plainly evident in the figure’s demeanor—is to present a challenge to orthodoxy. It is a call to address the perception that there are not enough women amid the rarefied ranks of Fortune 500 boards. This audacious assault on the staid prejudices of the gatekeepers of wealth and power in America was sponsored by the exclusive Boston-based investment services company State Street Global Advisors and approved by the New York City Parks Department. If the aim of this artistic display was to challenge intractable conventions and change minds, they chose an audience that has been uniquely receptive to their message.
Ironic, then, that
Only 17 percent of State Street’s leadership positions (five out of 28) are women. In terms of gender representation—a metric that measures neither an employee’s aptitude nor benefit to their employer—SSGA trails the average S&P 500 firm.
One might ask, therefore, if this isn't a sort of very public way to atone for perceived sins, true or false. It represents tribal affiliation gone mad, yet another public exercise of empty virtue signaling. A more interesting question is, will the girl stick around? Techdirt notes that bull statue creator Arturo Di Modica is trying to get rid of the girl using a novel (in the United States) legal theory: that of moral rights.
Importantly, though, this is interesting timing as it relates to moral rights. The US has been correct in (mostly) resisting putting in place a moral rights regime, and focusing on copyright as an economic right. Unfortunately, at this very moment, the Copyright Office is "studying" the issue of whether or not moral rights should be expanded. The first round of public comments has closed (you can read those comments if you'd like), but response comments are open until May 15th. Given this example of moral rights gone mad, perhaps it might be useful for the Copyright Office to be reminded of how moral rights might be used to stifle and stamp out important expression
The story goes on with an update by law professor James Grimmelmann who claims "Di Modica probably has no legitimate moral rights claim either", which probably is just as well, but copyright maximalism knows few bounds. I would not be too surprised if someone makes a serious go at defending Di Modica's claim.

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