LEGAL RESEARCH COMPETITION
Put Your Research Skills to the Test
January 13th ‐ 27th
1. You are Bluebooking a journal article on the ethics of universities selling art collections to meet
annual operating expenses, and are having trouble finding a report.
a. List three ways you can get help from an HLS research librarian (for some
ideas: http://asklib.law.harvard.edu/). [3 points]
2. For your intellectual property seminar, you’re researching droit de suite, the right of artists to
royalties on resale of their works that is granted in some‐‐usually civil law‐‐jurisdictions. You’re
trying to learn about how the concept originated. [Hint: Consider starting in Google Scholar for
a. Find a law review article in full text that will help you. [Hint: You may need to consult
older articles.] [2 points]
3. You are looking to see who registered copyright on a painting called “Stuck Outside” that was
part of an exhibit by Greg “Craola” Simkins in the last couple of years.
a. Who is the registered copyright claimant? [3 points]
b. If there is any contact information listed for rights/permissions, what is it? [2 points]
c. Name one reliable secondary resource that provides an explanation of what is involved
in registering copyright for a painting? [3 points]
Working with Images
4. Start with our guide on finding public domain images:
a. Name one of the resources listed that would help you find an image of a painting or
photograph that you could use in a new blog you are starting. [2 points]
International & Foreign Law
5. Look up international agreements regarding the protection of literary and artistic works. [Hint:
Look at the Harvard Law Library’s listing of foreign and international databases to use TIARA.]
a. What is the name of the most recently signed convention on this subject?
[Hint: From within an individual result in TIARA, look at the “Document Details” to
determine signature date, among other treaty details!] [2 points]
b. Is the US a party? [2 points]
c. What is the citation to this treaty in the United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.)?
d. What is the international body that is responsible for administering and overseeing the
implementation of this treaty by states that are parties to the convention?
[Hint: you may need to use either print or online secondary sources to answer this
question.] [2 points]
e. Has this ever been the subject of an international court case involving Ireland? Give the
citation to the case. (Don’t worry about putting it in proper bluebook format.)
[Hint: Look at the Harvard Law Library’s listing of foreign and international databases to
use the Kluwer Arbitration database.] [2 points]
6. An individual or entity who is not certain whether a particular product, service, or action would
constitute a violation of the federal securities law may request a "no‐action" letter from the
Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
In 1978, the Metropolitan Museum of Art requested a no‐action letter from the SEC regarding
its interest in forming a pooled income fund.
a. Find the SEC no‐action letter, and state the name of the law firm that represented the
Museum of Art in this matter. [3 points]
7. Your client attended an auction at Christie's Rockefeller Center and became the proud owner of
his first Picasso, but he is not completely happy. The auctioneer spotted another bidder as the
hammer fell, so the auction was re‐opened. After the second round of bidding, your client still
got the Picasso, but the new price is $40,000 higher than the original. Your client believes the
original bid should have been binding and wants to sue.
a. Would he prevail? Find and a statute to support your answer. [3 points]
8. You work for a small firm in Montauk, NY. Your firm has been retained by a small art gallery,
recently acquired by Victoria Grayson. Despite her past misdeeds, Victoria wants to make sure
that her art sales are conducted strictly “by the book.” She’s heard that her son’s new fiancee,
Emily Thorne, may be peddling forgeries, and she wants to know what kind of warranty she
must provide to her customers.
a. Find a New York statute that addresses private art sales in New York, specifically with
respect to warranty of authenticity. [2 points]
b. How does New York law vary from the UCC? [Hint: use the Georgetown art law research
guide to find a treatise on the subject that is available on Bloomberg Law.] [3 points]
9. The firm where you work is putting on a benefit auction in New York City. One of the senior
partners enjoys going to auctions and wants to play auctioneer for the evening.
a. Does she need a license? [2 points]
10. A friend has asked for your help. He wants to sell his watercolors of city landmarks at the Plaza
de la Constitucion in St. Augustine, Florida.
a. Find and cite the relevant ordinances to advise him whether he may do so and of any
requirements involved? [2 points]
Rights of Artists
11. You represent the heirs of a well‐known comic book artist who created several very popular
comic characters in the late 1950’s. The company that he worked for has since profited
handsomely from his creation, including licensing many toys and recently a series of successful
movies. His heirs want to sue that company to assert the estate’s rights to the characters.
a. Find and list a Second Circuit case that answers this question. [2 points]
b. How would you advise your clients (in brief)? [3 points]
12. Your grandmother is well‐known painter, focusing on landscapes and scenes of daily life in her
California town. Last year a local gallery hosted a show that featured a number of her
paintings. Many were new, but a collector brought in an older one that you had never seen
before. It was a painting from just before World War II showing her childhood home back when
it was still surrounded by farmland. The painting still had a receipt taped to the back showing
that it had been sold to the owner’s father for $35.00 in 1940.
Yesterday, your grandmother emailed you with exciting news. On September 20, the owner sold
the same 1940 painting at the Andrew Crowley gallery’s annual California Art Auction. California
Scene paintings were particularly hot, with a number of works exceeding their initial estimates.
Your grandmother’s painting sold for $49,250.00. The price is a gratifying recognition of her
talent, but you start to wonder whether, legally, she has any right to a portion of the sale. You
think there might be a law that would entitle your grandmother to money from the sale.
a. What is the code citation for the California Resale Royalty Act? [2 points]
b. The statute lists several factors that determine whether a seller must pay royalties to an
artist on resale of fine art. Based on the language of the statute, do you think it would
qualify? Why? [2 points]
c. Is this statute currently good law? Why or why not? Give the citation for the most
important case for determining the status of this law. [2 points]
d. The case you found has been appealed. In the docket for the appellate case, find a
Motion for Judicial Notice filed on March 17, 2013 by Amici Curiae California Lawyers for
the Arts, Richard Mayer and Peter Alexander. What materials were the subject of the
motion? [3 points]
Cultural Heritage / Repatriation
13. You work for a university museum with a large collection of Native American artifacts, including
a collection of Tlingit items purchased by the museum in the early 20th century. Your director
has heard that there was a recent dispute over cultural artifacts between the Tlingit and the
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and wants to do some background reading.
a. Find a recent law review article or note that discusses the basics of the
Tlingit/University of Pennsylvania dispute. [2 points]
b. According to the article, what federal statute forms the basis of this and other claims for
repatriation? Give the full name and U.S. Code citation. [2 points]
c. How does this statute define “cultural items”? Copy and paste the definition from the
statute. [3 points]
d. Find a recent book at the Law School that discusses the history of this statute. [Hint:
Use the Harvard catalog, Hollis.] [2 points]
14. Your client, a resident of Massachusetts, is a descendant of several Holocaust victims. She has
shown you a letter that appears to have been written by her great‐uncle in his home in Vienna
in the late 1930s. In the letter, which your client found among her recently‐deceased father's
belongings, the great‐uncle lists and describes a number of paintings. He claims in the letter
that he owned the paintings, and that the Nazis confiscated them.
According to your client, her great‐uncle was murdered in a concentration camp before the end
of the war.
No one in your client's family ever, to their recollection, saw these paintings in your great‐
uncle's possession. Your client had never even heard about these paintings until she read this
letter six months ago.
Your client's son is a college student studying art history and German. When the client's son
read this letter, he immediately recognized the description of one of the paintings. He has been
lucky enough to get to see several private collections during his studies, and he is positive that
the painting is currently in the possession of a private collector in Missouri.
Now, your client wants to explore legal options for getting this painting from this private
You think that, if the facts check out, the best course of action is to file an action for replevin.
a. What is the legal definition of replevin? [2 points]
b. Is replevin an appropriate strategy in a case in which there is an allegation of stolen art?
Briefly explain why or why not, citing at least one source. [4 points]
c. What would your client have to do before she would be eligible to file a replevin action?
Briefly explain, citing at least one source. [4 points]
There was a recent (within the last three years) case in the First Circuit dealing with a Nazi‐era
art looting claim.
d. Cite the case, and briefly state the facts and outcome. [3 points]
e. Does the holding in this First Circuit case help your client’s position? Briefly explain why
or why not. [3 points]
You remember reading a while back about how the National Stolen Property Act could
potentially be used in a case like this to try to get artworks that were stolen by the Nazis
returned to the heirs of the rightful owner.
Can you find any law review articles about this? If so, cite at least one of them, and
briefly describe how the author of the article envisions this to work. [3 points]
Questions from Lexis, Westlaw & Bloomberg Law
15. After almost 100 years of contentious debate, the United States joined the Berne Convention,
the international agreement protecting literary and artistic rights. In 1988, Congress passed the
Berne Convention Implementation Act. This 1988 Act however, did not explicitly provide droit
moral, certain rights of artists that are distinct from copyright, as dictated by the Berne
Convention. In 1990, Congress the passed the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). [Hint: Start in
the US Public Laws Historical database on WestlawNext; or consult law reviews or treatises on
moral rights and defined works of art.]
a. Does VARA protect any moral rights? If so, which ones? [2 points]
b. Name three types of works that are defined as a “work of visual art” to be protected
under VARA. [3 points]
16. In the recent 9th Circuit Court case, Seltzer v. Green Day, an artist claimed copyright
infringement of his illustration. The court lists four factors to consider in determining whether
the fair use doctrine would apply.
a. What are those four factors? [3 points]
b. Use the Key Number assigned to Headnote 15 in the Seltzer case to find at least one
other 9th Circuit case that declares the fourth factor to be the most important element
of the fair use inquiry. Provide the title and citation for that case. [2 points]
17. Can an individual, who takes a photograph of a sculpture, where the artist is still living, publish
those photos for profit? [Hint: find good cases, statutes or treatises discussing copyright
protection of a copyright protection of a sculpture or the protection of a 3D item versus s a 2D
item] [3 points]
18. Which is more economically viable: Getting a patent or getting a trade secret on a cooking
recipe? List at least one Lexis resource consulted, whether a primary or secondary resource.
19. A country in the Middle East is considering a 7% royalty tax on Google and other search engines
that link to locally produced internet content. This tax is known as “The Google Tax.” Perform a
search on all BNA Law Reports on Bloomberg Law to locate the January 2014 article which
describes this tax.
a. Which law report did you find? [2 points]
b. Which country has proposed this tax? [2 points]
20. Using Bloomberg Law locate the PLI Publication “Art Law.”
a. Which famous actress’ art estate is discussed in the introduction? [2 points]
21. Perform a Docket Search on Bloomberg Law. Locate the Southern District of New York docket
for Victor Willis v. Can’t Stop Productions.
a. Who was the judge assigned to the case? [2 points]
b. Who is Victor Willis? [2 points]