Not a Vara Big Deal: How Moral Rights, Property Rights, and Street Art Can Coexist

Note | Intellectual Property Law
Not a Vara Big Deal: How Moral Rights, Property Rights, and Street Art Can Coexist
by Mary Daniel*

94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 927 (2021)

Keywords: Street Art, Copyright Law, VARA, 5Pointz

“Art Murder”—the accusation was sprayed in red paint onto the side of real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff’s Long Island City building.1 Underneath the denunciation was a patchy layer of white paint, and underneath that layer, decades of graffiti art that once made up 5Pointz, “the world’s premier graffiti mecca.”2 Aerosol artists from around the world travelled to the Queens neighborhood for a chance to contribute to the de

facto street art museum.3 However, the buildings that served as the artists’ canvas belonged to Wolkoff, and in 2013, hoping to benefit from the growing housing market in Long Island City, Wolkoff announced plans to raze the former factory buildings to make room for luxury high-rise condominiums.4 The potential destruction of 5Pointz caused a frenzy in the art community as artists scrambled to prevent the popular site’s demolition.5 Then, all hopes of preserving the artwork ended on the morning of November 19, 2013, when 5Pointz’s curator, Jonathan Cohen,6 awoke to discover that, at the direction of Wolkoff, more than 10,000 artworks covering 200,000 square feet were unceremoniously covered over with white paint in the middle of the night.7

Artists responded to the whitewashing by bringing suit under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (“VARA”), codified at 17 U.S.C. §106A, claiming that the destruction of the artwork was a violation of the artists’ moral rights.8 Moral rights are a relatively new feature of United States law and a feature that seemed improbable through much of the development of copyright law.9 However, in a surprising decision, the district court found in favor of the artists. Holding that painting over 5Pointz was unlawful, Judge Block ordered Wolkoff to pay the artists $6.7 million in damages.10 The decision marked the first time graffiti art was extended VARA protection.11 Wolkoff immediately appealed the district court’s decision, but in February 2020, the Second Circuit upheld Judge Block’s decision in its entirety.12

The ruling has been heralded by many as a big win for artists’ rights

that signifies courts’ growing recognition and respect for artists working in atypical mediums.13 However, many others have expressed concern that such an expansion of VARA is at odds with property law and signifies a dangerous trend of artists’ rights superseding property owners’ rights.14 Moral rights run counter to the United States’ traditionally utilitarian approach to copyright law, and the 5Pointz ruling exemplified the inevitable conflict between moral rights and property rights. Additionally, the street art movement has a reputation as a fringe community, with the term “street art” often used to describe both lawfully and unlawfully created artwork. By extending VARA protection to the unconventional medium, opponents worry that the court lowered VARA’s standard and opened the door for other mediums to push the limits of the statute.15 Fueling this anxiety, there have been other artists seeking the shelter of VARA following the 5Pointz ruling. For example, the Blued Trees movement, started by artist and activist Aviva Rahmani, is an art installation affixed to trees along planned natural gas pipeline pathways.16 Rahmani has successfully filed the project for copyright registration and hopes to use the moral rights granted by VARA to prevent the removal of the trees.17 These concerns have led to demands for the 5Pointz ruling to be overturned or for VARA to be amended, or even repealed, so as to limit its interference with property rights.18

This Note argues that VARA’s application to street art is appropriate and not something for property owners to fear. While moral rights undoubtedly conflict with property rights, it is important for the United States to recognize moral rights in order to keep up with international standards and encourage creation. Additionally, street art is no longer the fringe movement it once was; artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Banksy have helped sway the public opinion of street art away from viewing it as vandalism and towards viewing it as a legitimate artistic

medium worthy of additional copyright protection.19 Finally, the language of VARA is intentionally limiting and leaves a lot of interpretation to the courts.20 Generally, courts have been hesitant to apply VARA unless clearly warranted, suggesting that cases such as Blued Trees should not be a cause for panic given the court’s careful application of VARA.21

Part II of this Note explores the development of United States copyright law. Particular emphasis is put on the resistance to the concept of moral rights. Part III discusses the 5Pointz ruling and analyzes critics’ arguments against the holding and against moral rights in general. This Part also explores the potential ramifications of the 5Pointz ruling. Part IV argues that this recent application is appropriate and not a cause for concern about overreaching. The arguments against V ARA are also addressed and concluded to be unpersuasive. The appropriateness of the application of VARA to street art is supported by public opinion and judicial interpretation, while future overreaching is prevented by the statute’s limiting language and a careful court. Blued Trees is used as an illustration of the ease with which a court can deny VARA protection. Finally, Part V suggests that VARA offers appropriate coverage presently, but future expansion of VARA may be necessary.


*. Executive Senior Editor, Southern California Law Review, Volume 94, J.D. Candidate 2021, University of Southern California Gould School of Law; B.A. Communications and Fine Art 2015, Loyola University Maryland. Thank you to Professor Sam Erman for his guidance during the drafting of this Note. Additionally, thank you to my friends and family for their support and feedback. Finally, thank you to all the Southern California Law Review editors for their hard work.


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Get Out the Vote (or Else): Testing the Constitutionality of Compulsory Voting

Note | Constitutional Law
Get Out the Vote (or Else): Testing the Constitutionality of Compulsory Voting
by Ryan Eason*

94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 963 (2021)

Keywords: Election Law, Voting, Constitutional Law

The Preamble to the United States Constitution envisions a nation governed by “We the People.”1 The United States has never been governed by the people, however. Instead, the United States is and always has been run by the voters. Voters are wealthier, more educated, older, and whiter than “the People.”2 These differences have consequences. Since voters hold the key to lawmakers’ job security, representatives are often more responsive to voters’ interests than nonvoters’ interests.3

The reason voters differ so much from the population4 as a whole is that voter turnout is consistently low in the United States. In federal midterm elections since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, voters have only constituted an average of 41.4% of the population.5 Even in presidential elections, in which voters usually do make up a majority of the population, the majority is usually bare.6 Consequently, the winners of those elections

are chosen by nowhere near a majority of the population. For example, President Donald Trump was elected by roughly 27% of the population in 2016.7 Even President Joe Biden, who won the largest number of votes for a presidential candidate in United States history, was elected by roughly 34% of the population in 2020.8 These low voter turnout figures set the United States apart from most of the developed world.9

Of course, low levels of voter turnout do not delegitimize elections in the United States. Other major democracies also do not achieve full voter turnout.10 Electoral legitimacy would be impossible to realize if it depended on full voter turnout in every election. However, many argue that low voter turnout in the United States is a serious problem.11 To the extent a country values majoritarianism,12 its elections arguably serve that purpose better

when the gap between its voters and its population is minimized. One day, Congress may agree with this argument. Therefore, this Note imagines a world in which Congress takes a decisive step to fix low voter turnout: compel every eligible American adult to vote.13

Congress is unlikely to pass such a transformative piece of legislation in the near future. However, it might enact compulsory voting someday. Far from being a fringe or radical idea, it has been implemented by several democracies,14 and it has been successful where actually enforced.15 Indeed, commentators often cite compulsory voting as a solution to the United States’ low voter turnout problem.16 Compulsory voting legislation has even been recently proposed at the statewide level in California.17

But if Congress decided to pass compulsory voting legislation, it would face a substantial and unanswered question: would it be constitutional? This Note intends to answer that question by analyzing how compulsory voting would fare in various constitutional challenges.18 Part I explores how compulsory voting might be structured in the United States if Congress based its legislation on Australia’s. Part II addresses the most likely constitutional challenges to compulsory voting. The structural argument addressed in Section II.A concerns whether Congress has the constitutional power to pass compulsory voting if it conflicted with state legislation. I conclude that it does because the Elections Clause gives Congress the power to supersede

state election regulations, even when states have not acted. The rights-based arguments addressed in Section II.B concern whether compulsory voting would violate the right not to speak or a potential right not to vote. I conclude that while the voting is expressive conduct, compulsory voting would not violate the First Amendment by compelling it. I also conclude that there is likely no such thing as a right not to vote. However, if there is a right not to vote, the interests served by compulsory voting would outweigh the light burden upon it. Finally, Section II.C argues that compulsory voting legislation could be legally justified as a tax.


*.2021, University of Southern California Gould School of Law. This Note has benefited greatly from the guidance of Professor Sam Erman; the support from my fiancée, Katie Bayard; and the astute editing of my colleagues at the Southern California Law Review.

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Due Process in Antitrust Enforcement: Normative and Comparative Perspectives

Article | Anti-trust Law
Due Process in Antitrust Enforcement: Normative and Comparative Perspectives 
by Christopher S. Yoo*, Thomas Fetzer†, Shan Jiang‡, and Yong Huang§

94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 843 (2021)

Keywords: Anti-trust Law, Due Process, Competition Law

A global consensus has emerged recognizing the central role that competition law plays in promoting a nation’s prosperity. As the briefing notes on trade and competition policy for the 2003 Cancún World Trade

Organization (“WTO”) Ministerial acknowledged, there is a “growing realization that mutually supportive trade and competition policies can contribute to sound economic development, and that effective competition policies help to ensure that the benefits of liberalization and market-based reforms flow through to all citizens.”1 Although competition law was eventually deleted from the agenda of the Doha Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (“GATT”) negotiations, having an effective competition law regime has become a de facto prerequisite for joining the WTO.2 The number of competition law enforcement agencies has continued to grow, with the membership of the global group of competition law authorities known as the International Competition Network (“ICN”) now including more than 130 countries.3

Adherence to basic principles of due process has long been recognized as an essential aspect of proper competition law enforcement. The rule of law is generally understood to include several critical procedural components, such as “due process, judicial review (by an independent judiciary), equal application of the law, and transparency” in decision- making processes.4 The WTO recognized that clarifying “core principles including transparency, non-discrimination and procedural fairness” represented one of the key mandates for its Working Group on the Interaction between Trade and Competition Policy.5

China has also increasingly embraced the importance of due process in the wake of its accession to the WTO.6 For example, in 2018, the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission has also instituted a system of independent administrative adjudicators to bring Chinese practice in line with international norms.7

Recent judicial decisions have further underscored the importance of fair procedures and adequate judicial review. The Chinese Hainan District Court, for instance, recently reversed an Anti-Monopoly Law (“AML”) decision by the local Development and Reform Commission (“DRC”). Although the Hainan High Court later reversed the district court’s decision,8 it further resulted in a retrial by the Supreme People’s Court. It was an important sign that decisions by enforcement agencies cannot avoid judicial review. Likewise, on September 6, 2017, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) sent a competition law case against Intel Corp. back to the General Court with instructions to examine all the arguments put forward by Intel.9 Additionally, the ECJ agreed with the ombudsman’s conclusion that enforcement authorities must maintain full records of both formal and informal meetings with competitors and held that the European Commission had erred in merely providing a nonconfidential summary of an interview to Intel, although the court concluded error did not influence the decision.10 This rare rebuke pushed the Commission to adhere more carefully to the procedural rules protecting due process. Both judicial decisions underscore the importance of reasoned decisionmaking, internal controls, and transparency associated with fair enforcement procedures.

The past year has borne witness to an upsurge of interest in due process in the competition law community. For example, at its most recent annual meeting, the ICN adopted its Recommended Practices on Investigative Process, which represents the most authoritative type of document the ICN typically adopts,11 and sixty-two agencies became inaugural signatories of the ICN’s new Framework for Competition Agency Procedures (“CAP”).12

In addition, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) extended its prior work on procedural fairness and transparency13 by conducting additional roundtables on the topic.14 It also began consideration of a Draft Recommendation of the Council on Transparency and Procedural Fairness in Competition Law, which lays out principles that could serve as benchmark for due process in antitrust enforcement.15 As a follow up to its best practices issued in 2015,16 the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Antitrust Section’s International Task Force conducted an assessment of the extent to which different agencies were complying with them.17 The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (“ASEAN”)18 and the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”)19 have offered similar guidance.

While the existing guidelines and best practices are helpful, they are pitched at a high level of generality and stop short of detailed application to national law. This Article strives to fill that void by engaging in a detailed comparison of procedures employed by competition law officials in China, the European Union (“EU”), and the United States and making nine recommendations that would improve due process.

It is now a fitting moment to assess the state of enforcement processes. China’s AML celebrated its tenth anniversary of implementation in 2018, and China is currently considering possible revisions. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee recently revised China’s Administrative Litigation Law to make it more conducive to economic growth.20 At the same time, President Xi Jinping led a major anti-corruption campaign designed to stop government decisions that are motivated by personal or parochial interests and other abuses of power.21 All are part of broader efforts to balance the government-market relationship and make enterprises operating in China more market responsive and efficient.


*. John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer & Information Science and Founding Director of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC), University of Pennsylvania.

†. Chair of Public Law, Regulation Law, and Tax Law, School of Law and Economics, University of Mannheim, and Academic Director of the Mannheim Centre for Competition and Innovation (MaCCI). ‡. Associate Professor and Researcher of the Competition Law Center, University of

International Business and Economics (UIBE) School of Law.
§. Professor of Law and Director of the Competition Law Center, UIBE School of Law. The authors would like to thank Professor Lixia (Nell) Zhou of UIBE, Professors Guobin Cui and Yuan Hao of the Tsinghua University School of Law, Professor Shen Kui of Peking University Law School, Roger Alford, Maria Coppola, Kris Dekeyser, Ian Forrester, Douglas Ginsburg, Andrew Heimert, Elizabeth Kraus, John Temple Lang, Valeria Losco, Philip Lowe, Paul O’Brien, Giovanni Pitruzzella, Ronald Stern, Randolph Tritell, Marc van der Woude, and the participants in the conferences conducted at the Penn Wharton China Center, Seoul National University’s Center for Competition Law, Chung Yuan Christian University, University of Southern California Gould School of Law’s Center for Transnational Law and Business, and Luxembourg for the comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks to Louis Capozzi, Allie Gottlieb, Jennifer Mao-Jones, and Hendrik Wendland for their expert research assistance.

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The Corporate Purpose of Social License by Hilary A. Sale*

Article | Corporate Law
The Corporate Purpose of Social License
by Hillary A. Sale*

94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 789 (2021)

Keywords: Corporate Law, CSR, Social License

This Article deploys the sociological theory of social license, or the acceptance of a business or organization by the relevant communities and stakeholders, in the context of the board of directors and corporate governance. Corporations are generally treated as “private” actors and thus are regulated by “private” corporate law. This construct allows for considerable latitude. Corporate actors are not, however, solely “private.” They are the beneficiaries of economic and political power, and the decisions they make have impacts that extend well beyond the boundaries of the entities they represent.

Using Wells Fargo and Uber as case studies, this Article explores how the failure to account for the public nature of corporate actions, regardless of whether a “legal” license exists, can result in the loss of “social” license. This loss occurs through publicness, which is the interplay between inside corporate governance players and outside actors who report on, recapitulate, reframe and, in some cases, control the company’s information and public perception. The theory of social license is that businesses and other entities exist with permission from the communities in which they are located, as well as permission from the greater community and outside stakeholders. In this sense, businesses are social, not just economic, institutions and, thus, they are subject to public accountability and, at times, public control. Social license derives not from legally granted permission, but instead from the development of legitimacy, credibility, and trust within the relevant communities and stakeholders. It can prevent demonstrations,

boycotts, shutdowns, negative publicity, and the increases in regulation that are a hallmark of publicness—but social license must be earned with consistent, trustworthy behavior. Thus, social license is bilateral, not unilateral, and should be part of corporate strategy and a tool for risk management and managing publicness more generally.

By focusing on and deploying social license and publicness in the context of board decision-making, this Article adds to the discussions in the literature from other disciplines, such as the economic theory on reputational capital, and provides boards with a set of standards with which to engage and address the publicness of the companies they represent. Discussing, weighing, and developing social license is not just in the zone of what boards can do, but is something they should do, making it a part of strategic, proactive cost-benefit decision-making. Indeed, the failure to do so can have dramatic business consequences.


*. Associate Dean for Strategy, Agnes Williams Sesquicentennial Professor of Law, and Professor of Management at Georgetown University. Thanks go to Olivia Brown, Hollie Chenault, Claire Creighton, Samantha Glazer, and Jing Xu at Georgetown and Kelsey Bolin and Colin Pajda from Washington University for their invaluable research assistance, and to Brian Tamanaha, Bob Thompson, Don Langevoort, Michael Diamond, Urska Velikonja, Saul Levmore, David Hyman, Bob Rasmussen, Cynthia Williams, Bill Buzbee, Marty Lipton, Elizabeth Pollman, Andrew Tuch and the Georgetown and Michigan Law Faculties.

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The Certificate of Division and the Early Supreme Court by Jonathan Remy Nash and Michael G. Collins

Article | Constitutional Law
The Certificate of Division and the Early Supreme Court
by Jonathan Remy Nash* and Michael G. Collins†

94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 733 (2021)

Keywords: Constitutional Law; Certification by Division

The history and development of Supreme Court review over state courts in the early republic is well known. The equally important history and development of Supreme Court review of federal trial courts under the “Certificate of Division” is not. This Article addresses this largely forgotten yet critically significant feature of the early Court’s appellate power. During much of the nineteenth century, the main federal trial courts were generally staffed with two judges—a Supreme Court Justice riding circuit and a resident district judge. As a result, there were often tie votes on questions of law. Congress’s remedy was the certificate of division, which called for mandatory interlocutory Supreme Court review when the judges were divided. This unusual and understudied appellate mechanism proved critical to the development of law and the role of the Court during the Chief Justiceships of Marshall and Taney, and it implicated procedural issues that are still relevant today.

As this Article will show, many of the early Court’s most important cases came to it via certificate of division. And certification produced almost as many Supreme Court decisions as did the Court’s direct review of the state courts, the more widely studied practice. In addition, because review was obligatory when there was division, disagreement between the judges

was sometimes feigned, in order to steer certain legal questions to the Court that the judges wished it to hear, many of which might otherwise have escaped review. In this regard, we include a heretofore unavailable dataset that collects all cases—civil and criminal—that reached the Court via certification. And we undertake an empirical analysis of the dataset to ascertain, among other things, which Justices used (and sometimes abused) the practice. This Article will also show how certification by division allowed for practices that scholars tend to assume arose much later. For example, it provided an early opportunity for interlocutory appeals from lower federal courts, and it provided Supreme Court Justices with a form of discretionary control over the Court’s docket (simply by disagreeing with the district judge), long before discretionary review became the norm. Finally, certification was important as one of a variety of possible approaches that judicial systems use to break ties—here, by allowing an appeal as of right to a higher court.

*. Robert Howell Hall Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research, Emory University School of Law; Director, Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance, Emory University School of Law; Director, Center for Law and Social Science, Emory University.

†. Joseph M. Hartfield Professor of Law and Joseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. We are grateful to Barry Cushman, Miguel de Figueiredo, Deborah Dinner, Michael Gilbert, Daniel Klerman, Ronald Krotoszynski, Leandra Lederman, Kay Levine, Caleb Nelson, Barak Richman, Fred Smith, Dane Thorley, Ted White, John Witte, and Ann Woolhandler for helpful discussions and suggestions and to Kedar Bhatia, Lucy Gauthier, and Justin Ian Sia for excellent research assistance. We received valuable feedback from presentations at the Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting (especially the input of Justin Wedeking, who served as discussant for the paper), the Canadian Law and Economics Association annual meeting, and the Midwestern Law and Economics Association annual meeting.

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