Jury backs graffiti artists who sued over destroyed work

Posted at 3:30 PM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 15:30:58-05

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal jury has sided with a group of New York graffiti artists who sued over the destruction of their work.

A judge will now decide whether the artists must be compensated for the loss of their whitewashed murals.

The jury's advisory ruling came Tuesday in the lawsuit over a site in Queens known as 5Pointz.

Owner Jerry Wolkoff allowed the spray-paint artists to use his buildings for decades but said they always knew the buildings would be torn down someday.

The graffiti was painted over in 2013, and the buildings were torn down in 2014.

The artists sued Wolkoff under the Visual Artists Rights Act, a 1990 federal law that protects artists' rights even if someone else owns the physical artwork.

A jury in federal court in Brooklyn heard three weeks' worth of testimony, but the attorneys for the two sides agreed last week to have Judge Frederic Block render a verdict and use the jury's ruling only as a recommendation.

Block has asked the attorneys to submit papers over the next few weeks, after which he will rule.

Wolkoff's lawyer, David Ebert, declined to comment on the trial.

Eric Baum, a lawyer for the 21 artists who sued Wolkoff, said that because the case involves "complex issues of fact and law" he believes it is important "to have input from members of the community on all issues but ultimately have the court make a final decision."