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‘Fearless Girl’ artist says State Street holding statue hostage

The “Fearless Girl” monument, which has been bogged in city bureaucracy as it struggles to maintain a foothold across from the New York Stock Exchange, is now embroiled in yet another strange intellectual property issue.

Kristen Visbal, the piece’s artist, is appealing the contract that gave away her rights to the work. State Street, the banking behemoth that claims ownership of “Fearless Girl,” she claims, submitted paperwork that differ from those on file with the city.

Visbal wants the statue to stay on Broad Street, where it has stood sentinel since 2018, but she also wants casts of the girl to be used in future statues, such as one in Norway and potentially elsewhere. State Street, which also wants the statue to stay put, claims it owns the rights to “Fearless Girl” and has documentation to prove it. It refuses to allow Visbal to duplicate the work.

It’s gotten to the point where Todd Fine, a public art advocate who is also involved in historic preservation issues around the city, enlisted the help of Richard Picciochi, an ex-NYPD Crime Lab examiner, who claims he compared documents filed with the city’s Department of Transportation and those held by State Street and found they were nearly identical — including signatures and an April 2, 2017, date.

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According to Picciochi, the only difference is a line stating who owns the intellectual property.

Fine, who enlisted the former NYPD examiner, said, “One paper awards her entire intellectual property rights, and the other limits those rights.” If a huge corporation can’t explain why the two contracts differ, Fine says it’s “extremely significant.”

State Street told The Washington Post that the city’s Department of Transportation has only one signed and executed agreement. The deal covers the statue’s upkeep and maintenance on public property; a separate agreement between the bank and the artist governs who owns the intellectual property, according to State Street.

According to the bank, “there appear to be circulating unexecuted copies of the agreement that do not contain the real provisions of the final agreement” between State Street and the city’s DOT.

State Street and DOT allegedly negotiated the transaction without Visbal’s knowledge; the bank denies this.

The current back-and-forth is expected to be resolved in the coming weeks. As part of a series of legal actions over the problem, Visbal and State Street will conduct a second, court-ordered mediation on Dec. 13 as part of a series of legal actions.

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