Artist Maurizio Cattelan Beats Plagiarism Lawsuit Over Banana Taped to a Wall

In a recent legal victory for renowned artist Maurizio Cattelan, U.S District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. of the Southern District of Florida, granted Cattelan a “quick win” in a plagiarism lawsuit brought by fellow artist Joseph Morford on June 9, 2023. The lawsuit alleged that Cattelan’s viral installation of a banana taped to a wall, titled “Comedian,” copied Morford’s “Banana & Orange” artwork, which depicts a banana and an orange taped to a wall. However, the court ruled that the two works were not substantially similar, dismissing the copyright infringement claims.

 

Joseph Morford filed the lawsuit in 2021, claiming that Cattelan’s “Comedian” artwork, which featured a banana taped to a wall and sold for $390,000, infringed on his copyrighted “Banana & Orange” piece. Morford argued that his artwork, which had been available online for about a decade before Cattelan’s installation, was the source of inspiration for “Comedian.”

 

Judge Scola, granted artist Maurizio Cattelan’s request for summary judgment, ruling in his favor. The judge disagreed with Morford’s claims, stating that the mere presence of “Banana & Orange” on the internet was insufficient to prove that Cattelan had access to the artwork before creating “Comedian.” The court found that Morford’s work remained relatively obscure online, and there was no significant evidence linking Cattelan to the piece.

 

Furthermore, the Judge determined that even if Cattelan had access to “Banana & Orange,” he independently came up with the idea for “Comedian” in 2018, well before adapting it for Art Basel Miami in 2019, which was corroborated by Cattelan’s employees. 

 

Judge Scola also reasoned that any similarities between the two works were not substantial enough to warrant a copyright infringement claim. While Morford argued that the method of placing the banana and duct tape formed an “X” at a perpendicular angle was a creative choice, the court disagreed, considering it an obvious choice for artists taping a banana to a wall. Additionally, the artworks did not have a similar background, placement, or angle. The only element they shared was the placement of the banana stalk, which was not enough to constitute a substantial similarity. 

 

Morford is represented pro se.

 

Cattelan is represented by Julie Nevins and Adam Hoock of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP and Adam Cohen and Dana Susman of Kane Kessler PC.

 

The case is Morford v. Cattelan, case number 1:21-cv-20039, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

 

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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