NRA Wins Home Turf in Legal Battle Over Broadcasting Copyrighted Sculpture

Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park on February 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois - Getty-H 2018
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicagoans may be justifiably proud of the "Bean," or how the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park is colloquially known. But according to a federal judge, that's not sufficient reason to keep a copyright lawsuit against the National Rifle Association from playing out in Illinois.

The lawsuit comes from Anish Kapoor, a London-based sculptor who created the Cloud Gate sculpture. He alleges that the NRA has violated his exclusive copyright by broadcasting on television and on the Internet a video containing an image of his work. The NRA's video in question, "The Clenched Fist of Truth," was an attack on the "liberal media."

The NRA may have good legal arguments for dismissal. As U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee puts it, the issues raised in the lawsuit pit "Kapoor's copyright versus the NRA's First Amendment right to advocate its view of the Second Amendment."

But evidently, the NRA didn't want to take any chance in fighting the claim in liberal territory. So the pro-gun group filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to Eastern Virginia, where the NRA's headquarters are based.

The jurisdiction argument didn't win the day.

Judge Lee notes it is undisputed that the video of Cloud Gate was taken in Illinois and thus, the NRA had contacts with the state arising out of the filming. Even if the video was taken by a third party working with an advertising agency, as the NRA submitted, that is a question of fact that couldn't resolve the issue.

Lee is more accepting of the convenience factor as the NRA's employees, who made decisions pertaining to the video, are located in Virginia.

"Here, the Court concludes that, although at least one possible tort (that is, filming Cloud Gate without permission) occurred in Illinois, nearly all of the evidence related to that tort will come from witnesses who do not reside in Illinois," he writes. "And Kapoor, a London resident, has no connection to Illinois other than the existence of his sculpture here."

The case is transferred.