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Copyright Blog

College Responds to Allegations of VARA Violations

Kirkwood Community College denies wrongdoing

We previously reported on a lawsuit between artist Molly Mason (“Mason”) and Kirkwood Community College (“Kirkwood”). In the Complaint, Mason argued that Kirkwood engaged in unauthorized modifications to a sculpture Mason created for Kirkwood. Mason claims that the modifications violate her rights as outlined in the Visual Artists' Rights Act ("VARA"). You can read more on Mason's arguments in our March 22, 2021 blog post.

On May 24, 2021, Kirkwood filed its Answer. Kirkwood admits, among other things, that the “water feature was eventually discontinued,” and that “plant material was eventually placed in the utilitarian concrete base of the sculpture.” However, Kirkwood denies that, "it took any action intentionally or otherwise to distort, mutilate, or modify the sculpture."


Kirkwood further denies any violation of VARA rights. Kirkwood claims that, “Mason’s work was made for hire and is therefore excluded from VARA protection.” Kirkwood further argues that, “Mason’s work constitutes applied art and therefore is excluded from VARA protection” (emphasis added).

Lastly, Kirkwood asserts that it was surroundings of the original sculpture that were modified, not the sculpture itself. Kirkwood claims that, “Mason’s work does not encompass the utilitarian concrete basin in which the sculpture is mounted or the water feature itself, and thus these components are not subject to Mason’s VARA claim.”

As evidenced by the pleadings, the parties disagree on whether or not the sculpture located at Kirkwood Community College is protected by VARA. Mason argues that VARA applies to her sculpture and that the modifications done to it violate these rights. Kirkwood asserts that VARA protection does not apply to the sculpture and argues that even if the sculpture is protected, the modifications done do not violate Mason's rights.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available.