Billionaire ordered to pay compensation to artist for copying and publicly displaying sculptures

In 2001 the Russian-born billionaire Igor Olenicoff approached the artist John Raimondi about purchasing some of his sculptures. The real-estate magnate was sent images of the monumental, abstract sculptures, which are fabricated from large sheets of bronze.

Two of the artist’s works in particular caught Olenicoff’s eye: Dian (1987) and Ceres (1994). But instead of pursuing the sale, the complaint details that “approximately ten days after the second meeting, Olenicoff refused to speak with Raimondi. Defendants instead had an assistant relay to Raimondi that Olenicoff had a change of heart about the sculptures.”

Nine years later, Raimondi was contacted to tell him that one of his sculptures was on view at the Olen Pointe development in Brea, California, but that a Chinese sculptor’s name was on the plaque. It transpired that Olenicoff, one of the 500 wealthiest people in the world, had got unauthorised copies of his work made in China.

Discovering that four other versions of his sculptures were also on display outside Olenicoff’s properties, Raimondi sued in 2012. The lawsuit requested a permanent injunction preventing Olen Properties and Olenicoff from creating future unauthorized copies of his work, and that any existing copies be destroyed.

The US District Judge ordered Olenicoff to pay $640,000 in compensation, “determined by the loss in the fair market value of the copyright, measured by the profits lost due to the infringement or by the value of the use of the copyrighted work to the infringer,” he wrote in his verdict. 

However, the judge dismissed the motion for the works to be destroyed, stating that the plaintiff has already been compensated for the ongoing rights to display the sculptures. “It is true that he must live with what amounts to a forced license, something that copyright law disfavors, but under the circumstances this hardship does not exceed defendants”.

He has ordered that the sculptures should now be properly attributed.

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