Whitewashing graffiti can be expensive
On November 7, 2017, a three-week trial ended over whether the destruction of graffiti artworks on the 5 Pointz warehouse in Queen violated the artists' / plaintiffs' rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 ("VARA"), 17 U.S.C. § 106A. The jury found the defendants guilty.
On Monday, February 12, 2018, the other shoe dropped. The District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered the developer to pay $6.75 million in damages to 21 artists for the destruction of 45 works of art. The damages were calculated at $150,000 (or the maximum statutory damages award) per each of the 45 works. 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2).
A copy of the 100 page order can be found here (hosted on Mega.nz to prevent link rot).
Fortunately, most building owners will not have to worry about whitewashing or destroying graffiti because the key element a VARA claim is that the graffiti be "a work of recognized stature". 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a)(3)(B).