ARTICLE: Can Intellectual Property Laws Stem the Rising Tide of Art Forgeries? Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2008 UC Hastings College of the Law
Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal (Comm/Ent)

ARTICLE: Can Intellectual Property Laws Stem the Rising Tide of Art Forgeries?

Fall, 2008


31 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 47


Joseph C. Gioconda*


I. Introduction
As in every art collectors' dream, an unknown painting by a famous artist suddenly appeared on eBay. A seemingly uninformed rube who sold under the name "golfpoorly," listed what appeared to be a previously unknown painting by Richard Diebenkorn 1 for a mere twenty-five cents. 2 The seller had claimed he found the painting at a garage sale, and naively mentioned that the slightly damaged canvas - caused by his son's plastic tricycle - could be easily repaired with duct tape. 3 Diebenkorn's handwritten initials and the year 1952 appeared in the corner of the painting. 4 Bidding commenced and capped at $ 135,805.00, the amount offered by a buyer in the Netherlands. 5

The oddity of a rare, valuable and previously unknown painting appearing on eBay in such circumstances, compounded by its high sale price, attracted the attention of suspicious bidders and, eventually, a tenacious reporter at The New York Times. 6 The reporter discovered that the unsophisticated everyman "golfpoorly" was in fact a California attorney named Kenneth Walton. He had actually hunted down the painting with a shady business partner, not stumbled upon it at a garage sale. Walton believed the painting so strongly resembled a real Diebenkorn that he added a forged signature and year to the canvas. There was no toddler son, and no plastic tricycle, only the siren call of easy money.

A criminal probe was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney's Office. The authorities ...
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