The “Fearless Girl” statue that’s mired in city bureaucracy as it tries to keep a toehold across from the New York Stock Exchange now is embroiled in another curious dispute involving intellectual property.
Its creator, Kristen Visbal, is contesting the contract that gave away her rights to the piece. She says State Street, the financial giant that says it owns “Fearless Girl,” produced documents that differ from ones on file with the city.
Visbal is advocating for the statue to remain on Broad Street, where it’s stood sentinel since 2018, but she also wants to be able to use casts of the girl for new statues, like one in Norway and possibly elsewhere. State Street, which also wants the statue to stay where it is, says it has documents that prove it owns the rights to “Fearless Girl.” It refuses to let Visbal make copies of the piece.
It’s become such a tussle that Todd Fine, who calls himself a public art advocate and is involved historic preservation issues around the city, enlisted the help of an ex-NYPD Crime Lab examiner, Richard Picciochi, who says he looked at documents filed with the city’s Department of Transportation and ones held by State Street and found they were nearly identical — including the signatures and an April 2, 2017, date.
The one difference, according to Picciochi: a line clarifying who owns the intellectual property.
“One document assigns her full intellectual property rights, and the other limits those rights,” said Fine, who enlisted the former NYPD examiner. Fine said it’s “very serious” if a major company can’t explain why the two contracts differ.
State Street told The Post that there is only one signed and executed agreement filed with the city’s Department of Transportation. The agreement provides for the maintenance and upkeep of the statue on public property; there’s a separate agreement between the bank and the artist on who owns the intellectual property, State Street says.
“There seem to be circulating unexecuted drafts of the agreement that do not contain the actual terms of the final agreement” between State Street and the city’s DOT, the bank said in the statement.
But Visbal claims State Street altered the document on file with the DOT without her knowledge; the bank denies this.
The ongoing back-and-forth is expected to be ironed out in a matter of weeks. Visbal told The Post she and State Street will conduct a second, court-requested, mediation on Dec. 13 as part of a series of legal actions over the matter.
“The intent is to further define the terms of the 2017 agreement which outlines their respective rights in the sculpture,” she said.
Visbal, who spoke in a Thursday press conference at the statue, said she’s fighting to use the sculpture “on behalf of the public” she created the work for — and with global nonprofits who seek to “spread the equality ideals behind her.”
The dispute comes as both Visbal and the statue face an uncertain future, as The Post was first to report. The permit granting “Fearless Girl” her spot on Broad Street expired Nov. 29 and has yet to be renewed.
State Street is seeking an extension from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Council. In a PowerPoint reviewed by The Post, the company said: “We are asking for your approval to keep this statue here for as long as possible so we do not need to obtain an extension each year.”
State Street initially received only a three-year permit from the city’s landmarks council when it moved “Fearless Girl” from Bowling Green Park opposite “Charging Bull” three years ago. It’s now seeking to extend that permit for an additional three years. The LPC hearing to determine whether “Fearless Girl” will be allowed to stay is set for Dec. 14.
Even that’s met with controversy: According to sources, it is the Public Design Commission, not the LPC, that has the authority to approve the statue’s continued presence on the space. And the downtown community board has likewise ruled that LPC cannot extend the permit.
Meanwhile, despite the statue’s popularity — nearly 40,000 people signed a Change.org petition seeking to make the statue permanent — it’s roiling some in the art community who see it merely as the tool of a corporate campaign.
“The idea of a corporation putting down a permanent monument with no approval process is horrifying for people who care about public art,” said Fine, who’s also the president of Washington Street Advocacy Group.