Friday, May 23, 2014

Brancusi v. US case brief summary

Brancusi v. US [1928]- Judge Waite
o   Issue: should this ‘bird in flight’ sculpture by Brancusi be allowed into the US tax-free?
§  Yes.
o   Reasoning:
§  Looks at Paragraph 1704 of the tariff act of 1922
·         The terms “sculpture” and “statuary” as used in this paragraph shall be understood to include professional productions of sculptors only”
§  What is a professional production?
·         Waite takes a shortcut
o   describes Brancusi as a professional sculptor à everything he does is a professional production à the sculpture qualifies under Par. 1704 to come into US tax-free
·         if he decides Brancusi isn’t a professional sculptor, then he has to decide whether this piece meets the criteria of a professional production, whatever that might be
o   Discussion
§  What is a sculpture? [Judge Waite’s criteria]
·         Highly ornamental [observe it] –NOT USEFUL
·         Pleasing to look at
·         Not mass produced
§  There is an existing Olivotti rule that describes a sculpture as “imitations of natural objects, chiefly the human form, and true proportions of length…”
·         However, Judge Wait said that was an old rule, and does not apply now because of a new emerging school of art
§  What is wrong with the proposition that the law can deal with art that is ‘changing’? [referencing Waite’s opinion that courts should consider emerging new school of art]
·         Someone makes those rules!
§  Par. 1704
·         “professional production of sculptors only”
o   what is a professional? Is it the quality that is produced of professional quality?
o   Tries to earn living by creating sculptors?
·         “unbound”    
o   non mass production kind of art
o   if its an object of utility, then you would have industry producing it

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