A Sugar Land artist, best known locally for his sculpture of Stephen F. Austin on horseback at Sugar Land Town Center, is pursuing legal action against a Utah sculptor for allegedly copying one of his statues two years ago for the City of Pearland. Matt Glenn, President of Big Statues in Provo, Utah was named in the copyright infringement complaint, filed by the attorney for Bob Pack, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on May 30.
At issue is Pack’s statue called “The Guardian” which Pack was commissioned to create by the City of Sugar Land for their new Police and Municipal Courts Building in 1996. The work shows a uniformed police officer with his right hand on a young boy’s shoulder.
Fourteen years later, in May 2010, Pearland unveiled a statue, outside of their new Public Safety Building and it also showed a uniformed police officer with his right hand on a young boy’s shoulder. Pack said he had no knowledge of the similarities between “The Guardian” and the Pearland statue until friends and colleagues started calling him.
“Utter disgust is what I felt when I saw it for the first time,” Pack said. “I immediately felt like my home had been broken into. It was such a blatant copy of my work.”
A nine month email correspondence between Glenn and Pearland Project Manager, Skipper Jones was obtained by Pack and his attorney, Keith Jaasma through an open records request. The emails begin in early October 2009 and continue through June 2010 and indicate that the Sugar Land statue had already been identified by a Pearland citizens police group as a concept they wanted the city to pursue. On October 6, 2009, Jones wrote to Glenn,”Let me talk to the chief. His citizen volunteers picked out the one in the photos. I need to find out how attached they are to this.”
Pack and Jaasma also say that the emails indicate Jones’ repeated concerns about having the statue finished in time for the building dedication, originally planned for January 2010. On October 6, Glenn responded to Jones, “Thanks for the scans. Late January 2010 is pushing it……If you can give me a good idea of everything you want in the statue, I can have one of my artists put together a new drawing or if you are happy with the officer in the other statue I can go from that and make some unique changes so that it is all original and customized for you.”
That statement, according to Jassma, is where Glenn may have made his biggest mistake. “There is a feeling, that if you make enough changes, it isn’t a violation. But copyright law protects derivative works. If you use an original source to make a copy it is a violation no matter how many changes you make to that original source,” Jaasma said. Pack contends that in Glenn’s eagerness to complete the project, he did not begin with an original drawing, the standard first step in creating an original sculpture, but used photographs of “The Guardian” as his starting point which would have reduced the completion time dramatically.
Glenn declined to be interviewed, but he did issue this statement via email, “ I deny all of the allegations being made against me in the pending litigation.” Pack and Jassma say they are limited in the action they can take against Jones and the City of Pearland because of sovereign immunity–the idea that governments cannot be sued. A Pearland spokeswoman did issue the following statement, “We did contract Big Statues LLC to produce a sculpture, but since it is the subject of litigation, we will not comment any further at this time.”
While hoping to collect damages and any profits Glenn made off of the Pearland statue, including new business he obtained by having pictures of the statue on his web site, Pack says it isn’t the money he is really after. It is the protection of his livelihood, his reputation and his artistic creativity that matter most to him.
“I am taking this very personally and then some,” Pack said. “Not only did they infringe on my copyright but they copied my work intentionally and knowingly. Somehow it wouldn’t seem so personal if the copied statue were in another state. But it is right down the street, practically in our backyard.”
The complaint states that Matt Glenn and Big Statues have until June 8 to respond.