In Sobel v. Eggleston Limited Edition is NO Limit to Subsequent Editions

Detail of William Eggleston, “Untitled,” 1970.

It took less than a year for the Judge Deborah A.  Batts to rule in Sobel v. Eggleston (12 Civ. 2551). She dismissed Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. To learn more about the case, read “Collector v. Photographer on Dilution and Creative Rights.”

In summary, Plaintiff’s Complaint contained the following: Mr. Sobel, the Plaintiff purchased eight of Eggleston’s photographic works over a course of three years, between 2008 and 2011. These works were created in a limited edition using dye transfer process and measuring on average 16 x 20 inches. The works were individually numbered, and Plaintiff contended that this constituted n express and implied representation that each specific image would be available in a limited edition. This belief supposedly lead him to pay a premium on the works. However, Defendant, the Photographer created reprints of these images different in size, medium and production date from the Limited Edition set purchased by Plaintiff. Subsequently, according to Plaintiff, the monetary value of the original Limited Edition was “substantially diminished ”

Therefor in his Complaint,  Plaintiff alleged fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and promissory estoppel but the Judge found that “Although both the Limited Edition works and the Subsequent Edition works were produced from the same images, they are markedly different.” According to the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law (“NYACAL”), art purchasers have substantive rights vis-a-vis art merchants who sell multiples of art works. Article 15. Instead of bringing the case under Article 15, Plaintiff brought action under Article 11, which only defined the terms of the NYACAL. The Court found that the numbers on the works indicated that the collection purchased was a limited edition but they did not represent that the images thereby depicted would not be reproduced subsequently in different other limited edition. Defendant was found not to represent that he would never produce subsequent editions of his own original works.

As for the claim of Unjust Enrichment, the Court found that Plaintiff had no possessory interest in the Subsequent Edition and thus its sale was inconsequential. Similarly, Plaintiff failed to prove that there was a clear promise to him not to reproduce the same images that lead to a foreseeable reliance by Plaintiff because Defendant was not found to have made a promise not to make any such subsequent editions of his own images.

The Court dismissed this case without the leave to amend because it found that Plaintiff would be unable demonstrate his ability to amend the complaint in a manner that would protect it from dismissal again.

Sources: Sobel v. Eggleston, 12 Civ. 2551 (DAB) (S.D.N.Y. March 28 13); ArtInfo.

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