Oakland Artist Sues for $400K Over Removal of Lake Merritt Mural

Dan Fontes is suing an Oakland auto dealership for $400,000 after his 28-year-old mural of Lake Merritt was painted over.

Though Fontes does not own the property, his attorney Brooke Oliver maintains that he is owed for the mural's destruction for copyright violation under the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act, an obscure law that requires the owner to have given the artist 90-days' notice before removing the mural.

Fontes said that it cost him $100,000 to create the mural in 1986, assisted by a $35,000 commission.

"To me, it was grand theft," Fontes told the Bay Area News Group in 2013 after driving by the dealership and seeing that it was painted over without his knowledge. "When you take out a mural that is over $100,000 worth of work, I don't see that as any different as taking a jackhammer to a Lamborghini."

Not everyone agrees.

Former owner of the dealership Michael Murphy, who sold it before the mural was painted over but is still named a defendant in the case, told the Bay Area News Group that "The lawsuit is just a big scam to extort people. It's unjust, and it's total baloney."

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