Sunday, February 08, 2009

Robert Lederman is an extraordinary street vendor, artist and political activist. I first met him in 1986 on West 53rd Street by MOMA. He created his own art (rather than sell art somebody else created) and sold mostly in the Village, coming uptown sometimes. I didn't know much about him except he's a classic New Yorker, studied martial art and took being an artist seriously. It's what he did and what he was, an artist who sells his work on the street.
One of Robert Lederman's works of art, The Fool

The next thing I knew he'd been arrested for selling art on the street, fought it legally all the way up to the United States Supreme Court and won the right to sell art on the street without a license, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This was an incredible victory. He is an extraordinarily powerful, astute, exceptionally articulate, determined political speaker. I am in awe of the extraordinary things he has accomplished legally, politically and his ability to communicate information about First Amendment issues.

Interview with Robert Lederman, an excellent, intelligently detailed depiction of issues related to the First Amendment rights connected with street artists

Robert Lederman First Amendment Warrior

Robert Lederman's YouTube channel and a montage of the many times he's been arrested for selling art on the street. He has serious cojones.

From one of his many fierce, articulate essays:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." -The First Amendment

Imagine standing on a city street viewing a sidewalk display of original paintings while discussing them with the artist. Suddenly, two vans and a police car pull up. Twenty armed, bulletproof-vested plainclothes cops jump out, surround the artist, place them in handcuffs, confiscate all of the paintings and push the artist into the van. When you ask the police what the problem is they tell you it’s a quality of life operation and to shut up and keep walking. Is this happening in China or Iraq? No, it’s just a typical day in New York City, the artist persecution capital of the world."

Robert Lederman's Yahoo Group:

From the excellent Street Vendor

"What about First Amendment vendors?

Under the First Amendment, people who sell newspapers, magazines, cd’s, books and art on the street may do so without a vending license. However, you still must abide by the city’s many restrictions on where you put your table ("Is My Spot Legal?" pdf), and there are many streets where you cannot vend at all (Street Restrctions pdf). You must also abide by the New York State tax law by getting a tax ID (“certificate of authority”) and by collecting and paying sales taxes on what you sell.

4. I want to sell jewelry / custom t-shirts / crafts. May I do so without a license?

While traditional visual art (paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture) may definitely be sold on the street without a license, the law on other items is murky. Overtly political items like t-shirts and buttons may be sold without a license. For jewelry and crafts, though, it depends on the individual items you are selling and whether by selling them you have an intention to communicate any idea, opinion or belief. The city doesn’t have any process for determining beforehand what is acceptable, so all you can do is risk being arrested and, if you are, argue to the judge at criminal court that your items were protected by the First Amendment. Or you can join the Street Vendor Project, come to meetings, and try to get the law changed.

5. Where can I vend?

So long as you abide by the restrictions on the placement of your pushcart or table ("Is My Spot Legal?" pdf), you may vend on any street that has not been restricted by the city. There are different lists of restricted streets for merchandise vendors (link), food vendors (link) and First Amendment vendors. "

A nice article from the Villager, Vendors wrote the book on First Amendment rights, interviews by Esther Martin

A good article by Wayne Dawkins, Street smarts: book vendors count on foot traffic, marketing instincts and the First Amendment in the battle for profits

Film review
of Bookwars

BOOKWARS: Award winning doc about NYC street booksellers by writer-director Jason Rosette, 3.51 minutes

Another clip from the same documentary, 2.39 minutes:

Purchase the DVD from Camerado's online store.

A street vendor selling books in Madras (Chennai) Eastern India

Selling art on the street: The Legal Basics

First Amendment


Summit said...

A vendor has asked me to find out if there is a site that states street vendors can sell cds? If you can help, it will help a vendor.

Many thanks. Le

Summit said...

Further, the vendor in question sells books and used cds. He follows all the rules including tax status. Any help would be greatly appreciated.