What is real
is not external form.”
When you think about graffiti, or any other form of street art, does it even cross your mind how quickly intellectual property theft can become an issue? And when it comes to graffiti, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Banksy artwork, an aspect which transforms it immediately into something valuable. Even if it is considered a nuisance by many of us, there are still people out there who believe that street art should be praised as a form of expression.
From the IP perspective, not all those graffiti marks you find on the streets are necessarily framed as a form of street art, but there are still cases out there which may require an in-depth analysis. In order to be considered an art form, graffiti must meet two criteria: first of all, it must be realized in a fixed medium and, secondly, it must be original. And by original, we mean that the artist should express his or her artistic talent with as much independent work as possible.
From the moment you obtain copyright on your artwork, your permission should be asked in order for it to be reproduced anywhere. And by this, we mean that no one could even take a photo of it without your permission.
As graffiti and street art generally continue to expand and grow over time, when it comes to monetary change, the perspective is a little bit different. For example, in recent years, the clothing brand H&M and the well-known restaurant chain McDonald’s were accused of using graffiti without the author’s permission. Of course, another aspect in this intriguing art case is the person who owns the property on which the graffiti was produced. In that case, it depends on which country the graffiti was made in as, in some countries, graffiti is illegal. There is also always the possibility of a negative outcome for the artist, and this can come about by a disagreement with the owner of the building. In this particular case, the artist could face charges as painting somebody’s building without consent is considered an act of vandalism.
That being said, the subject of graffiti and IP represents a tricky aspect, but it may be taken into consideration that there is the possibility of obtaining copyright on that specific artwork. At the same time, these acts of creativity must be encouraged, as they represent the most common art form nowadays.
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