June 17, 2005

Graffiti copyrighted?

by Guest Contributor

[Jed Sorokin-Altmann] Nope--I didn't die or drop off the face of the blogosphere--I graduated college, instead! Now that I'm done with packing up all my belongings into boxes, and then unpacking all of my belongings, etc., I'm back. :)

Immediately moving on: there was an interesting post over at the Freedom to Tinker blog about whether or not, as well as how, photographs of graffiti should be licensed.

The Freedom to Tinker post was linked to this page over at OurMedia, which lists several points to consider about how such photos should be licensed, if licensed at all:

Legal
-Under U.S. law, you can't profit from illegal activities. This means that a graffiti artist cannot assert loss of sales from an act of infringement.
-Copyright is automatically applied. The artist does not have to assert copyright to own it.
-When the work is anonymous: Not clear on this point
-When the work is pseudonymous: Copyright expires at death when published under a pseudonym.
Moral
-Plagiarism. Can't claim credit for someone else's work
-Public work. It is on display for all to see, and at the mercy of the next graffiti artist--or the property's manager. And isn't graffiti often a combination of a counter-culture statement combined with a desire for recognition? Could we even assume the artist would want the graffiti copied around?

Technical
-Agglomerative works. When the piece in question is not a work by a single person, but a layering and meshing of multiple tags and sigs, does copyright apply?
-Derivative works. Layering of art reminds me of the Creative Commons Share-Alike license: Is the final work by one person, or a group?
-Attribution. Graffiti styles are distinctive enough that work itself constitutes attribution and credit.

One argument that I think the original poster missed is whether or not the copyright has been turned over to the property owner. It was sort of hit on in the public work section, but what if the graffiti was painted on private property? If I had purchased a painting from the artist, I could do what I wish with it, correct? Regardless of the involuntary nature of the transaction, the graffiti artists makes the property owner the owner of the graffiti.

June 17, 2005 05:33 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Yes the graffiti artist wants the work to be shown around at any cost. Its all about fame my friends. It becomes a problem when the owner of the picture says he did the work. There arent many writers out there trying to get rich by doing graffit though. I can name two off the top of my head.

Posted by: anthony at September 17, 2005 03:25 AM
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