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Protecting Artistic Vandalism: Graffiti and Copyright Law

NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, Forthcoming

45 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2012 Last revised: 25 May 2015

Celia Lerman

Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Date Written: March 11, 2012

Abstract

Does copyright law protect graffiti? Preserving graffiti art and protecting it against unauthorized reproductions are growing concerns in the art scene. This article argues that copyright law covers graffiti works because copyright is neutral towards works created by illegal means. As copyright is a right over the intangible aspect of the work only, it does not exclude works created by illegal means. This is true even under an incentive-based copyright system such as the United States Copyright Act: copyright does not give incentives to commit illegal acts; it just gives incentives to create valuable artistic works, regardless of the means with which the work is created.

This article analyzes the challenges that artists face in enforcing their rights in their graffiti, under the Copyright Act and the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). Graffiti offers a unique case study to understand copyright's nature and scope.

Keywords: copyright, graffiti, street art, visual artists rights act

JEL Classification: K3, K42, O34

Suggested Citation

Lerman, Celia, Protecting Artistic Vandalism: Graffiti and Copyright Law (March 11, 2012). NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2033691 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2033691

Celia Lerman (Contact Author)

Universidad Torcuato Di Tella ( email )

Minones 2159
C1428ATG Buenos Aires, 1428
Argentina

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