Protecting Artistic Vandalism: Graffiti and Copyright Law
Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
March 11, 2012
NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, Forthcoming
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Keywords: copyright, graffiti, street art, visual artists rights act
JEL Classification: K3, K42, O34
Date posted: April 3, 2012 ; Last revised: May 25, 2015