Graffiti - Who Owns the Rights?

23 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2006 Last revised: 19 Feb 2008

Date Written: September 2006


This paper asks a number of inter-related questions as to the ownership of graffiti and the intellectual property rights which are associated with graffiti. For the purposes of the paper, graffiti is described as unauthorised writing created so that it can be viewed by the public.

The paper shows that the owner of the surface that has been written on has the best claim to the tangible expression, the writing, the image, the graffiti itself. It also shows that intellectual property rights, specifically copyright and moral rights, subsist in the writings of graffiti writers and that those writers are the owners of the intellectual property rights. Finally, it demonstrates that asking questions about graffiti is a legitimate inquiry and that in the course of answering those questions an important commentary is provided on aspects of copyright law.

Keywords: graffiti, copyright, intellectual property

JEL Classification: K11, O34

Suggested Citation

Morgan, Owen J., Graffiti - Who Owns the Rights? (September 2006). Available at SSRN: or

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