Copyright enforcement for graffiti?


If it sounds novel to apply copyright to graffiti art, that’s because it is: lawyers who work in this area say it’s not clear anyone has ever tried this in court. Copyright law could be extend to art that's on public walls? It very well may. Anasagasti, a rising star in Miami’s art scene, was the first graffiti artist to seek protection for his work: he hired a lawyer and filed a copyright infringement accusing American Eagle of stealing his work and looking for monetary damages.

Later, a large number of other artists filed suits against various corporations for copyright infringement. One was against the Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli for creating clothing, bags, and shoes that supposedly misappropriated a San Francisco street mural as its background print. All the artists claim their artwork was created legally and registered for copyright. Actually in the United States the requirements to obtain copyright for visual art are very low, there are only two requirements for an artwork to be eligible for copyright: it must be secured in a fixed medium and it must be original.
The lawsuits affirm that corporations have gone beyond any exception, putting the street art to use for their own commercial purposes. As Anasagasti’s suit argues, “In today’s fashion industry, affiliation with artists bearing such ‘street credibility’ is highly required by retail brands for the cultural reputation and access to the profitable youth demographic that it offers.”

How much is that street credibility worth? Both lawsuits spread some light on how could this value be measured. In Anasagasti vs. American Eagle as well as in the San Francisco artists suing Roberto Cavalli the value has been determined on sales data, including its software that tracks exactly how many customers viewed the ads and subsequently made purchases.
It’s not clear why the defendants wouldn’t have reached out to ask the artists for permission to use their work. They must have just thought that urban artists aren’t organized and aren’t going to think about copyright protection.

Nothing could be more antithetical from the “street culture” than luxury and glamour.

Seeking copyright protection may sound like the latest evolution of street art away from its outsider origins, but street artists have always pretended greater control over their work. Street artists don’t earn easily with their works, if corporations take advantages of their works, they deserve to be paid. If somebody's going to profit from this art, copyright may be just the instrument for ensuring that somebody is the artists themselves.

By Francesca Filipo

Creative Commons : Ideas Worth Spreading.

An inflexible copyright policy that prevents any type of disclosure could be anachronistic in the digital era. To realize the full potential of the Internet, encouraging a spreading creativity, many possibilities have been thought. Many of them have been just utopian, but one of these showed a revolutionary potential.

That’s the so called “Creative Commons”.

Launched in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and one of the leading experts of Copyright Law, this project achieved a large success and a wide application in the recent years.

Creative Commons licenses are not against copyright, instead they depend on the existence of copyright. These licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can choose to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving some other rights.

Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses. Others who want to reserve all of their rights under copyright law wouldn’t choose to use it. Creative Commons licenses offer creators a wide spectrum of choices between keeping all rights and renouncing all rights (public domain), an approach that we call "Some Rights Reserved."

Creators can choose among different protection regimes. While some of them refrain commercial uses or the sharing of adaptations, others grant just a minimum protection consisting in the paternity right.  The author doesn’t need any authorization or permission before licensing his work under CC, he just has to decide which conditions he wants to apply to his work. Accordingly, each work will be shared with a different disclaimer, an user friendly detailed tag.

Creative Commons is not an alternative to collecting societies, but a no-profit organization. Therefore all licenses can be use for free with any authorization requirements.

In Italy  Creative Commons could be perceived as an obstacle as it could be interpreted as incompatible with the authority granted by the Italian Copyright Law of 1942 to SIAE, the legal monopolistic society for the management of copyright in Italy.

The recent Directive 2014/26/EU states, however, the principle that rights holders should be able to freely choose to entrust the protection of their works to the collective management bodies they consider most appropriate, also to independent management entities, regardless of the state of nationality. The Directive also grants the authors the right to divide the protection of their works between different collecting societies.

The new standards should promote the coexistence of the CC licenses with the traditional collecting societies, to create a more flexible and efficient system of protection.

This system thought by Lessig affirms a belief in copyright, because it is in essence a copyright license, but it also affirms the innate value of those digital environments where the rules of exchange are not necessarily defined by economic criteria.