There has been a bit of a brouhaha recently regarding the appropriation of street art to sell products and showcase fashion etc. This article by Gabe Friedman is a great overview of the situation. In my opinion if a piece of work is sanctioned by the building it is on, it is copyrighted. That should be a given.
Now, for those pieces of work that are spontaneous and not applied with permission of the owner of the building I still think much of it is under copyright - especially if it is signed. An example is Judith Supine who copyrights all of his worka nd signs it no matter where it is applied. But I think all else is license free - the scrawls, the detritis etc - and I have to add that THAT is the type of art that I capture in photographs. Here are a couple of examples:
Here is the article - you decide.
Gabe Friedman Sep 21 2014
This past spring, Miami street artist David Anasagasti’s work started popping up in Japan and South America. It was the type of global exposure that Anasagasti didn’t want: American Eagle Outfitters had built an international advertising campaign around his best-known, oldest image—half-squinting, drowsy eyeballs layered on top of one another. In the ads, young adult models wearing American Eagle clothes frolic in front of his art. One shot featured a model holding a spray paint can, grinning, with Anasagasti’s street mural prominent in the background. Additionally, American Eagle allegedly hired artists to recreate the eyeball painting on an eight-foot-tall panel outside a store in Medellin, Colombia.
Anasagasti, a burly, heavily tattooed, graffiti artist in his 30s who goes by “Ahol Sniffs Glue,” didn’t like being associated with the teen and young adult-oriented American Eagle. “Just imagine you’re doing something for 20 years, then all of a sudden, you’ve got people coming up to you saying, aren’t you that guy that American Eagle did this to?” said Gregg Shienbaum, whose art gallery represents Anasagasti and who is acting as his spokesman.
In July, Anasagasti hired a lawyer and filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit, accusing American Eagle of stealing his work and seeking monetary damages. 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, as its name suggests, lays out the rules for when it’s okay to copy something. But does it extend to art that's on public walls?
It very well may. “Given what I know of the case, this is one of the most blatant examples of copyright infringement,” said Philippa Loengard, assistant director of Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts. American Eagle declined to comment for this story citing the ongoing litigation.
Anasagasti is not the only graffiti artist to seek protection for his work: In August, a spate of other artists with street murals filed suits against various corporations for copyright infringement. One targets Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli for creating clothing, bags, and shoes that allegedly misappropriate a San Francisco street mural as its background print. Three street artists sued film director Terry Gilliam and several film companies to block his new movie, The Zero Theorem, from release in U.S. theaters this month because its set design allegedly copies their Buenos Aires mural. Another artist filed suits against apparel company Coach, Sony Music, and the singer Sara Bareilles for allegedly copying her New York City street mural. All the artists claim their artwork was created legally and registered for copyright.
“As a matter of American law, the bar is very low” for obtaining copyright for visual art, explains Jeanne Fromer, a co-director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at New York University School of Law. Fromer says there are only two requirements for an artwork to be eligible for copyright: It must be composed in a fixed medium and it must be original (which she described as more creative than an alphabetized phonebook).
Copyright law carries “fair use” exceptions, including when a work appears incidentally in the background or if the use is so fleeting as to be trivial. But the lawsuits allege 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 marketplace, affiliation with artists bearing such ‘street credibility’ is highly sought-after by retail brands for the cultural cachet and access to the profitable youth demographic that it offers.”
Street credibility is a fuzzy term, but these cases could provide some clarity on what it means. Anasagasti’s suit makes the case that his reputation rests on the idea that he won’t sell out to corporate interests, and Shienbaum says that American Eagle’s use of the eyeball badly distorts the meaning of the images, which represent the working-class grind.
How much is that street credibility worth? The suit seeks data on American Eagle’s sales, including its software that tracks exactly how many customers viewed the ads and subsequently made purchases. Such an audit could provide a more precise answer in dollar terms of how much his street credibility was worth to American Eagle. Similarly, the San Francisco artists suing Roberto Cavalli, the high-end fashion designer who has a store on Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, also want an audit of profits. Their lawsuit asserts, “Nothing is more antithetical to the outsider ‘street cred’ that is essential to graffiti artists than European chic, luxury and glamour.”
It’s not clear why the defendants wouldn’t have reached out to ask the artists for permission to use their work. Defendants either declined comment, did not respond to requests for comment, or have yet to respond in court filings. Jami Gekas, a lawyer for the artists suing Gilliam, said, “They must have just assumed that urban artists like my clients aren’t organized and aren’t going to think about copyright.”
Seeking copyright protection may sound like the latest evolution of street art away from its countercultural, outsider origins. But street artists have long wanted greater control over their work. The 1983 documentary Style Wars featured young graffiti artists wishing they could use New York City
subway trains as canvases without fear of their work being erased or written-over. British street artist Banksy has objected in vainto people who take his art off the street to sell it.
Stacey Richman, a lawyer who represented street artists in an out-of-court settlement in 2011 when Fiat used their art in a commercial without permission, says she hears the same story again and again. “These people are generally living hand to mouth, and if the corporations are going to take advantage of their work, they deserve to be paid,” Richman argues. If somebody's going to profit from this art, copyright may be just the tool for ensuring that that somebody is the artists themselves.
BSA Images Of The Week: 09.14.14
The street appears in the living room when you visit some artists homes or those of hard core collectors. “Brooklyn is in da house!” suddenly takes on additional meaning. So imagine rolling through a heavily graffitied section of Bushwick this week to find someone’s living room is on display on the street. It’s like a […]
It’s All the Rage, Street Artists Filing Lawsuits Left and Right
In what could be charitably described as a sign that Street Art has entered a new phase of cultural acceptance and appropriation, some creators of art in the public sphere are attempting to lay legal claim to the profit-making that they didn’t necessarily sign on to. In just the last few months a handful of […]
BSA Film Friday: 09.12.14
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities. Now screening : 1. Skewville and Two Dead Rats on Wire 2. Farewell: Velibre 3. Park Rituals” with HOT TEA 4. Project M/5 in Berlin with VNA BSA Special Feature: Skewville and Two Dead Rats on Wire Produced by […]
“Pintemos Mexico” with Specter, OverUnder, Shente and Libre in Ensanada
Irish Catholics like Specter always get romantic when they see the Virgin Mary being worked into a mural. The Brooklyn based Street Artist just got back from the heavily catholic country of Mexico (Ensenada) where the virgin Guadalupe is the local version that people revere and he says he was inspired by the “Tree of […]
NUART 2014 Roundup : Activism, Muralism, Graffiti and Aesthetics
The Norwegian mural festival named Nuart took place last week with a marked tilt toward the conceptual and the interventionist, a direct debate about the relevance of activism amidst a rising tide of sanctioned murals, and Tilt leading us down a path toward traditional graffiti. Ironically graffiti seemed a rather tame topic for once. TILT. […]
ETAM CRU and NUART 2014 x BSA
Great shots here of Etam Cru at work for “First Day at School” a wall they completed for Nuart 2014 just before BSA arrived in Stavanger. The student appears to have already eaten his apple. Wasn’t that supposed to be for the teacher? In this recasting of a tale, you may need to do some […]
BSA Images Of The Week: 08.31.14
A powerful group of images this week as we do a drive by on Labor Day Weekend in New York. We know it’s the last weekend of Summer but hell no! I’m gonna have another strawberry ice cream out on the stoop. Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Alice Pasquini, Bast, […]
BSA Film Friday 08.29.14
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities. Now screening : 1. GIFS GONE WILD! in London Streets BSA Special Feature: Guus ter Beek & Tayfun Sarier Only one video this week because we have crossed a threshold with this one and it proudly stands on its […]
“Beautiful Times” hits Brooklyn, Beacon and Back to Colorado
The “Beautiful Times” tour by Amanda Marie and X-0 has brought them back to Denver Colorado where it began. We shared with you images and a semi-travelogue for their earlier installations along this summer tour in Denver and Philadelphia. In this final installment of their easy-going art-making project we find them in Brooklyn and the […]
Labrona and Troy Lovegates Join Season 3 of “Painted Desert Project”
We’re in the Arizona desert today where the third season of Street Artist Jetsonorama’s “Painted Desert Project” has been gently and purposefully been rolling out this summer. The wholistic blend of the political, social, and personal in these works completed in the Navajo Nation is a natural alchemy; the idea of separating them is a […]
BSA Film Friday 08.15.14
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities. Now screening : Sea Walls – Murals For Oceans. Isla Mujers, Mexic HERR BÜTTNER for Whale Rights in Penang, Malaysia “90 Percent” from Save Our Seas Foundation BSA Special Feature: Sea Walls – Murals For Oceans Isla Mujers in […]
Graffiti and Street Art Lock Up “21st Precinct” in New York
This weekend the NYPD police precinct is hosting a graffiti and street art show, and the public is welcome to see every floor completely swimming in aerosol and plastered in wheat-paste. Admit it, it is not often you receive an invite like that. Pesu (center), Pixote (left) and Bill Claps Morse code writing the history […]
Stikman: An Enigma Marching On
His rigid wooden stick constitution keeps him from faltering even when bending and his ubiquity on the streets and in small secret hiding places keeps you from forgetting him, the ever-present Stikman. Expressed in wood, fabric, vinyl, paper, steel, plastic; embedded into pavement and stuck upon every surface, Stikman is timely and timeless. Stikman (photo […]
Untapped has reported on the arrival of fairy doors -- some of which have money in them.
A couple days ago we came across this adorable find by Scouting NY on Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn. In fact, these architecturally detailed miniature doors, looking just like the series of fairy doors in Ann Arbor, have been popping up all over New York City, tagged with QR codes that lead to the Speakeasy Dollhouse. Conveniently, we’ve been covering the Speakeasy Dollhouse and other theater pieces by Cynthia von Buhler for quite some time now so we could ask her some questions about it.
The craziest thing about these fairy doors is that von Buhler isn’t putting them up herself–it’s her fans. Speaking with von Buhler, she tells us that said fans have been installing them for two and a half years: “About 150 doors have been put up. Some have doormats with secret keys underneath. A few actually open.” Design-wise, the fans have been inspired by von Buhler’s book, But Who Will Bell the Cats?.
And like all great crowdsourced art projects, the doors have evolved. As von Buhler tells us, “Now the fans are also doing wheat-paste posters. A group of actors and I found mobster Dutch Schultz’s secret stash of money upstate and we gave the money to our fans to give away to the public in payment for all the strife that evil man caused. The posters with a drawn door have money behind the door. If you take a key edge and drag it along the dotted line you will get the money.”
Mini door and welcome mat, photographed by Seen in New York
Finally, what is the Speakeasy Dollhouse, you ask? It’s an interactive experience that encourages guests to play along, talk to strangers and inhabit Prohibition-era New York for a couple of hours. Plus, the play is based on the real-life murder of von Buhler’s own grandfather. Italian immigrant Frank Spano owned a speakeasy and may have had mafia connections. In 1935, he was shot and killed, and von Buhler brings her guests into the action, starting with actual newspaper articles and an autopsy report which are sent to you before the event.
It helps that von Buhler sets the spectacle in one of the Lower East Side’s most unique and authentic bars–the Back Room–which was in fact a speakeasy. (It also made our list of New York City’s best hidden bars and speakeasies.)
11th Street, New York City. Photo by Bryan Thatcher
Photo by Peter Moses
Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler
Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler
Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler
Photo courtesy of Cynthia von Buhler
Next to Rough Trade record store in Williamsburg. Photo by Instagrammer ipinchu
This March, von Buhler also staged another interactive piece about the sibling rivalry of the Booth brothers, the infamous one who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and his brother Edwin Booth who founded the Players Club in Gramercy Park.
See a photo essay on the fairy doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan and check out the Speakeasy Dollhouse here.
Additional reporting by Laura Itzkowitz.
Artnet.com posted a warning about fake Harings and Warhols flooding the internet. Here is a short intro. So buyer beware....
If you happen upon a mysterious trove of heretofore unknown Keith Haring works in an online sale, think twice. Maybe. According to several tips to artnet News, a rash of works by Haring and other ’80s stars are being peddled far and wide, and are plaguing the online art market.
Dubious eBay jackpot
Exhibit A: Charles Uzzell Edwards, owner of London’s Pure Evil Gallery, says about eight weeks ago he happened upon a substantial inventory of little-known ’80s Pop art ephemera on eBay, being sold by a Swedish seller. The online find included subway drawings attributed to Haring as well as Polaroids said to be by Warhol. He bought some pieces online, and then negotiated to buy a larger group of works from the Swede, who sells under the name bobinga33 and eventually identified himself to Edwards as Patrick Maske. Maske claims that the works belonged to his late father. (In an email to Edwards, read by artnet News, Maske described him as “a private and quiet collector” active in the 1980s and ’90s, adding, “I think he had contacts or someone helping him to take down pictures in the subway in New York in the 1980s.”)
Edwards says upon close examination that the Haring chalk drawings are likely artfully constructed fakes. Though many details are accurate, including references to specific ads that might have been in the subway at the time Haring was working, Edwards says that the paper appears to have been deliberately aged, of the wrong type, and its back shows no evidence of ever being stuck to a wall. “We have taken them off the market,” said Edwards yesterday. “I had a few conversations in the past 48 hours that convinced me they were all fake.”
Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the country's capital city of Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene, a handful of sleek shopping malls, cafes, and more. Reuters photographer Morteza Nikoubazl recently set out to document modern Kabul, populated by musicians, artists, athletes, and activists who are trying to live 21st-century lives in spite of massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present threat of militant attacks. Afghanistan is preparing for an election on April 5 that should mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country's history, but it has been hit by a tide of violence as the Taliban has ordered its fighters to disrupt the vote and threatened to kill anyone who participates. Many of the people in these images were happy to be photographed, but did not want to give their names. This photo essay is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [26 photos]
Published in conjunction with the Center for the Study of the Drone.
KATSU is an artist and a vandal and a clever hacker too. His work pushes our idea of what can be achieved with the graffiti artist's limited tool-set. Having established himself as one of New York City's most prolific and imaginative taggers in the 1990s, he garnered admiration from the arts community (and condemnation from the authorities) when he pioneered the fire extinguisher spray can, which has permitted him to expand the scale of his art by orders of magnitude. He famously demoed it at "Art in the Streets," a 2012 show at the the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, when, without invitation, he left his multi-story calling card on the side of the museum.
Just as autonomous drone technology in the military sphere will challenge structures of accountability and responsibility, KATSU’s graffiti drone, which he hopes will soon be capable of autonomously creating its own artworks, challenges our notions of authorship, creativity and power: Who's the artist, the human or the machine? Likewise, just as the drone has expanded the physical and surveillant reach of militaries and governments, what will it mean in the hands of the citizen and the artist? In the cities where artists constantly seek to place their artwork in the most unreachable places, the drone could become a powerful tool of art and vandalism.
Metropolitan police departments everywhere may have another reason to be anxious about Katsu's graffiti drone: he says he intends to develop the machine as an open source technology so that artists everywhere can make their own. They'll use it on canvas, as KATSU has. But they'll likely find many other uses too: this weekend Katsu hopes to test the drone, unannounced, on other surfaces around Silicon Valley.
Cigarettes for all! That includes you kids! Come on, smoking is cool! You can just imagine a critique by helicopter moms of this new work for Judith Supine’s “Golden Child” show somehow morphing into an anti-smoking crusade. The fascination s/he has with those slender white smokable sleeves is unabated – if anything cigs are proliferating […]
One of the electrifying aspects of Street Art for many people is the prospect that public space can actually be a place to create within. There is something about the hand-rendered painting or tag that stops people, fascinates them; these neighbors who otherwise are inured to the commercial images and messages that have all but […]
Three decades since starting as an aerosol writer, Shok-1 may be more commonly referred to as a Street Artist today, even though graffiti is still in his bones. After experimenting with a number of styles that lean more toward illustration and caricature, the England born fine artist has primarily focused on one unique style that […]
In Amsterdam the temperature is above freezing and the trees are beginning to show little buds on the branches. With any luck this new “spring offering” by Skount and Pau Quintana Jornet will usher in the end of winter faster. Pau Quintana Jornet and Skount collaboration in Amsterdam. “Spring Offering” (photo © Skount) Inspired by Norse mythology, […]