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Copyright Aspects of Street Art and Graffiti

May 4, 2021

PHOTO: Banksy's works are frequently taken off walls, resold, etc. - all with questionable provenance. This original in San Francisco was taken off a wall and its "ownership" is still not clear beyond the fact that the artist will not authenticate the provenance.

Like graffiti writers sharing black books and styles, BSA Writer’s Bench presents today’s greatest thinkers in an OpEd column. Scholars, historians, academics, authors, artists, and cultural workers command this bench. With their opinions and ideas, we expand our collective knowledge and broaden our appreciation of this culture ever-evolving.

by Enrico Bonadio
Stencil Archive disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Though Bonadio is an attorney based in London, please seek out a local IP attorney if you need actual legal advice. It is all about the client-attorney relationship, so this re-post is a great start. It is not legal advice.

Street Art and Graffiti: The Role of Copyright

Artists are getting robbed. It is time to give them the legal tools they need. With this spirit, a few years ago, I started researching copyright aspects of street art and graffiti.

These artistic movements have been intriguing me for a while. Living for several years in the East London area of Shoreditch, where creativity has exploded and developed after the new millennium’s arrival, has certainly nurtured my curiosity towards these forms of art.

Walking through Brick Lane, Red Church Street, Hackney Wick, and other London neighborhoods full of free-hand graffiti pieces, stenciled images, myriads of stickers and paste-ups, street poetry and sculptures, abandoned miniatures, and many other artworks – opened my eyes and broadened my knowledge of these artistic movements. Visiting, discovering, and experiencing graffiti-friendly areas around the world – including Stokes Croft in Bristol, Kreuzberg in Berlin, Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn, Hosier Lane and Fitzroy in Melbourne, Florentin and Nachalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv, La Candelaria and Puente Aranda in Bogota’ – filled me with even more curiosity and willingness to study further and understand these creative subcultures.

While studying and admiring the beautiful art that cityscapes can offer us for free, I could not help thinking about whether and to what extent the branch of law I’ve been researching (and practicing) for many years – i.e., copyright law – may regulate such forms of creativity. So I started wondering about whether the artworks I was admiring could and should be protected by copyright in the very same way works of fine art are, even where the pieces are created illegally, namely, without the consent of the owner of the tangible support upon which the piece is placed, for instance, a wall.

Latest Uploads: These are Not the NFTs You're Looking For

Thanks to: Lynn Ray, Novy, Brooklyn StreetArt, r/stencils, r/streetart
Spinning: Workingman’s Dead, Farewell to Kings
Photo: Artist: @bobrossofhiphop (meme is all Bernie)

>NEW< Roger Peet

>NEW< Bob Ross of Hip Hop (SF)

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Shepard Fairey in Dubai

Xsacto en micro

New Orleans


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SF Protest Sign (just one)

Newest Stencil Pics: Vaccinated fm Banality

Thanks to: Novy, Stephen, Josiah, Russell B, Brooklyn Street Art, r/stencils, r/streetart, u/iptrucs, u/Superiluso, u/Everything4Everyone, u/MaraCorvus,
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Banksy (just one)


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:::::: IN THE USA ::::::

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March Madness - Stencil Forward

Thanks to: Podinski, Jaime Rojo for Brooklyn Street Art, r/stencils, r/streetart, u/MrMcDrew, u/nahmate45, u/Everything4Everyone, u/stopme45, u/44Caliber-LoveLetter, u/Avoqadus
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A fat stack from Xsacto

Los Angeles, CA



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Thank you everyone for your patience awaiting this map. This year we have shipped Hunt Kits to 47 states, 18 countries and 5 continents.

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The Feral Diagram of Graffiti and Street Art

Theorist Daniel Feral rewrites art history, using the language of MoMA’s first director.


In the annals of “Fine Art History,” graffiti is usually placed squarely outside of the mainstream dialogue. Usually, it’s relegated to a foggy category sometimes called Urban Art–or worse, Urban Contemporary. “Those are not terms that came from the graffiti or street communities,” says writer and theorist Daniel Feral. “They may be a result of categories created by the auction houses. I usually hear the terms used when discussing sales of art.”

Feral is the creator of the eponymous Feral Diagram, a map that revises the role of graffiti and street art in the canon of modern art. From Feral’s perspective, graffiti and street art have been critical drivers of the art world for well nigh 40 years now. Framing them as “outsider art” is not only lazy, but incorrect. As an alternative, Feral has literally redrawn art history, showing how 1960s graffiti and street art emerged from major mainstream movements, from Pop Art and the Situationists to 1940s Art Brut. By way of looping arrows and signs, he also demonstrates how street art evolved, conceptually, alongside the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark and Jenny Holzer. And thankfully, Feral also parses out the boilerplate-in-their-own-right terms, “graffiti and street art,” into specific groups and movements, like Wildstyle and Otaku-tinged Childstyle.

What’s clever about the Feral Diagram is that it utilizes the visual language of another very famous diagram, created by the first director of MoMA, Alfred H. Barr, in 1935. In his visualization, Barr used looping black arrows and Futura type to explain how Cubism and Abstract Art evolved from a mixture of high art and pop culture influences, ranging from Japanese prints to the Neo-Impressionists. “I wanted to honor Barr’s intellectual brilliance,” Feral writes. “By utilizing his visual language to tell a story other than that sanctioned by the Fine Art establishment, it made me feel like I was subverting the system too. It made me feel like I was doing what my friends were doing: reclaiming public space.”