6 Things You Must Know About Copyrights in Street Art
Megan Ralstin for Art Law Journal
Artist’s rights in their street art, whether commissioned or guerrilla, has been in the news with some frequency lately, largely due to suits against American Eagle and Terry Gilliam. The slippery nature of copyright law has left many wondering where to draw the line between taking a photograph with street art in the background and taking a photo that infringes on a copyright. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. As we have pointed out before, artwork used without permission may not be considered an infringement. Rather, unauthorized use exists on a spectrum with clear infringement on one end and fair use on the other.
Miami’s Wynwood district has become a hotspot for street art. Recently, American Eagle used murals from one of Miami’s most well-known street artists, AholSniffsGlue, in its latest advertising campaign. Thanks to Ahol’s suit against American Eagle, many Miami artists have been wondering what rights they may have in the art that they have created on public walls on public streets. At the same time, many photographers, journalists, and bloggers have been wondering if they are exposing themselves to liability when they photograph street art.
To help clear up some of the confusion, LegalLink, a legal resource for artists organized by Cannonball, hosted a lecture with a question-and-answer segment in Miami, Florida on September 17th. As well as answering audience questions, the presenter pulled representative comments from news websites to illustrate come commonly held misconceptions about copyright in public art. You can watch the entire presentation and download the PDF here.