Copyright on graffiti

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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VibrationUK
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Copyright on graffiti

Post by VibrationUK » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:30 am

I'd like to put together a book which includes about 20 years of my photography -- images of graffiti in public places.

These photographs were all taken of pieces of graffiti on the side of buildings, on the pavement, and in full public view.

So...is that okay?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:18 pm

Technically all art is the copyright of the artist who created it, but graffitti is something of a special case. Unless the artist has permission to use the structure where he puts his graffitti, he is likely to be gulity of causing criminal damage if caught. This leads to two separate things. Firstly he is unlikely to claim an infringement of copyright because he would then open himself to a criminal charge, and even if he did want to take the copyright issue to court, it is highly likely that the court would throw out the case on the basis that no-one should be able to use the law to profit from an illegal act (the legal maxim is known as 'Non faciat malum, ut inde veniat bonum').
The fact that this art is on display in public places makes no difference to its copyright status.
Also, I suspect that part of the mentality of graffitti artists is that they want to gain fame or notiriety much like Banksy, and so will be more than happy to see their work published in a book.
So I think you are reletively safe to go ahead with your project. It could be argued that there are several grounds (criticism, review) for believing that a book of this sort would constitute fair dealing, which would not infringe copyright. Ordinarily this would require you to credit the artist in each case, but obviously that wouldn't be possible in the case of anonymous graffitti.

VibrationUK
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Post by VibrationUK » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:35 am

Oh cheers!
Weight off my mind!

Thanks so much!

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