Ahol Sniffs Glue, a graffiti artist, uses his public art to express his social activism message and counter-cultural criticism. His Ocean Grown graffiti mural is displayed on a public building in Miami. American Eagle launched an advertising campaign where the graffiti work was visibly displayed in the advertising imagery but without the artist’s consent. In fact, the artist was critical of commercialism in general and probably wouldn’t be cooperative.
This case presents interesting copyright issues for enforcement actions. The artist owns a copyright in the original work but the property owner has the right to rehab its property and remove, destroy or paint over the graffiti art. The public art can be captured in photo and videos – how can that be limited by a graffiti artist? Who has the right to reproductions and derivative works?
This will be a carefully balancing act of the rights and interests of the key players. It will interesting to watch how this case is decided.