Recently as I was doing some research I came across a designers site that had a rug for sale that had the exact style of my friend Keen One, I thought to myself how unlikely that he would do such a commercial project so I passed the link for confirmation. As it turned out it wasn’t an agreed upon collaboration but an artistic infringement by the designer. Since the work was painted on a wall in public they must have assumed the artist had no rights to said work since it may or may not have been legal and decided to use for their own commercial and financial gain.

Keens Punk Roc piece was done in London 2010, by virtue of him posting it on Flikr it had some copyright protection, to what degree I don’t know but it becomes a matter of public record at that point. He contacted the designer and agreed to an equity deal and name recognition of the work. This is an example of a broader issue we must openly address among ourselves as we continue to produce work in public which then gets consumed and repurposed in many formats from books, blogs, tee shirts, paintings etc. It is worth Googling ones self and or graffiti/street art rugs, furnishings, tees, etc to see if you have been lifted. Recently we had two very hi profile infringement issues worth noting, the J-LO/Fiat commercial in which TATS CRU had to sue for copyright infringement- see clip below-

I spoke to Bio today regarding this issue and plan to have a follow up to this post regarding how TATS CRU deals with these types of matters and how we can best understand the protection we have as public artists. He tells me this happens often and that there are protective measures one can take and tells me to share this link- US Copyright office.

Another resource for those of you ‘fine artist’ (lol) is Artists Rights Society (ARS) which is the preeminent copyright, licensing, and monitoring organization for visual artists in the United States. Founded in 1987, ARS represents the intellectual property rights interests of over 50,000 visual artists and estates of visual artists from around the world (painters, sculptors, photographers, architects and others).

There was another matter of infringement within the community that brought up an even more heated debate, the MSK and Fab5 Freddy paintings. It is common knowledge that graffiti art is and was built upon its own consumption, tutelage, and repurposing, these are the foundations of our art form since day one but at a certain point an etiquette was established regarding being influenced and biting style, the more established writers, especially in my affiliations fought fist to cuffs regarding the breach of our styles. Yet we can’t forget how we managed to get as good as we did, we bit, we refreshed and updated styles from the masters of our time in order to push the art ahead.

WIth the Fab5 paintings there came a newer issue to contend with in our contemporary space. The debate is what is being influenced by anothers work and what is infringement, what are the new street rules and gallery rules that apply. Revok put out a very heated statement about this and others followed suit… For more info peep Jersey Joe- Rimes blog where the debate continues.

I believe Fab5 and the artists have had dialogue and worked it out. Surely Fab knows the rules and thought based on how we came up that appropriation was part of the game, but the game dun changed and his high profile put him in the scope of LA’s most renown writing crew MSK. This is an important issue to look at and consider before you apply someone else’s name or imagery to their work, there are limitations to how we can use other artists works to express our own. I know I personally have tagged up other graffiti writers in my works since the early 80s, this is homage to my culture and friends, other times I use their names as the narrative of the work and or tags as undercoating where they are less pronounced. I once saw my tag on an Os Gemeos painting at DIetch Projects, Ive seen it on Lady Pinks canvases, to me its understood that they are paying homage to the culture they love so it is acceptable.

Should someone directly lift my work I know I would take issue particularly if it is for profit and does not credit nor benefit me. This is why I draw on these examples so we can openly debate the rules and learn how best to address these matters as they present themselves.