Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Cape Town graffiti code: some implications for copyright

A new by-law in Cape Town, South Africa, is set to target antisocial graffiti such as tagging by criminal gangs while still tolerating works of graffiti that constitute art, according to "Cape Town city and graffiti artists face spray-off", an article by Justine Gerardy (AFP).  This by-law, which will be enforced by a four-man control unit, comes with real clout for offenders.  A first-time offender can expect a fine of up to 15,000 rand (US$ 2,200 or three months in prison.

Graffiti: art or vandalism? 
The policing and elimination of graffiti has interesting implications for the art world, since much graffiti is now commercially exploited as a highly-valued commodity, which itself is protected by copyright in artistic works.  Copyright continues to subsist even if the original work is obliterated, but it may be more difficult to prove copying or to establish originality where that original has been destroyed.

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