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Urban art and copyright

By: Jaime Israel Davila Gomez, Attorney.

Urban art or street art, which exists and is created in the streets and in public view, responds to very particular social and cultural dynamics. Many times there is the perception that this type of work is in the public domain and its creators have no rights, but even in this type of art, copyright laws continue to apply.

Urban artists, in accordance with the law, are authors of the works they create, and therefore are protected by all the rights established in regulations, both the exploitation rights of their works and the so-called moral rights that have to do with the acknowledgment made of the author as creator or father of the work

Despite the foregoing and due to the fact that their works are found in public places, the control they may have over the fixation, capture, and reproduction of their works is somewhat limited, in favor of the dissemination of culture. In other words, they cannot completely oppose the taking and reproduction of photographs or videos of their works for journalistic, artistic, critical, and even personal purposes.

However, the artist continues to have absolute control over their exploitation rights and therefore can prohibit any use that involves direct or indirect profit from their works. For example, a company could not use photographs for its campaigns (even in public places) in which a mural appears without authorization and/or the corresponding payment to the author.

It is important to take into account that the copyright that an artist of this type may have often conflicted with other rights, such as private property, so it is important that the author always has the permission of the person who owns the copyright, where the artwork will be placed.

Finally, the artist has every right to demand to be recognized as the author, that his work be respected, that it not be altered, censored, or mutilated, and to prevent it from being used in any way that would alter his prestige as an artist, or creator of the work.

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