Can you copyright graffiti? We’re about to find out

Rime's artwork (left) and a suit by Moschino (right)
Rime’s artwork (left) and a suit by Moschino (right)

Last year, the fashion designer Jeremy Scott quite obviously appropriated artwork by Rime for a capsule collection with the brand Moschino. The collection got a fair amount of attention when Katy Perry wore one of the dresses at the Met Gala, and Rime decided to sue Scott and Moschino for using his work (and his name, in the form of tags on other clothing in the collection).

This week, Moschino and Scott’s lawyers filed paperwork arguing that the lawsuit cannot possibly go forward. Why? Because graffiti cannot possibly be copyrighted. They say, “As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally.”

First of all, it’s not entirely clear that the work was painted without permission, so that argument could be rendered moot pretty quickly. But part of me hopes that Rime’s Vandal Eyes was painted illegally, because that will be an interesting question for a court to take up.

In Australia, graffiti is protected by copyright, even if it was painted illegally. Enforcing that copyright can get tricky though, since the artist could still be arrested for vandalism. Why wouldn’t similar protections apply in the United States?

We’ll have the answer soon enough. Rime’s lawsuit is set to move forward in May.

HT to Brooklyn Street Art for spotting this story, and The Fashion Law for their more detailed article about it.

Photo from The Fashion Law

Revok, Roid and Rime at Known Gallery

Revok, Rime and Roid of the MSK crew have a show together opening this weekend at Known Gallery in LA. I know Rime doesn’t like being mentioned on sites like Vandalog, so let’s instead focus on two very talented writers: LA’s Revok and the UK’s Roid. Revok is probably best known for recently getting out of prison in LA for a graffiti-related charge, but one reason that case got so much attention is that Revok is a guy who gets up, and looks good doing it. If there are still kings in an internet age, Revok is one. Roid represents MSK in the UK, and has technical skills that few writers can match. This piece by Roid is one of my favorite pieces of graffiti I’ve ever had the chance to photograph.

The show is called Perseverance and will be open August 20th through September 12th. Definitely one for graffiti fans to check out.

Here’s a little preview… I think most of these pieces are by Revok, but I’m not positive. If you do know who did what, give me a shout.

Rime or Revok?
Roid or Revok?

Photos courtesy of Known Gallery

Martha Cooper has the story on Katsu at MOCA

Photo by Martha Cooper

Over at her blog on 12ozProphet, Martha Cooper has a series of photos documenting the work of Katsu, Blade, Rime, Freedom and Os Gêmeos at MOCA. Cooper had a behind-the-scenes look at how things transpired after Katsu hit the MOCA building with a fire extinguisher tag just a few days before Art in the Streets was due to open inside. That night, the wall was buffed, and then it looked like this:

Photo by Martha Cooper

Of course, that wouldn’t do. Os Gêmeos had been scheduled to paint a mural on that wall, but they decided that they did not want to go over Katsu, which is how they ended up painting the MOCA ticket booth. A replacement had to be found.

Similar to the wall that Lee Quinones, Futura, Cern, Push, Risky and OG Abel collaborated on just on the other side of the building which had originally been the site of Blu’s buffed mural, repainting over Katsu’s spot would have to be a collaborative effort. Freedom sketched a tribute piece to Blade, using some of his most iconic images. A few people painted the outline of the Blade tribute, and Rime came in to add the color. For more detail on the story and images of the entire process, check out Martha Cooper’s blog.

Photo by LindsayT

I don’t want to say that Blade does not deserve a tribute mural (he is one of my favorite early writers, particularly for the very piece that makes up the core of this tribute mural), but I think it is telling that no one writer would go over Katsu alone. MOCA has every right to do what they want with their own walls, which is why I don’t think the covering of Blu or Katsu’s pieces should be considered censorship, but I definitely wish that Katsu piece had stayed. The man is at the top of his game and a trailblazer in 21st century graffiti, so he deserved mention in the show as part of the next generation of great writers, and it just would have given the show a gritter feel. On the other hand, I don’t want to begin to imagine the problems that keeping that piece would have caused… At least Blade got some added props in the show and Os Gêmeos still painted something.

Photos by Martha Cooper and LindsayT

Legal mural by Revok, Os G, Retna and others partially buffed in LA

This is the start of a story about what happens when the buff men starts acting like graffiti writers and painting anywhere they wish…

LA TACO and Revok have the full story on their blogs (at least, what is known and has happened so far), but here’s the short version of this sad and seriously screwed up story: This legal mural in LA, painted last summer by Retna, Rime, Revok, Norm, Os Gêmeos and Saber, was partially buffed by a private graffiti removal company without the property owner’s permission or knowledge and entering the property required that the graffiti removal company break a fence on the property. This sucks and just shows, if this was done legally, how screwed up the legal system is when it comes to murals. I know there are some cities (such as, I think, NYC) where the city can buff pretty much whatever they want regardless of what the property owner would like to do. Of course, I’m not sure what’s more ironic: that the graffiti removal company basically graffiti-ed this mural themselves by buffing it without permission, or that people throughout the blogosphere (including me) are complaining about it. After all, the mural was painted by a bunch of writers… But I’m pretty sure that what the buff squad did is more ironic and screwed up. Luckily, the property owner was alerted to the damage and was able to stop the buff squad before the entire mural was lost.

Expect more on this in the next few days.

Photo by LA TACO

RIME For Dolby Digital

Feast your eyes on this new video for Dolby Digital featuring New York graffiti artist RIME.

“For this piece I attempted to create something inspired by an excerpt from a 1951 documentary, on the process and philosophy of Jackson Pollock. A lot of what Pollock says in the following clip is relatable to my experiences with free-styling graffiti pieces. Pollock talks about the comfort and expressive feeling he gets when working large and loose. This way of approaching work has been something that I have focused on in the past 15 years of my 20 year career as a writer.” says Rime.

Rime has traveled to and painted in over 17 major U.S. cities, 6 European countries, Japan and Taiwan. In 2005 he founded The Exchange, an elite group of graffiti stylists from North America and Europe. Now based in Los Angeles Rime works closely with The Seventh Letter Crew on art based murals and gallery shows. Rime’s mission is to solidify the idea that graffiti is a viable and innovative art form. With the hint of pop culture’s welcoming back of graffiti art, Rime realizes it is up to the artists that are actually out there putting in work to be responsible for the way the art form pans out in history.

You can check out exclusive photos from the shoot and more over at Rimes blog here