Bubbling to the surface: copyright for graffiti


Barbara Hoffman

Bubbling to the surface: copyright for graffiti

ollo / iStockphoto.com

Whether graffiti art can be protected by copyright law is not usually discussed, but alleged unauthorised use by H&M has brought the matter to the surface. Barbara Hoffman of The Hoffman Law Firm reports.

In March, retailer H&M filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment that the artist Revok has no copyright rights in certain unauthorised graffiti located in New York, which H&M used as a backdrop in its “New Routine” advertising campaign. 

The artist had sent H&M a cease-and-desist letter claiming a violation of his copyright in the images used. H&M’s position was that because the images are illegal graffiti, they are not protectable as art under the copyright law and thus, there is no copyright infringement.

It is often the case that a financially powerful retailer or entertainment or social media company accused of copyright infringement jumps the gun and files a declaratory judgment action.

Barbara Hoffman, The Hoffman Law Firm, graffiti copyright, H&M copyright, H&M lawsuit, New Routine campaign