Who owns Street Art?

deTour curated by: Unimelb, 2015

The Yarra council is currently considering leading street art tours in the city. This has sparked debate about the implications of government-organized displays of street art, and made me wonder: Who does street art belong to? Copyright laws in Australia define the work as the artists’ intellectual property, but the rules concerning who can do what to the artwork depend on the circumstances. On this tour around Melbourne, I will look at a variety of perspectives on who owns street art.

Locations for deTour

Imagine yourself in a public library and you step away from the desk to search for a book. When you return, you realise the watch you left on the desk is missing. Whoever took your watch stole from you, not from the library, although it was a public,…

Some building owners have embraced street art in an attempt to control the representations on their property. Private owners are commissioning street artists to do work for them legally. They might be homeowners wanting to cover up unwanted street…

Not all building owners are so receptive of street art. However, this doesn’t deter street artists from decorating their walls with paint, paste-ups, and stickers. Whether unwanted or appreciated, the building owner has ownership of the physical…

In any discussion about the value of street art, the value to the community is normally mentioned. Advocates of street art will explain how it enhances the community and is created for them to appreciate, and critics will explain how street art is…

What about when the street art is illegally on government-funded and owned property? While the work is the intellectual property of the artist, the government owns the bridge itself and can alter its appearance afterwards to cover up the tags. They…
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