Building Owner - Illegal Works

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 artwork on their property. However, does this mean the building owner can remove the piece from the wall and sell it? Copyright law would protect the artist and prevent the building owner from profiting from reproductions of the work like photographs or reprints. But if the original work on a piece of the building was sold? Now we’ve entered a gray area.

Building owners wanting to eliminate the “vandalism” will try to rip off or cover up the artist’s work. According to Australian law, it is an infringement of the artist’s moral rights to alter or destroy their work if they are not informed and do not have the opportunity to save a version of their work. Technically, this also means street artists who tag or cover another artist’s work should notify that artist beforehand. While courteous, this does not always happen. Furthermore, because the work was done illegally and usually with pseudonyms, contacting the artist is difficult.