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October 2008

Graffiti and Copyright

I wanted to add to my previous post on this to let my readers know what the end result was, both short and long term.

The sequence of events, as well as many good comments from supporters, is on my Flickr page.

Many of the affected artists visited the gallery to voice their displeasure. In addition, Simon Cole, of Show and Tell Gallery, went down - he handles the work for a number of the graffiti artists. Simon had to serve the gallery with a "cease and desist" letter on this - basically this is a warning of future legal action if the recipient does not comply. Usually within a very short time frame.

As a result of this:

- The show was taken down by May Karp (Sept 17)
- All the sales have been canceled
- The gallery will be sending written apologies to the artists
- They will also issue a public apology
- May Karp still states she didn't do anything wrong!

The reference for this was Canada's Copyright Act - a link to the on line version is here. (link updated May 11/13)

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Where were the artists?

I went to the opening of an exhibition of graffiti photos yesterday. I was pleased to see dozens of bright colourful images of graffiti art, pieces from Toronto and around the world. I was pleased to see a room full of older people, learning about this art form and with deep enough pockets to afford one of the photos -at $2,800. I was less pleased after talking to the photographer, May Karp.

The opinion I had obtained from some Canadian lawyers is that once an artist creates something, it is automatically copyrighted. Even if it's a graffiti mural on a wall, even if it was done without permission, even if the artist can't afford a lawyer to defend his/her rights. Even if you can't find the artist. When we asked May about this, she seemed quite dismissive - her lawyers assured her the artists have no copyrights, and that the art usually is whitewashed over by the next day anyways. We also asked if she would consider sharing some of the money with the artists. No, she thinks they should be grateful she is promoting this form of art.

I don't agree, I think the artists should be identified and compensated. For example, I recognized signed pieces by local artists Elicser, EGR, and maybe Artchild.

The exhibit is on until September 27 at Moore Gallery here in Toronto - 80 Spadina, suite 404. Drop by and check it out - especially if you're a local artst - you may find your work up there. Feel free to talk to the curator, Amanda Moore, or drop the gallery a line at [email protected] .

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