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Centre for Transformative Innovation and Swinburne Law School: Research Seminar

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Date: Friday 7 July 2017
Venue: Moot Court, TD120, Swinburne University, Hawthorn Campus

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Protecting Urban Creativity: Why Copyright should be available for Street Art and Graffiti

by Dr Enrico Bonadio
Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law
City, University of London (UK)


Graffiti is a term commonly used to describe a particular technique of painting names and letters on various urban surfaces, such as tube and railway trains as well as walls. It first developed in New York City in the early 70s, and then spread to other cities and countries in the world. The expression street art is instead used to define more elaborate forms of art, which have evolved from the early graffiti movement and focus on images rather than letters.

These artistic movements are sometimes considered a lesser art as they are either produced illegally or just displayed on the streets and therefore outside the official art gallery circuit. Yet graffiti, and street art more generally, can be as creative and original as anything you’ll find in a traditional venue; they can also be very commercially valuable. It’s time our copyright laws caught up with this reality.

The paper will first mention recent cases where graffiti and street art have been misappropriated by several corporations for advertising and commercial purposes, and then will focus on whether artworks created by graffiti writers and street artists (including tags and other sub-cultural pieces) satisfy the fixation requirement and are original enough to attract copyright.

The paper will conclude that that these forms of art fully deserve copyright protection, even where artworks are created illegally, may last just for a short period of time and are placed in public environments.

About the speaker

Enrico Bonadio is Senior Lecturer in Law at City, University of London (The City Law School), where he teaches various modules on intellectual property (IP) law. He holds law degrees from the University of Florence (PhD) and the University of Pisa (LLB), and is Deputy Editor in Chief and Intellectual Property Correspondent of the European Journal of Risk Regulation.

He regularly lectures, publishes and advises in the field of intellectual property law. He published a book on TRIPS Agreement and genetic resources (Jovene, 2008), and recently co-edited a book entitled Beyond Plain Packaging - The New Intellectual Property of Health (Elgar, 2016). He has also done academic work on digital copyright and free speech, exhaustion of IP rights and parallel imports, patentability of human embryonic stem cells and patents and food safety. His current research agenda focuses on copyright protection of graffiti and street art, and he is currently co-editing a book entitled Unconventional Copyright - Do New and Non-Traditional Works Deserve Protection? (Elgar 2018 forthcoming).

Enrico is Visiting Professor in IP Law at Université Catholique de Lyon (France) and University of Turku (Finland) as well as visiting lecturer at the LLM in Intellectual Property offered by WIPO and the University of Turin. He is a Solicitor qualified to practise in England and Wales as well as in Italy. He practiced as IP attorney for several years in top-tier international law firms and frequently appears in the media as an IP expert.

This research seminar is brought to you by Swinburne Law School and the Centre for Transformative Innovation. Join our monthly seminar series - check the Faculty of Business and Law events page for future seminars.

Contact Information: Jake Goldenfein
Email: Tel: +61 3 9214 8942