Graffiti artists are increasingly demanding rights, recognition and in some cases, financial compensation if their work is destroyed or copied. There have been several lawsuits regarding graffiti, most recently, a claim against developer Toll Brothers for removing in 2013 an Elephant Mural from a building that was painted on in 2009, according to ArtNet. Toll Brothers, according to the lawsuit used a “very recognizable” portion of the 90 foot image in advertisements that were displayed in public.
Meetings that occurred between the artists and the developers may complicate matters as the defendants could claim they had permission. What results from the very existence of the case and those like it is that developers should no longer assume that graffiti is disposable and can be destroyed or copied at will.
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Case in point was 5Pointz, a factory in Long Island City, Queens, that became a landmark because for years graffiti artists could paint on the site with impunity; in fact, it was known as the “United Nations of Graffiti.” When owners Jerry Wolkoff and his son David wanted to raze the property for redevelopment, graffiti artists attempted to sue under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. They unsuccessfully tried to prevent the destruction of their work on the grounds that the graffiti added value to the site. While the artists lost the case, they certainly inspired new cases that someday might spell victory for graffiti artists.