Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual Property Law Questions? Ask a Lawyer
Good day, my name is Brandon. I am a California licensed attorney. When you're talking about duplicating someone else's artistic work, it's commonly referred to as "plagiarism", but in legal terms it is an issue of copyright law. Technically, the creator of a original work has exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This would apply regardless of the work's venue... it could even apply to graffiti on a wall. So technically, it could be a copyright infringement if someone reproduced/duplicated graffiti. That said, we have to recognize some realities of this hypothetical situation: (1) for any given work, the artist could have some serious difficulty proving that they created the art. It's graffiti, after all... if John Doe says he created it and Jane Doe says she created it, why should we believe either of them? (2) to take action, the original artist would have to become aware of the infringement, recognize that there is a potential legal cause of action, then actually go through with a lawsuit. Graffiti artists are not particularly known for being legally savvy or litigious.
So, could it be a technical violation? Yes. I encourage people to respect the law and the rights of others, but you also have to be realistic about the chances of the artist seeing the duplication and taking offense to it being sold. S/he might even be flattered. If you can find the original artist, there's nothing wrong with paying that person a dollar (or whatever amount) for the rights to duplicate the work, but my guess is that the person's identity will never been known.
Does that make sense, and does that answer your question in way that is satisfactory and complete?