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Nuart Aberdeen - My Art or Your Art?

Nuart Aberdeen - My Art or Your Art?

Aberdeen is proud and excited to welcome the Nuart festival for the first time – and at Burness Paull we are delighted to support it.  Nuart is an international street art festival which sees acclaimed artists use buildings and walls as their canvas to create art works.  The original Nuart Festival has been held annually in Stavanger Norway since 2001. Nuart Aberdeen will launch as a UK exclusive – a wonderful way to further enhance Aberdeen’s relationship with Norway.

As street artists flock to Aberdeen to take part in the festival and their work is revealed across the city this raises interesting questions around the ownership of street art. As an intellectual property and technology lawyer usually consulting on oil & gas collaborations with our Norwegian counterparts, it was nice to give some thought to something a bit more artistic than patent licensing!

Street art is as creative as anything you might find in an art gallery. The difference is that traditionally, an artist will own the canvas he or she has painted on, meaning it can be sold. Street art, on the other hand is imprinted onto someone else’s property. So - who owns the street art?

Street art is no different from traditional artistic works and provided that it is original it will meet the requirements for copyright protection as an artistic work, just like a painting on a canvas.

The street artist who creates the artwork enjoys copyright protection when they produce an "artistic work". This does provide the street artist with limited rights including the right to prevent others from copying the work, for example through commercial uses. In 2014, street artist Stik reached a settlement with a company which used his street art without his permission.

However, copyright protection does not stop the owner of a property from selling the original physical art work on for profit. This is because street art is painted directly onto property that belongs to the property owner – they are free to do whatever they want with it - including painting over the works!

Given the enjoyment that the city of Aberdeen will have from the exciting works planned, I hope that some, if not all, of the works will be preserved, leaving a lasting legacy in the re-imagination of Aberdeen.

Ross McKenzie

Senior Associate

Burness admin