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Graffiti and the Visual Artists Rights Act: When Private Rights Adorn Public Spaces (Update)

(166 reviews)

Produced on April 29, 2019

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Course Information

Time 1h 31m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Arts & Entertainment

Course Description

Humans have been creating graffiti – inscriptions or drawings on public surfaces – for over 20,000 years. During this time, graffiti's status has ranged from an accepted form of public communication to the reviled defacement of others' property. Over the past 50 years, graffiti has evolved from personal tags illegally painted on gritty public infrastructure to fine art sold at auction and in galleries. As the quality and commercial value of graffiti have risen, so too has litigation to prevent its destruction and misappropriation. Congress enacted the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) in 1990 to grant moral rights to artists; it has since become graffiti artists' sharpest tool for controlling the destiny of both their sanctioned and unsanctioned works.

In this 2019 update on VARA cases, Flann Lippincott will explore the inherent tension between the moral rights granted to graffiti artists and the property rights of the owners of the surfaces on which the graffiti rests. The program will discuss significant VARA cases and the copyright, property, criminal, and commercial issues that arise and review some hypothetical issues for practitioners to consider.

Flann Lippincott was an art history major in college and has long been interested in how graffiti reflects a society's culture and values. She has counseled graffiti artists and art dealers who represent graffiti artists, and she uses graffiti art as the foundation of a presentation on design law.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the relevant sections of the Copyright Act as they pertain to VARA
  2. Define the scope of an artist's moral rights in both sanctioned and unsanctioned graffiti
  3. Explore the tension between those moral rights and the rights of public and private property owners
  4. Discuss the key issues to be mindful of when advising artists, property owners, and civic organizations about how VARA affects their livelihood

Credit Information

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Flann Lippincott

Lippincott IP

Flann is a transaction and litigation attorney with a professional background in art, design, science, and business. She blends these experiences with law to give her clients the legal tools that they need to achieve business success. Having acquired and defended her own trademarks, design patent, and contracts for her prior international consumer products company, Flann is sensitive to both the commercial and personal value of intellectual property to her clients.

Law Practice Areas

Copyright and trademark clearance, registration, management, protection, litigation| Design and Utility patents and Registered Community Designs | IP and design law planning and strategy| Commercial contract and licensing agreement drafting and litigation| Trademark Trial and Appeal Board opposition and cancellation proceedings| Licensed in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit


Parsons School of Design, Part Time Lecturer, Bachelor of Business Administration, Business Regulations and Practices | Certificate Program in Design Entrepreneurship, Pratt Institute, Center for Sustainable Design Studies, Staying out of Trouble


Industrial Designers Society of America | Product Development Management Association | American Intellectual Property Law Association | American Bar Association Design Law Group


B.A. Art History, Cornell University | M.S.J. Intellectual Property, magna cum laude, Seton Hall University School of Law | J.D. Rutgers University School of Law - Newark.


Maria B.

Very informative and didactic. Thank you!

Janay S.

The graphics were excellent and quite informative.

Dina D.

Very informative!

Bonnie B.

A new area of law for me. I was especially impressed by the photographs and discussions thereof.

Sammetria G.

Excellant Program!

Cheryl W.

Excellent program.

John F G.

excellent presentation

Henry G.

Very good course, with good case law.

Susan M. B.

very interesting and well presented material great topic and speaker

Anthony D.

Really good!

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