H&M: The Street Art Lawsuit

H&M: ‘Street art is to take for free’

By Lydia Alaiadi

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Clip from the campaign showcasing the piece of art in question.


In the recent days, the famous clothing company ‘H&M’ is facing another lawsuit. This time the lawsuit comes from an artist who claims, that the famous company stole his work and used it in one of their campaigns. The company does not consider this as stealing since the representative lawyer said that street art is an illegal activity and for this reason, they did not require the permission or consent of the artist. The artist insists that when a big company like H&M uses the art of an artist without his approval, this work will be mistaken for someone’s else work, and he wants to be credited.

This debate is very unusual because, at a first glance, both sides have a strong ground. The debate is not only about the legality of street art, but also the ethical codes of a company. My opinion is that street art is illegal and one should use it for free because it is found in a communal space. At the same time, when an internationally recognized company is using street art as a ‘piece of art’ for their campaign, the company should credit the artist.

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Can street art ever become legal?

How many times have you passed by a wall painted with a wonderful graffiti and just stared at the vibrant colors and rhythmic shapes? In other cases here in Greece we often find the name of a Greek football team or the name of a political party smeared onto a wall. The last cases are not called art under any circumstances; they are called vandalism and should be illegal. On the other hand, the real art we find on the streets is beautiful and helps make any place more magnificent. This kind of art should be legal, but the real problem comes with the wall this art is painted on. A wall that is public or private and is misused in a way by someone else cannot legally have art. You could rent or sell a part of the wall but then there will be no distinction between the legal pieces and the illegal pieces. On that point, it seems that the only way every party can be satisfied is with street art to remain illegal. We will hope that super-talented artists will continue to decorate our streets.

If street art remains illegal, what happens in situations like the lawsuit with H&M discussed above? In my opinion, the ethical laws of the business, even the unwritten ones, should be followed for the good of the company mainly. The company must follow some rules; especially in this case where the ‘stolen’ art piece was one of the main protagonists of the campaign, simply not crediting it because it is considered illegal might not even convince the judge that the two parties will have to face in the future.


What is your opinion on street art? Should it be considered legal? Should a company apply ethical codes in the way they handle things?


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