Tuesday 6 December 2011

Illegal illegal art

An interesting report concerning a German documentary about graffiti artists in Berlin has surfaced this week.

The producers of the documentary, entitled Unlike U – Trainwriting in Berlin about [you probably guessed it] graffiti on the Berlin subways, have made a full version of their film available online following a legal claim by the Berlin transport company, BVG, seeking to prevent the film from being distributed.

The basis for BVG's claim is reportedly that the filmmakers and their distributor did not obtain filming permits for to shoot footage at train stations and on other premises owned by BVG. In response, the filmmakers have said that they did not actually shoot any of the clips - said to demonstrate the dangerous lengths to which the graffiti artists go to paint Berlin 's trains, including sneaking through underground tunnels and climbing over high-voltage electric third rails to get onto the platforms [see picture]. Instead, they say, all of the footage was submitted to them by the trainwriting crews responsible for the graffiti shown in the film.

Rather than wait for the verdict of the German court, however, the producers decided to make the whole film available since they "spent a lot of time and put in a lot of lifeblood on working on that movie [and so] would like to give everybody the opportunity to see the outcome."

This situation therefore raises a number of interesting issues:
- is the art illegal?
- is it illegal to film someone carrying out an illegal activity?
- is it illegal to distribute a film made without filming permits?

Clearly, in this case the answers depend on the German law. If anyone has any more information in relation to the claim, or general opinions on the legal issues I would be very interested to receive it.

For more information on the film see
To help the filmmakers defend their claim go
To watch the movie go

Source: GigaOm, 5 December 2011

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