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Nashville Murals: Good For Pictures, Not Commercial Use

Murals Are Protected Under U.S. Copyright Law
Posted: 10:22 PM, Sep 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-26 03:22:15Z

Murals have slowly been spreading through Nashville and the rest of the United States over the past decade, and while they're extremely popular to take pictures in front of, especially in Nashville, there are rules about when they can be used beyond personal use.

"The mural boom, especially here in Nashville, is fairly new," Brian Greif, of the Nashville Walls Project, said. "I think a lot of people look at it and say, 'That'd be a great backdrop for an advertising campaign. Let's use it as a backdrop for an advertising campaign or a TV show.'" 

The problem is, murals are protected under U.S. Copyright Law, so if you use the murals for any commercial purpose, you have to get permission from the artist who owns the copyright. 

Thanks to the Nashville Walls Project, whose goal is to take ugly walls in Nashville and turn them into pieces of art, there are more murals than ever before in Nashville, but that also means that there are more issues with copyright infringement. 

According to Greif, they see at least four cases each month of people using murals for commercial purposes without approval or without paying the artist. 

Luckily, they usually work themselves out. 

Most recently, muralist Jason Woodside filed a lawsuit against Christian Music artist Hollyn after she used his mural in the Gulch as a prominent backdrop in one of her music videos. 

Since he filed the lawsuit and made Hollyn and her team aware of the issue, the music video was removed. 

So far, Woodside has had to deal with at least half a dozen copyright issues with his mural.

"In every single case when we're aware of it, we reach out to the people, and they either stop using it or they work with Jason and his attorney to get the rights to it," Greif said, adding that artists don't create their murals for people to capitalize off of. They create them for the public to enjoy. “They’re thrilled when people share photos on social media and share the photos with their friends, but you cross a line when you start to use it for commercial purposes as part of a marketing campaign, an advertising campaign, a television show, or music videos.”