Interview with street artist C215
The artist speaks to us about his artistic vision and current issues around copyright, particularly the freedom of panorama and the question of improved sharing of value online.
As a street artist, how do you see your relationship with your work?
C215: My relationship with my work is very strong. It is essential for me to maintain this relationship, particularly because my creations are made for public spaces and are therefore highly visible. I want to have my say about the use which is made of them, especially to avoid them being "recuperated", as has recently been the case. Copyright allows me legal protection when I'm painting in the streets of the major European cultural capitals. This is why the question of freedom of panorama is particularly important to me: why should my works be offered less protection, just because they are located in public spaces, than those of other artists kept in museums? Why should there be such inequality of treatment between artists?
There are thousands of images of your work circulating online, on search engines such as Google and on social networks like Instagram. What does this mean for you?
C215: As a street artist, my work is available to a vast audience. Like many artists, I am in favour of the wide distribution of my works. But I want to keep the right to say yes or no. The problem with Google, which is in fact much more than a search engine, is that it has become a genuine image bank, in which you can choose the size, theme or colour of the images displayed. Why does an image bank like Getty Images pay out copyright fees while Google gets away with paying nothing?
Yet again, it's a legal matter. What's more, search engines and platforms don't hesitate to sell advertising around the works without the consent of the artists and they profit from this. As far as I'm concerned, this is contrary to the spirit of street art, which is all about sharing. I would go as far as to call it theft.
What do you hope that Europe will be able to do for the artists?
C215:Last year, a law was passed in France that put in place a system for search engines to pay copyright through societies of authors. I am waiting for Europe to follow suit. The platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) also finally have to take responsibility for the content that they are distributing – therefore respecting copyright – rather than leaving this responsibility to web users. The current situation makes no sense and leads to the artists and the audience being in opposition over copyright, while the internet multinationals, who stand to make the majority of the profit from the digital economy, are exonerated from paying the artists.