Constitutional Law

As Graffiti Artist Wins Mainstream Success, DA Seeks Injunction Barring Any Profit From His Tag

Cristian Gheorghiu has only paid about $5,000 of the $28,000 in fines he got after being convicted of being one of the most prolific graffiti taggers in Los Angeles.

But, as he gains a name in the mainstream art world, it appears the subculture sensation may have a chance of doing so. There is, however, one major potential roadblock: Even though Gheorghiu says he now works legally on canvases rather than buildings that don’t belong to him, a city attorney is pursuing an unusual legal case seeking to block him from using his well-known tag in connection with his art, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The city argues that Gheorghiu’s graffiti violated state unfair competition laws by giving him free publicity. He himself describes his work as “crime transformed into art,” officials point out, contending that he once told a sheriff’s investigator that placing evidence stickers on confiscated paintings would up their value as art.

“We don’t want to take away anyone’s living, but we don’t want anyone profiting from their crimes,” Deputy City Atty. Travis Austin tells the newspaper.

The American Civil Liberties Union is defending Gheorghiu and says the city’s position interferes with his constitutional right of free expression.

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