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6 DePaul-LCA J. Art & Ent. L. 225 (1995-1996)
Are They Graffiti Artists or Vandals--Should They Be Able or Caned: A Look at the Latest Legislative Attempts to Eradicate Graffiti

handle is hein.journals/dael6 and id is 231 raw text is: Are They Graffiti Artists or Vandals? Should They Be Able or
Caned?: A Look at the Latest Legislative Attempts to
Eradicate Graffiti
Graffiti has been around for centuries.' However, only recently has it drawn
such wide-spread attention. Private citizens and public officials are outraged and
frustrated by the effort and cost associated with trying to remove graffiti. Given
that graffiti costs the nation $4 to $5 billion a year,2 it is understandable why it
has been the focus of much debate. Legislators have responded by inundating the
system with various solutions to the problem. Yet, despite the increased atten-
tion, graffiti still endures.
Section I of this Update takes a brief look at the background of graffiti and
details the different types of graffiti and the motivations behind them. Section II
examines the arguments of graffiti proponents and opponents. Section m ex-
plores the First Amendment rights of graffiti artists. Finally, Section IV analyzes
the legislative and other various responses to the problem of graffiti, highlighting
California's latest legislative proposal which would have permitted the caning of
graffiti writers. This Update concludes by suggesting that the most effective
solution in stemming the tide of graffiti is to recognize the expressive element in
the writer's work through a combination of programs and laws, and balance this
expression against the public's interest in keeping property free from unwanted
Graffiti is defined as an ancient drawing or writing scratched on a wall or
other surface.3 However, graffiti more commonly refers to an inscription,
drawing or design, scratched, painted, sprayed or placed on a surface, without
the consent of the owner, so as to be seen by the public.4 Graffiti has existed
for several thousand years.5 Yet, its popularity has exploded only recently within
the past thirty to forty years, appearing on both public and private property, in
low-income, middle-class, and affluent neighborhoods.6
1. Marisa A. Gomez, Note, The Writing on Our Walls: Finding Solutions Through Distinguish-
ing Graffiti Art From Graffiti Vandalism, 26 U. MicH. J.L. REF. 633, 636 n.7 (1993) (stating the
Mayans of Guatemala produced graffiti dated between 100 B.C. and 700 A.D.).
2. Carl Herko, The Writing on the Wall: Urban Graffiti's Deeper Meaning, THE BUFFALO
NEWS, Aug. 24, 1993, Lifestyles Sec., at 1.
4. Sherwin-Williams Co. v. City of San Francisco, 857 F. Supp. 1355, 1358 (N.D. Ca. 1994).
6. Gomez, supra note I, at 641 n.40.

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