<body> Public Ad Campaign: Property Outlaws: How Squaters, Pirates and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Property Outlaws: How Squaters, Pirates and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership

I just finished reading Property Outlaws by Eduardo Moises Penalver and Sonia Katyal. It is by far the most interesting book I have read in relation to the PublicAdCampaign project and unauthorized productions in public space. Although not directly about actions of this nature, the book begins to tease out the some of the reasons I think street artists, graffiti writers, and unauthorized public producers create their works, and do so without regard for the legal consequences. Very early on the authors state that "There is a difference between talking about something and being confronted with an actual example of it." And isnt that what most of us as artists are doing after all, creating an actual example of the streets we desire through our actions instead of talking about how wonderful they would be if only we were allowed to use them as we see fit. It is with this thought in mind that we take to the streets and confront a public space controlled by commercial messages, ready to condemn the behavior of public citizens, with alternatives that better suit the public's needs.

In particular, the book is an incredible resource for anyone walking treacherous legal lines in order to speak out on some larger issue. It is also a wonderfully counterintuitive look at how the law might require disobedience in some cases in order to better serve our changing cultural landscape. The authors argue that property outlaws are a resource to our legal system as they challenge our notions of right and wrong in ways that are exemplary and confrontational, providing us with an experience of alternative realities we might not otherwise be privy to. The book gives credence to something we have thought for a long time, and that is in order to facilitate change, often it is the responsibility of the public to create the world they think should exist instead of merely protesting the way things are.

Property Outlaws does focus on much larger transgressions than my personal work, the NYSAT projects, or street art for that matter, and I in no way draw comparisons between these projects and civil rights activists, or the drug patent violators that the book highlights. It does however contextualize the project in a long line of civil disobedience that the authors refer to as expressive outlaw behavior. That said I was excited to note that some of the same legal strategies might be applied to PublicAdCampaign's extralegal activities in order to justify our participants unique take on facilitating changes in the way public space is used. A small example of this being that we have at PublicAdCampaign implored the city on occasion to deal with certain illegal advertising problems, in particular NPA's egregious wide spread abuse of our public environment. These requests fell on deaf ears, and the NYSAT projects although partly meant to empower the individual to create change, were essentially our last option to call attention to this issue. In a situation like this where regular avenues have failed, Property Outlaws discusses legal strategies which may be used effectively, one example being, "The necessity defense [which] has been applied in state courts to immunize acts of criminal trespass, blocking traffic, defacing tobacco billboards, and supplying clean needles to drug users."

Anyways, I only got a tenth of what I should have out of this book and plan on reading it again immediately. If you would like a taste from the Huffington Post, you can read it [HERE]



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