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Will Justin Bieber Face Penalties for Graffiti Ads in San Francisco?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Justin Bieber is trying to get street, but is he in too deep? The pop star's latest marketing campaign to promote his new album called "Purpose" entails spray painting city streets and the the San Francisco City Attorney is not at all happy about the advertising.

Bieber is not the first major commercial artist to subvert rebellion for the purposes of making more money. But he is using permanent paints, unlike guerilla marketing campaigns done in chalk or paste-up, and he might end up paying for it.

San Francisco City Attorney Says

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has threatened Bieber and his record label. He says locals have been complaining for weeks about the graffiti and the pop star is sending a message about lawlessness that is unacceptable.

Herrera also pointed out that people just don't like commercial graffiti, which uses tactics of the powerless to create legitimacy and make sales for the powerful. "Far more infuriating to the San Franciscans I hear from is commercially-sponsored graffiti vandalism," Herrera wrote to Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels and Universal Music General Counsel Jeffrey Harleston.

"This prohibited marketing practice illegally exploits our City's walkable neighborhoods and robust tourism; intentionally creates visual distractions that pose risks to pedestrians on busy rights of way; and irresponsibly tells our youth that likeminded lawlessness and contempt for public property are condoned and encouraged by its beneficiaries-including Mr. Bieber and the record labels that produce and promote him."

Will Bieber Pay?

In his letter today, Herrera noted that he is working with City leaders on legislation to "substantially enhance civil penalties" for unlawful guerrilla marketing tactics. San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin has already begun drafting the legislation.

Peskin said of the problem of commercial guerilla marketing. "Graffiti abatement and prevention are important aspects of protecting the quality of life in San Francisco neighborhood. Unfortunately, current penalties for 'guerrilla marketing' graffiti seem to reflect an acceptable cost of doing business by irresponsible companies competing for consumers' attention."

What Peskin i saying is that legitimate businesses use street tactics to sell stuff because it is worth the cost of a little trouble and they are willing to pay. But if Peskin has his way, that will change in San Francisco and commercial graffiti will cost advertisers much more than it's worth.

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