Justin Bieber Graffiti

San Francisco’s City Attorney is threatening to sue all parties behind Justin Bieber’s guerrilla marketing campaign that permanently graffitied sidewalks in San Francisco last month, “to compensate city taxpayers for all [removal] costs, civilly punish wrongdoing, and publicly discourage such illicit conduct by other would-be commercial vandals.”

From Dennis Herrera’s demand letter to the CEO of Def Jam Recordings and an EVP at Universal Music Group, which is to be mailed this morning:

“As San Francisco’s elected City Attorney, I am empowered to pursue civil claims wherever cause exists—as it does here—on behalf of the City and its taxpayers. Under state law, I can to (sic) sue on behalf of the People of the State of California for violations of our Unfair Competition Law, which would certainly include the unfair and unlawful practices reflected in the guerrilla marketing for Mr. Bieber’s album on our public sidewalks. Potential remedies for such actions successfully brought under state and local law include civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each act of unlawful or unfair competition, remuneration for costs, and injunctive relief.”

Herrera’s letter demands the identification of all parties, “including but not limited to business entities, individuals, contractors, subcontractors, or their agents,” responsible for the graffiti; a full accounting of every tag (i.e., each act) within San Francisco’s City limits; and cooperation in drafting a proposal “to resolve the full scope of wrongdoing and avoid civil litigation.”

In related news, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin has started drafting legislation that would substantially enhance civil penalties for unlawful guerrilla marketing tactics employed in San Francisco.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by jwb

    Previously: “IBM to Pay for Its Sidewalk Graffiti: Computer giant IBM will pay $100,000 and cover the cost of scouring hundreds of peace symbol graffiti stencils from city sidewalks after what miffed officials here call a misguided guerrilla street ploy this spring to promote the company’s new product line.”

  2. Posted by aerel

    This corporate graffiti nonsense is the height of tastelessness and arrogance. They should sue the bejezus out of them.

  3. Posted by MyOddCommentHandle

    I think it’s all just advertising. I hear those prime-spot freeway billboards can cost $70,000/month.

    this is free media coverage in the SF market (the news/media coverage). plus local politics and lawsuits.

    the record label is gonna get a good deal if it’s anything under $5-10 million fine.

    settlement probably won’t even crack $500K.

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Good point. The city attorney and the D.A. really should use their subpoena powers to dig up the precise individuals and companies who did this and commence criminal vandalism proceedings (and then plea them out for a hefty payment). The threat of criminal prosecution is really the best way to put a stop to criminal acts. Otherwise, this is just business as usual, and in the unlikely even you get busted, you just pay and get out cheap regardless.*

      Yeah, I know that this is not the highest priority for the cops and DA or city attorney. But neither is 99% of the crime that gets investigated. And this still should be shut down and is a pretty easy one to handle.

    • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

      When will these companies stop doing that? Zynga was fined $45,000 for vandalism in 2010.

      They must be made to post a formal apology in media and be shamed.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        As we first reported above, Supervisor Aaron Peskin is now working on legislation that would substantially enhance civil penalties for unlawful guerrilla marketing tactics employed in San Francisco. No word on whether or not he intends to include public shaming or stockades as well.

        • Posted by ess

          It’ll probably be used primarily to go after graffiti writers.

  4. Posted by Oh Dear

    Now if the DA would just go after all the other taggers…

    • Posted by Some Guy

      OK let’s reason this out. Combined net worth of all the other taggers in San Francisco County: $25,000? present net worth of Justin Bieber: 25 million? Need I say more.

      • Posted by Oh Dear

        Right you can’t get blood from a turnip origin, but you could get 52 saturdays cleaning up tags…

        • Posted by ess

          This is already happening. You ever wonder how police cars get so clean?

          • Posted by soccermom

            They wipe them down with $100’s from the city treasury?

      • Posted by SFRealist

        Actually from what I’ve heard many taggers are rich kids from Marin. Fine them too

        • Posted by JIPB

          Taggers and grafitti “artists” (and there parents when appropriate) should be subject to civil and criminal prosecution. I would particularly love to see criminal prosecution of individuals in corporations who commit crimes. The people who authorized and/or paid the people who did the Bieber tagging should get a misdemeanor criminal record and spend some weekends picking up garbage in a bright colored jump suit. Plus a hefty punitive fine on the company.

  5. Posted by Amewsed

    This is what happens when SF never took graffiti seriously as a problem for years. “Oh, the taggers are just artists, disadvantaged youth, harmless, and/or we’ll make property owners bear the costs and burden of cleaning it up.” If the City Attorney and Supervisors are serious about changing the image of SF, criminalize all graffiti acts and go after all the individuals for civil penalties.

    • Posted by Landru

      They won’t have to pay a thing. People get away with graffiti all the time. And don’t forget: corporations are people,my friend.

    • Posted by alberto rossi

      The story of the civil lawsuit against tagger Coze made a big splash a while ago.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        “Coze” never showed up to defend against this lawsuit. A hearing for a default judgment will occur soon. City asking for $200,000 and an injunction against possessing spray paint etc. Default judgment should be granted. Then we’ll see if the city follows through and collects – garnishing wages, seizing property, etc. – as they should.

        I wonder if she has stopped her graffiti since this lawsuit was filed?

        • Posted by Amewsed

          Make the City employees’ pensions dependent on successfully obtaining garnishments from this graffiti taggers. Two birds. One stone.

          • Posted by ess

            Your imagination is fertile.

        • Posted by alberto rossi

          Thanks for the update!

  6. Posted by Some Guy

    Where is Zack Galifianakis when you need him?

  7. Posted by SFrentier

    I like how peskin is quick to jump on creating legislation against “corporate-marketing” related tagging, but of course, everyone else is *yawn* property owners responsibility. peskin represents everything that is wrong with creating over reaching, and selective, legislation.

  8. Posted by Jamie

    Excellent work by City Attorney’s Office to try to keep this blight off our public property. Good for Supervisor Peskin to pursue increased penalties to give City a bigger deterrent since this seems to still happen once or twice per year – with 2009 being the first time I saw such guerilla marketing, that time on The Embarcadero.

  9. Posted by soccermom

    Sometimes the universe is good. I recently watched an episode of PBS’s “Cyberchase” where the kids face the public conundrum of the use/reuse of existing green space. An evil bad guys poses as REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER and tries to take over a spot. He hires none other than “Dustin Cheezer” to distract the local planning commission from understanding his evil real estate plans.

    It’s so twenty-teens it hurts.

  10. Posted by jamesjr

    The number one tagger in SF this year is the “Cryst” guy. He has cost the city hundreds of thousands in clean-up.
    He has not spent one night in jail or paid a cent in fines, as far as I can tell.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      Looks like they did .

      • Posted by Rillion

        I see he was charged and the trial started in July, but I can’t find any news of there being a resolution.

  11. Posted by Adam

    Amazing that this is still going on after several lawsuits over the last few years.

  12. Posted by BayviewSF

    What’s the harm this will cause to the citizens? Maybe the city can start selling the sidewalk space for guerrilla marketing campaign at $10M per day so that there is no need to collect property tax from homeowners any more.

  13. Posted by Hitman

    The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project & Causa Justia did something very similar and even boasted about it on their Facebook pages. I would like to see the City Attorney go after them too!

    • Posted by soccermom

      Hitman truth!

      Does the law apply to all equally?
      What conversations have Dennis Herrera and Erin McElroy had?

      • Posted by alberto rossi

        Perhaps not in this instance, but the law does distinguish political speech from commercial speech.

        • Posted by soccermom

          Targeting specific properties with vandalism intended to diminish the value of the same properties seems relatively commercial to me.

        • Posted by Jake

          Political speech is protected, but not acts of vandalism to promote speech. If the people that stenciled their message on the sidewalk had instead stood there and handed out flyers with the same image or just spoke the words to whoever passed by, then no vandalism, just speech, hopefully truthful.

          Commercial speech is done for the intent of making a profit. Doubt they expected to reap a payoff from those stencils, unlike Def Jam Recordings and Universal Music Group.

    • Posted by 4th Gen SF'er

      We have to vote all of them out. Everyone should be fined within an inch of their life for tagging imho. And Bieber should be fined millions.

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