“Sentiti Libera”: from street art in Genoa to the Manifesto Dress at Sanremo Music Festival 2023

While Sanremo is over for this year, this Kat is still musing on possible IP issues during the most appreciated Italian music show. 

The background

Artwork by Arianna Gallo

First of all, it is necessary to set the scene: Sanremo 2023, the 73rd edition of the Festival della Musica Italiana (Italian Music Festival), is one of the most followed and watched TV shows in Italy that takes place each February. While the main host has remained the same for the past few years, it is tradition to choose different co-hosts for every day of the festival. This year, Chiara Ferragni took on that role for the first and for the last night.  As a digital entrepreneur, she represents one of the most influential people in the business of social media. Her main platform is Instagram where she shares pictures and videos of her daily life and of her business with her nearly 30 million followers. As said by the same main host of the festival, she was chosen because of her following and influence to represent a relatively new area of business and of entertainment. She is also known to challenge the stereotypes given by society and to propose revolutionary solutions in relation to the fashion scene, where she is a major player. In particular, she is known to use the fashion scene to promote awareness campaigns and charitable projects in relation to several important issues, including, mainly, women empowerment and awareness in relation to gender-based violence.

What happened on and off the stage of Sanremo?

During the first night of the Sanremo Music Festival, Ferragni wore four Dior dresses custom-made by Maria Grazia Chiuri for the event, while at the same time she wanted to share the message of freeing oneself from the roles imposed on them by society.  Indeed, the first dress was a classic ‘black silk corolla dress inspired by @dior’s tradition that is integrated with the manifesto-stole
Instagram post

 embroidered with the claim “Pensati Libera”’ (translated as: Think yourself free). Then followed a slideshow of pictures shared on Ferragni's Instagram explaining the choice made in relation to the outfit and the message behind the Manifesto Dress. One picture in the slideshow represented the photograph of a stone coat of arms on which the two words were written on top of a branch of leaves that appeared in Genoa after a feminist march. Underneath the photo, Claire Fontaine, an artistic duo that specialises in “ready-mades” (the wording the duo uses to describe the art term “found objects”), was acknowledged as the author of the photograph. However, the main message behind the words on the Dior dress was inspired by the words of the piece of street art. 

The following day, street and tattoo artist Cicatrici Nere (translated: Black Scars) posted on Instagram a video in which they claimed the authorship of the piece of street art and the fact that it was one of their best known and used themes, stating that the two words are not a slogan, manifesto, trend or fashion detail, but a message of individual freedom and women empowerment.

Street art

All this raises interesting IP points concerning the Italian IP legal system. The first one relates to street art and graffiti and how they are protected under the Italian law. 

Street art and graffiti are usuall artworks that are: (1) created in a urban context, (2) made without authorisation, (3) located in a place accessible to the public and (4) often seek to convey a specific message [more Katposts on street art here]. The general rule at the EU level is that street art can be protected by copyright like any other work.

Cicatrici Nere’s street art in Bologna
In Italy, diritto d’autore protects every work that expresses the creative idea and process of the person that created it. Consequently, according to Law 22.04.1941 No. 633, copyright protection is granted to all creative intellectual works, irrespective of the manner in which they are expressed (Article 1). According to the Italian legal system, it is necessary for a work neither to be fixed, as it instead the case in the UK and the US, nor to be the result of a lawful activity. In other words, while in some instances activities resulting in street art can fall within the scope of Articles 639 and 635 of the Italian Criminal Code (respectively, in relation to littering or damaging someone else’s property), the street art in itself can be protected under copyright law. In all this, street art could give of course rise to conflicts between IP and real property owners [more detailed analysis here], but this is not relevant to the present discussion.

Of course, a work needs to be original to be protected and one may wonder if Cicatrici Nere's street art "Pensati libera" satisfies such a requirement, given that it is a very short phrase.

Photographic reproductions and “found objects” 

The other issue is linked to the reproduction of a work, either through photographic methods or as part as another work that comprises the original work in itself. 

Both at the EU and domestic level, taking a picture or a photograph of an original work amounts to reproduction, and as such generally requires permission from the author and/or copyright owner. 

@chiaraferragni’s Instagram post
In the present case, one may wonder whether the reproduction of 'Pensati Libera' could amount to prima facie infringement, for the reasons listed above: is Cicatrici Nere's "Pensati libera" an original work?


With street art it is often difficult to go back to the original art piece due to the core characteristics of this type of art and the many external factors that could shape and modify an artwork placed in a public space without physical safeguards. The work, from the moment when it was created as a piece of street art in Genoa, became potentially protectable under Italian copyright law, which includes both commercial and moral rights. 

A few days have passed since the initial reaction from the Instagram account Cicatrici Nere, on which the issue was brought up. On Thursday 9 February, Claire Fontaine’s profile page on Instagram amended the credits to the picture of the coat of arms bearing the two words, acknowledging Cicatrici Nere’s authorship in relation to the piece of street art. Cicatrici Nere was not after commercial enforcement but only recognition of their work.   

“Sentiti Libera”: from street art in Genoa to the Manifesto Dress at Sanremo Music Festival 2023 “Sentiti Libera”: from street art in Genoa to the Manifesto Dress at Sanremo Music Festival 2023 Reviewed by Chiara Gallo on Monday, February 20, 2023 Rating: 5

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