Anonymity has always been an integral part of the work of the mysterious street artist known as Banksy. But recent legal setbacks for the artist might force him to finally reveal his true self. According to The National Post, Banksy has lost the rights to four of his works in recent rulings handed down by the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
The most recent ruling forced Banksy to relinquish his trademarks for two works: "Radar Rat" and "Girl with an Umbrella." Full Colour Black, a British greeting card company, argued in court that as works of graffiti in the public sphere, they have a legal right to reproduce Banksy's work in their products, an opinion that was agreed upon by the European Union Intellectual Property Office in their ruling on the matter:
"It was free to be photographed by the general public and has been disseminated widely. Banksy permitted parties to disseminate his work and even provided high-resolution versions of his work on his website and invited the public to download them and produce their own items."
Another factor in the ruling was said to be Banksy's anonymity. Since the artist's "identity cannot be legally determined," the ruling states that his anonymity effectively "hinders him from being able to protect this art under copyright laws without identifying himself." That means that if Banksy is serious about preventing other entities like Full Colour Black from re-appropriating his work, he might have to finally reveal his real name and identity in public.
Now, Banksy has to decide whether his anonymity is more important than his ability to control the ways his work might be used. If he decides to come out to protect his trademarks, it would be a significant change in his position on the subject. In "Wall and Piece," a book he wrote in 2006, Banksy stated that "copyright is for losers."
Losers perhaps, but extremely RICH losers.
In March 2021, a single Banksy piece called "Game Changer" sold at auction for $20 million. That topped his previous record of $12 million which someone paid in 2019 for a piece called "Devolved Parliament."
Imagine how much money could be generated by a line of authorized Banksy iPhone chargers, pillow cases, re-prints, post cards and more.
If you were Banksy, would you maintain your anonymity or go for the money?