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Banksy — Laugh Now, 2006. Spray paint on metal, 129.5cm x 91cm.
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Has Banksy Lost Control?

06.06.21
Last week the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) dealt Banksy another dire hand, declaring him the loser in his ongoing trademark battle with the greeting card company Full Colour Black Limited. The second legal loss this year, this time he’s been shut out of the rights to his Laugh Now sandwich-board clad gorillas.

In both battles, the court cited Banky’s expressed attitudes towards copyright and his anonymous status as disqualifiers, reasons that are likely to come up in the decisions of his remaining outstanding applications: Flower Bomber, and four other well-known artworks. As Artnet reported, Banksy’s legitimising body Pest Control continue to file applications globally, and the organisations processing them will likely defer to the artist’s registered rights within the European Union – so the longstanding consequences could be substantial and far reaching.

With Banksy losing control of his imagery, in other instances he’s losing control of the narrative. For years, exhibitions have been produced without his consent or involvement, traveling “The Art of Banksy” being the most notable repeat offender. Now open for a six month stint in Covent Garden, the “unauthorised” private collection has been reviewed positively by TimeOut, Harper’s Bazaar and more. Banksy’s website basically calls it a fake. There’s something ironic about an artist committed to breaking the rules calling out those not playing by his – the term “unauthorised” especially being one Banksy himself has frequently been subject to. We all know the Walt Disney Company didn’t give the green light on Dismaland in 2015 or on the 2006 placement of his inflatable Guantanamo detainee inside Disney Land’s Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster. Still, that his work is taken out of context or monetized by others without permission doesn’t sit right, and with eyes on the upcoming court cases, it’s hard not to get the sense that this slippage is only going to continue.

Rumour has it Banksy’s developing a Pest Control like body to deal with the “product recall” of unauthorized shows. While the courts continue to strike down his claims of ownership, and his prices at auction continuing to climb, you have to wonder at this point who’s really profiting off Banksy’s anonymous status?