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Banksy Hits “Guess” For Stealing His Artwork; Is Guess Liable For Copyright Infringement?

England-based street artist Banksy, accused clothing brand, Guess of stealing his artwork. The Academy Award-nominated graffiti artist took to Instagram and posted a photo of the Regent Street Store in London, suggesting shoplifters visit. He claimed that the famous clothing company used his designs without his permission. Read on to know all about these accusations.

Guess Accused For Banksy’s ‘Flower Thrower Graffiti’

If Banksy’s accusations turn out to be true, Guess would get into some serious legal trouble. The Academy-Award-nominated street artist took to Instagram and shared a photo of Guess’s Regent Steet Store in London, suggesting shoplifters should visit.

The famous graffiti artist wrote on Instagram: “They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to their clothes?” One can see that the shop features Banksy’s famous Flower Thrower graffiti plus clothes bearing his image. 

The artist accused the famous clothing brand of stealing his artwork and using his designs without his prior permission. If you’re a Guess fan, you may be aware that the company’s recent adverts pertain to a new clothing line, which brags about items “with graffiti by Banksy”. Even though they’ve credited the artist, the company never took his permission for the same.

Guess, on the other hand, called the collection “a collab with Brandalised”, and describe it as  “an urban graffiti license whose mission is to offer Banksy fans affordable graffiti collectibles.” Banksy’s artwork included “a woman in rollers and a gas mask holding a fire extinguisher, and a Vladimir Putin lookalike being thrown to the floor by a child in a judo match”. Guess, however, hasn’t responded to Banksy’s accusations yet.

Is Guess Liable For Copyright Infringement?

Even though it appears that Banksy may have a copyright infringement case, he seems to have been swayed by too many emotions. In his recent post, the artist encouraged shoplifting, which is a serious offence. As a result, Guess closed the store to the public and placed security outside, covering the window display. Even its staff declined to talk to news outlets.

As for this controversial collection, Guess chief creative officer Paul Marciano previously said: “The graffiti of Banksy has had a phenomenal influence that resonates throughout popular culture. This new capsule collection with Brandalised is a way for fashion to show its gratitude.”

On the copyright issue, lawyer Liz Ward, who is the founder of Virtuoso Legal sided with Guess and stated that the company “appeared to have legitimately sourced the Banksy artwork via a third party, namely Brandalised”. Now, the catch here is that Brandalised has the “legal rights” to commercialise and use Banksy’s artworks on goods. This leaves Banksy with no relief.

She further stated: “It isn’t known if Banksy approved or even knew about this deal. If he did know about it, then perhaps his comments are there to create some kind of guerrilla marketing campaign. If he didn’t know about it, then he must be quite annoyed, especially as such mainstream companies and brands don’t accord with his anti-establishment views.”

Another trouble is that even if he wants to legally entangle Guess or Brandalised, the fact that she/he wants to remain anonymous would make it impossible to happen. Copyright infringement is “extremely serious and can cause long-term commercial damage”, but is normally a civil offence, the lawyer emphasised.

But again, shoplifting is a serious criminal offense, and Banksy may face some real trouble for encouraging shoplifting in case Guess decides to press charges. Neither Banksy’s representatives nor Brandalised commented on the said issue. FYI, Banksy recently won an appeal to allow him to keep the trademark of one of his famous images, “a monkey wearing a sandwich board”, at the EU Intellectual Property Office. As for this matter, things seem a little blurry. What do you think? 

I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.


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