French Far-Right Politician Adopts Banksy Artwork as Logo
One of the most well-known pieces of street art is undoubtedly ‘Rage, Flower Thrower’ – a stencilled work that is instantly recognisable as a Banksy. In addition to authenticated prints by the artist and its original on-street mural, the classic stencil – which is also known as ‘Flower Bomber’- the powerful work has been widely reproduced on everything from t-shirts to phone cases. The flower thrower figure has even been released as a vinyl toy through a Brandalism x Mediacom x Banksy collaboration.
Whilst many of these reproductions are unauthorised they share the aim of celebrating the piece and spreading the artist’s message. In 2008 his representatives released a statement advising that ‘Banksy has a casual attitude to copyright and encourages the reproduction of his work for your own personal amusement’. However, given he is known for using his art as a form of political commentary, we can’t wait to hear how Banksy feels about its latest adoption. French politician Marine Le Pen – leader of the far-right group Front National – has used the Flower Thrower as a logo for her 2017 presidential campaign. It has been adapted to feature her symbol – a blue rose.
Banksy is yet to release a statement about the use of his revered piece by the movement whose political views seem to be diametrically opposed to his own. Given Le Pen is on record as taking a xenophobic, anti-immigration stance and promoting nationalism, and Banksy has been open in his support for the Calais migrants – even installing murals in the Calais Jungle before it was dismantled – we cannot believe this is something that will sit well.
It is frequently the case that musical artists distance themselves from politicians who play their songs at rallies or during campaigns. Francois Hollande once controversially used the Jay Z and Kanye West track ‘N*ggaz in Paris’ in a video for his French presidential campaign, ABBA demanded American Republican John McCain stop using ‘Take A Chance On Me’ for political purposes, and a whole host of bands from Aerosmith to The Rolling Stones, and solo artists including Adele and Elton John sent requests or cease and desist letters to the Donald Trump campaign, asking him to stop using their music.
Whilst musicians’ works are protected by copyright laws and politicians who use their songs to promote campaigns without their permission can be penalised, there are currently no such obvious protections available to street artists.
Many contemporary urban artists have been seeking to protect their work in recent times as big business has begun to exploit this loophole. Cases include the US clothing retailer American Eagle who was sued by the street artist David Anasagasti for using an exact copy of his work prominently in their international advertising campaigns without permission and graffiti artist RIME suing Italian fashion house Moschino and its designer Jeremy Scott who used his ‘Vandal Eyes’ mural and signature tag as a print for the label’s womenswear.
During the Moschino case, Scott’s legal team stated in a motion that: “As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally. Brazen and willful violations of the law cannot, and, indeed, should not result in the award of copyright privileges”.
As both cases were settled out of court there is still no definitive ruling as to whether street art is worthy of the copyright protection afforded to other art forms. However, if the work also appears in a legal, physical manifestation by the artist, it may be more likely to be regarded in the same legal way as more traditional forms of contemporary art. According to artlawjournal.com ‘Any original work of authorship (whether a huge mural or a tiny scribble) that contains some minimal level of creativity automatically becomes copyrighted the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium’.
It further states that there are two basic requirements for a piece of art to be eligible for copyrighting. Firstly, it must be completely original and ‘a product of the artist’s creativity’. Secondly, ‘the work must exist in the world for more than a transitory moment, as, for example, a painting, text, musical score or recording, or a photograph’ – whilst this is clearly the case for pieces of street art, the legality of the installation is what has been at issue in many instances. What do you think – should creators be able to copyright street art? Let us know on Facebook.