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Banksy Sues Italian Exhibition for Trademark Infringement

Ironically, the secretive street artist once wrote: “Copyright is for losers.”

One of the new Banksy murals in Midwood, Brooklyn (all photos by the author unless indicated otherwise)
A Banksy mural in Midwood, Brooklyn (photo by Benjamin Sutton)

Banksy has reached his last straw when it comes to the unauthorized resale of his work. In recent years, unauthorized Banksy exhibitions have popped up all over the globe, much to his disdain.

On his website, Banksy lists 10 unauthorized exhibitions and writes:

Members of the public should be aware there has been a recent spate of Banksy exhibitions[,] none of which are consensual. They’ve been organised entirely without the artist’s knowledge or involvement. Please treat them accordingly.

But rather than shredding another million-dollar painting to display his discontent, the artist launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against an Italian company over their unofficial Banksy merchandise — and won. In late 2018, Pest Control (the company Banksy started as a watchdog for his work on the market), sued the organizers of a Milan exhibition called A Visual Protest. The Art of Banksy.

While the exhibition featured authentic Banksy prints and paintings, the gift shop was chock-full of merchandise touting Banksy imagery, including journals and postcards marked with the secretive street artist’s work.

The judge in Milan ruled that the exhibition organizers needed to cease distribution of unauthorized merchandise but ruled against Pest Control’s request that the exhibition stop using Banksy’s work in its promotional materials.

Ironically, on the copyright page of the artist’s book Wall and Piece, the anonymous artist wrote: “Copyright is for losers” — I guess we all have our limits.

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