Every time an Anonymous protester dons a Guy Fawkes mask, Time Warner goes "ka-ching"

Time Warner, gigantic media conglomerate and parent of Warner Brothers, owns the rights to the Guy Fawkes mask design from the 2006 Warner Brothers film “V for Vendetta.” So, every time you purchase one of those masks, they are paid a licensing fee. Nick Bilton in the New York Times has more.

(Image: Anonymous, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from cabbit's photostream)


    1. You wouldn’t download a movie would you ? ….. you wouldn’t download an MP3 would you? ….. Why would you steal an actual item from a shop!

      1. Didn’t Chumbawumba try and convince people to steal their album because they thought it was crap and nobody should pay as much as the record label wanted for it?

        That scenario is a good enough reason for me to download an MP3… and once you are in for a dime, you might as well be in for a dollar.  I wonder if there will ever be a rash of Guy Fawkes mask thefts?

  1. Okay, but what kind of cut are Fawkes’ decedents descendants getting? I mean, it’s not their fault their ancestor was a failed religious insurgent.

    1. “what kind of cut are Fawkes’ decedents getting?”

      None, I would think, being as decedents are all necessarily dead.

        1. Decedents generally do little other than rot. Descendants, on the other hand…

          (Also, please excuse my horror at the notion of decedent procreation.)

          1. I don’t normally point out spelling/word-choice errors, but when I do, they involve zombie procreation.

  2. Besides the corporate irony, this might be a good time for protestors to do some reading up on who Guy Fawkes was and ask themselves if that’s who they really identify with.

    1. Isn’t that obvious? They identify with a comic book graphic novel character turned Hollywood antihero. Because nothing says fuck the corporate media like a summer blockbuster. (Not a half bad movie, though, if for no other reason that it proved Natalie Portman could act.)

      1. No, not really.

        They don’t identify with Guy Fawkes. They don’t identify with the movie. They don’t identify with the graphic novel. They don’t identify with any one person.

        They identify as Anonymous.

        The mask is a meme in the original sense of the word. It’s an appropriated image. It’s an ideal they strive toward and – to those familiar with the origins of the mask’s current use with Epic Fail Guy – a self-referential joke at their own expense.

        They use the mask because Anonymous grew out of 4chan, and the mask as a visual image is a common touchstone for an experience that the majority of the userbase shares (that of reading V for Vendetta). But nobody is thinking about Alan Moore or Guy Fawkes when they put on the mask.

        They’re thinking about 4chan, about Anonymous, and about the intricate shells of IRC channels and off-shoot *chans that grew up around it.

        Yes, there’s a little irony to be found here – but only if you profoundly misunderstand the culture of the protestors.

  3. Not if I created the mask in Photoshop and printed it myself — Then the only winners are Adobe, HP and Hammermill.

    1. Oh god! don’t give the movie and music industry any ideas, the last thing we want is them to do is start sueing everyone who owns a printer!

  4. People aren’t identifying with Guy Fawkes, who cares about him? They’re identifying with the rebellious anti-hero Agent Smith… err, some guy what blows up stuff.

  5. in full confession to somehow coming in late to this drama, what’s the connection between “Anonymous” and ‘Scientology’?

    1. “What’s the connection between “Anonymous” and ‘Scientology’?

      They both follow the teachings of Xenu.

      1. If you know Vancouver, he’s standing right in front of the Hastings street Church of Scientology store front.

    2. Not quite sure. But the snappily attired Anon in the picture is standing on a street in downtown Austin, not two miles from where I’m sitting. The Church of Scientology has a fairly decked out building not for from there. Not sure how they get converts. Austinites mostly seem to fall into three general categories: Christians, Pagans and Atheists/Agnostics like myself.

      Update: Evidently I was wrong. The building in the background looked at first blush like the Frost Bank tower, but I can see on closer inspection that the top is different. Oops.

      1. Hey Gulliver,

        It’s actually in Vancouver, right where Fred Mason says it is in his comment; I’m the photographer and I’m afraid I’ve never been to Austin.

        1. It’s actually in Vancouver, right where Fred Mason says it is in his
          comment; I’m the photographer and I’m afraid I’ve never been to Austin.

          Looking closer I can see that is not, as I initially thought, the Frost tower in the background. Thanks for the heads up.

          Austin’s a great place to visit, especially for SXSW. I do not recommend visiting in this weather, though. Vancouver sounds nice and cool about now.

    3. in full confession to somehow coming in late to this drama, what’s the connection between “Anonymous” and ‘Scientology’?

      That’s how the anonymous… group? … got it’s start — taking on the C0$. This political stuff came later

    4. Anonymous VS Scientology was one of the first reported attacks and targets of anonymous. I am sure Wikipedia has more, but they have always kept an eye on Scientology, and will be likely to comment once investigations against Scientology are completed.

  6. “Because nothing says fuck the corporate media like a summer blockbuster.”
    Worth noting that the mask design originated in Dave Gibbons’ comic book artwork (perhaps based on one of Alan Moore’s detailed concept doodles, which in turn was perhaps based on some other historic sketch, I don’t know).

    1. Interesting. The mask’s motif does resemble those worn to masquerades since at least the Renaissance, so maybe Gibbons/Moore was trying to capture the masks of Fawke’s own era.

  7. From the article:

    “Alan Moore, the author of the graphic novel on which the movie is based,
    could not be reached for comment, but in a 2008 interview with
    Entertainment Weekly, he expressed how proud he was of the mask’s role
    in the protests of the Church of Scientology.

    ‘That pleased me,’ he said. ‘That gave me a warm little glow.'”

    I don’t mind giving our corporate overlords some money if it makes Mr. Moore happy.  They’re gonna get it out of me one way or another.

  8. Wait, so you’re telling me that Time Warner, the parent company of DC Comics (who published the original comic under their Vertigo imprint) gets a cut when a licensed product is sold?

    I don’t get it. Where does the movie even come into play? Warner Brothers puts out all the DC movies, don’t they? Am I supposed to be mad about this?

    This is nothing but phony outrage trolling.

  9. …..and? You’re saying that when you buy something, an entity on the other end gets money. I fail to detect the point.

  10. Isn’t that mask mentioned in the story because it’s a common product in Britain, used to build Guy Fawkes effigies who would be burned at bonfire night? How can Time Warner have a copyright on a design dating back to the 18th century?

    1. How can Time Warner have a copyright on a design dating back to the 18th century?

      Kind of like how Disney owns Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, etc, etc

      1. Disney doesn’t own Snow White, and so forth. Only an depiction. You’re free to come up with a children’s book based on the original fairy tale. Which brings up the question how different is the ‘V’ Guy Fawkes mask from the traditional one? Tino is right that in the context of the story, V is simply using a found product.

  11. Here´s the papercraft version; totally free of charge and looking every bit as dapper as the plastic one:
    all you need is a printer, scissors, and glue.

    A paper mask is what was worn in the original graphic novel, anyway. The backstory is that “V” is donning a disposible mask that is commonly sold and used as a face on the straw man dummys that english children used to burn in effigy on Guy Fawkes day, to celebrate the execution. Adds a few layers to the whole thing, doesn’t it.

  12. Do an image search for “Guy Fawkes effigy” to see some of the traditional masks used for Guy Fawkes effigies.  The Warner Brothers licensed version is similar, but rather more stylized than most of them.

    I’m with others here, though, in wondering what the point of this post is.  

    When you buy a licensed product based on a film prop, the licensing company gets a cut.  

    Well, yeah. And…what?  What’s your point?

    1. Uh, hello. Because Anonymous is ardently anti-capitalist and it highlights some irony. I can’t believe this needs to be pointed out.

      1. “Anonymous is ardently anti-capitalist”?


        So its members shouldn’t buy… well, almost anything, really.  Right?

      2. “Anonymous is ardently anti-capitalist”

        Look at this guy assigning intention and motives not currently present in Anonymous

      3. “Because Anonymous is ardently anti-capitalist”

        Wow, no. Not at all.

        When Anonymous has any kind of discernible goal, it’s far closer to pro-civil-liberties than anti-capitalist. The only way you could classify them as anti-capitalist is by pretending that a good three quarters of their raids never happened.

        And even what I just said isn’t true at all. Don’t think of Anonymous as having one single, identifiable ideology. Think of Anonymous as being against whatever happens to annoy a critical mass of its free-flowing userbase.

  13. I got mine for free at the Warner Brothers panel at Comic-Con a few years back, when they were promoting the movie. Am I clean? ;)

  14. Oh, and it’s fairly likely that the basic premise here is wrong, too.  Most movie tie-in merchandise  licensing contracts these days are a flat fee upfront.  The studios prefer the immediate and certain revenue of an upfront fee to the uncertain and drawn-out revenue stream of a percentage.

    I’m not privy to Warners’ licensing terms for this particular item, but it’s fairly likely that whether or not you buy a licensed V For Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to Warner Brothers’ bottom line.

  15. One of the news stories covering the mini-protest a couple weeks ago mentioned that Costumes on Haight, a small, independent, locally-owned shop, was out of Guy Fawkes masks after Anonymous suggested wearing them to the protest. 

    Costumes on Haight has been around since I’ve been in SF, so that’s at least 20 years. And they’re good people based on my experience. They rented my design company a Chicken Suit for a really, really affordable price when we enacted an internet parody of the silver-swoosh Nike Shoe cult hullaballoo. They thought it was a funny idea, so they cut us a deal. We were a very small company, just starting out, and the discount and their flexible rental terms meant a lot to us. So we gave them business in the future. 

    I mention this experience because I believe it’s a good example of how local businesses can engage in capitalism in a humanist, mutually-beneficial way. When I thought of the other places one could purchase a Guy Fawkes mask, I could think of only a couple more independent shops.

    OK, so Warner Brothers makes a penny off every mask purchased. But these independent shops make some change too. And I’m happy about that. 

    We live in a capitalist society. Sure, there are choices to be made about consumption, but it’s impossible to escape the fact that we usually exchange money for goods when we’re not, say, bartering goats for them.

    Were I to purchase a mask, I would do so at a locally-owned business and I wouldn’t have an ethical qualm about it. In fact, I’d be glad that I was helping them stay in business. I like local businesses. They add flavor to neighborhoods, they keep the social fabric of a neighborhood coherent and vibrant, and they often keep my friends housed and clothed through the money they earn running their small business or working there. So, I say forget WB, and buy, don’t steal, the mask from a cool independent shop.

    If the penny WB makes off the purchase really bothers you, I’m sure you could figure out a way to take that penny back.

  16. The fact that some megacorp makes a buck when you purchase an item that is partly symbolic of your opposition to stuff like megacorps making a buck out of almost everything hardly invalidates the sentiment.

    Rather, it’s a case in point. If you think finding a trace of hypocrisy is genuine grounds for disregarding an argument, everybody is reduced to the status of fish in a barrel.

  17. Here’s what I’m hearing:

    Nick Bilton: You kids don’t even know what you’re doing! You think you’re making a counter-culture statement, but really you’re just advertising for Warner Brothers. Back in my day we dropped acid on the National Mall and lifted the White House with our minds.

    Anonymous members: You’re such an old man, Nick Bilton. Who cares about Warner Bros making money? They’re not our enemy. Plus, we think the mask looks cool.

    Anonymous is not a highly principled, focused movement. They’re guys who hang out in forums and enjoy sticking it to the man in their free time. Judging by some of the comments in this thread, Anonymous members are not so much anti-establishment as they are pro-self-empowerment. So I don’t see the use of the mask as hypocritical, which is what I think Nick’s point was.

    The whole article feels kind of petty. Like some technical detail is going to discredit what is clearly a legitimate subculture. However, reading it did inspire me to go looking for a more in-depth article about Anonymous and I found one here: http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/wired-article-about-anonymous.46803/

  18. So the unabomber felt bad and “inauthentic” when he bought electrical wires from Wal-Mart?  Doesn’t wash in the least.

  19. Is this supposed to be some “ah-ha?” Any Anon wearing one of those masks clearly knows their money’s going somewhere. The movement as a whole is not anti-capitalist by a longshot.

  20. (Er, this should be a reply to Gulliver from Austin up there. ^ )
    Big signs outside that say “FREE PERSONALITY TESTING” and “OPEN HOUSE TODAY.” The local chapter here is holed up in a gorgeous looking (what I believe to be) ex-Masonic Temple, and I’ve been tempted to wander in just to see it from the inside. But I’m afraid.

    Saw a licensed Guy Fawkes mask at a seasonal shop this past weekend, priced at $11.99. Very thin plastic, a small step above an old school Ben Cooper mask. Seeing a very nice, thick solid plastic venetian raven mask for $8.99 made me a bit sad.

    1. The local chapter here is holed up in a gorgeous looking (what I believe
      to be) ex-Masonic Temple, and I’ve been tempted to wander in just to
      see it from the inside. But I’m afraid.

      They do have nice buildings (they do say “new cult” stands out…or is that money). I pass the one here nearly every day on my way to work, but I too have yet to wonder in.

  21. Nick Bilton is an idiot, a minion of the dying NYT media conglomerate that musters a feeble tu quoque argument of the “I saw a hippie drinking a Coca-Cola, your argument is irrelevant” variety. The original V was a ghost in the machine who listened to Motown records and used the tools of the establishment against them, but never mind, little Nicky. The NYT is doing great! The paywall absolutely works! Your future is assured! Now run along and find some stale trend that you can pretend is new so that you can write about it in the Style section, there’s a lad.

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