Is "Banksy on Advertising" Plagiarized?


It appears that the (kind of great) Banksy rant about advertising that's been going around lately is excerpted from his 2004 book Cut It Out and was actually written/inspired by Sean Tejaratchi circa 1999.

Here's a bit of Banksy's Piece from this year:

Fuck That. Any advert you see in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. 

...And here's Sean's from his piece in Crap Hound magazine in 1999:

If I see an ad without asking to, it's images are mine to reprint and redistribute, with clearance neither granted nor requested. ..Why should I ask my assailant's permission to keep a rock he's just thrown at my head?

Sean writes about all of the similarities here - it hardly seems possible that this is a coincidence.

Update 3/14:  Sean just Tweeted "For the record: Crap Hound thanks appeared at the end of Banksy's book. Carelessness in layout years ago = Yes. Fraudulent? No. #banksy"


  1. And therein lies the art? Perhaps anything is an advertisement – that statement was an advertisement of his views. And so banksy did the same? 

    That’s soooo meta!

      1. of course? I also take wire transfers to my nigerian bank account. whichever floats your boat…

  2. Also, sooner or later someone might fart, “How brilliantly ironic, such classic Banksy! Swiping something about swiping, then complaining that it’s been swiped!” For the record, I’m not a fan of telescoping, self-referential irony.

    I like his use of irregular verbs here. I explain, you claim, he/she/it farts

    I am a fan of telescoping, self-referential irony, though, which is why I logged out to “like” this post as soon as it went up.

  3. Seems ter me ter be inspired more than plagiarism, it ‘appens. 

    A mother’s pearly gate turn of phrase is ‘ard ter erase from one’s Jack Jones personal zeitgeist chicken pen encountered and will often ooze it’s way into your Jack Jones stream of consciousness. Especially as they ‘re bof given ter ponderin’ the bloomin’ public spaces and bof ‘re critical of overt public advertisement. 

    Personally, i’ve always wanted ter smack the chuffin’ pony ‘n’ trap aahhht of every ad that’s forced on me, less so if there is summit truly entertainin’ abaht it, but even the bleedin’ Mae West ad is ‘ated by me chicken pen it is forced on me.

    1. hmm, my solution for avoiding accidental plagiarism still needs some kinks worked out, I don’t think any publisher will accept my works fed through a cockney translator.

  4. Asking permission to say that asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

  5. Nice catch by Sean, but — on the other hand — so what? Plagiarism is bad in an academic context because researchers depend on scrupulous and accurate sourcing to maintain a web of trust and to gauge their students’ accomplishments. But in the wild of real culture, attribution is the exception rather than the norm. We might think of memes, fads, mass-cultural rhetoric, or whatever, as derivative…but we might also think of them as improvisational.

    I’m leaning towards Banksy’s defense because, even though it’s clear his general idea (and certainly the analogy about the rock) came either directly or indirectly from what Sean said before him, it doesn’t seem like he’s trying to deliberately steal credit from Sean. It seems more like he’s committed to ideas that, like most of us, he isn’t quite aware have wormed their way into his mind via Sean’s mind and, almost certainly, via other minds before that.

    1. It’s a little shitty to take the ideas, even some of the phrases, of a piece and then not credit the lesser known artist. It’s not about legality, it’s not about even questioning Banksy as an artist because of the “borrow.”

      It is about acknowledging, in this case, that Banksy has acted like a bit of a douche and rectifying it by throwing light on it and giving proper credit to the original author.

      Which I’m happy Boing Boing is doing!

      1. Historically speaking, LOTS of major authors and artists all across the world have taken the ideas and even the techniques and forms of other artists and not credited them.

        Look at ancient Rome. They saw all this great Greek stuff, and they copied it. Statues, paintings, plays, histories, popular sayings, architecture, military tactics, everything. Did the Roman authors and artists properly attribute their sources of inspiration? Most of the time, not at all!

        Attribution is a nicety – a way of showing respect for those one is consciously aware of copying. Just because some brilliant thinker thought something up 500 years ago doesn’t mean you should feel bad for thinking the same thing, nor that you even need to credit them. But sometimes you might actively choose to credit them – not out of duty or need – but out of respect and admiration.

        Essentially, crediting serves only a few real purposes.

        1) Celebrate an admired precursor.
        2) Borrow authority/legacy of a precursor for your own ends.
        3) Keep legal/financial records, such as patents/publishing, in order.
        4) Make it easier for future scholars to trace the history of something.

        Remember kids – all of the originals are dead. Copying is good for you.

        1. Ah, yes, the “people have been getting away with it for centuries, so you might as well just accept it” defense. Works well for the Vatican.

        2. Historically speaking, it can be argued that MANY major authors and artists from all over the world have copied the ideas, techniques and forms of other artists without crediting them.

          Take ancient Rome as an example. They perceived many great Greek cultural artefacts and copied them. Statues, paintings, plays, histories, popular sayings, architecture, comments, military tactics; everything. Did those Roman authors and artists give proper attribution to their sources of inspiration? Not at all, most of the time.

          Making sure to give proper attribution should be thought of as a nicety, merely a way of respecting those artists one is responsible for copying. Just because some brilliant thinker from the past managed to reach the same giddy heights of creativity as you doesn’t mean you should feel bad for harping on the same idea, not that you should even credit them. Sometimes you might actively choose to credit them; not out of duty or need but out of fear of being caught out.

          Essentially, crediting serves few real purposes.

          1) Celebrating a respected precursor.
          2) Assuming authority by drawing on the legacy of a precursor for your own ends.
          3) Keep your records, such as patents or publishing, in legal order.
          4) Make it easier for un-attributive douchebags to trace the history of the idea you created in order to seem more authentic.

          Remember kiddies, all originals are dead. Copying without attribution is not bad for you.

  6. All art is copying other art. All words are copying other words.
    And Hollywood ripped off Battle Royale and rebranded it Hunger Games.
    The entire world is copying, yet, we have copyright destroying free speech.

    1. well, to be fair, whoever the author of the Hunger Games books (i don’t care to go look right now) is the one who perhaps ripped off battle royale (which I never read). Hollywood is just capitalizing on a popular book.

      1.  Apparently the author claims she wasn’t aware of Battle Royale until after she had already written her book, and I tend to want to accept that claim – if it was a ripoff, she did a terrible job. It sounds (and the movie trailer looks) really stupid compared to Battle Royale.

  7. It’s not just plagiarized, it’s also ridiculous bullshit. You don’t have a right to “take, re-arrange, and re-use” something I own just because it’s publicly visible. Comparing seeing anything that offends your sensibilities to being physically assaulted is just begging for someone to demonstrate the difference.

    1. It seems you think that advertising is sacred. 

      In public spaces, if you don’t like what a real person is saying (perhaps they’re saying offensive things, or intruding) you can tell them to shut up, but so long as a corporation has paid to shout their equally offensive messages in public (un-owned) space, we all have to shut up and take it, right?  I don’t think so. 

      1. “It seems you think that advertising is sacred. ”

        Not even a little bit. In fact I think I was kind of saying exactly the opposite, that it’s no different than anything else. Compare it to my painting my house a color you don’t like. You can’t tell my house to shut up, can you? And you can’t avoid seeing it when you walk down the street either. No, you have to “shut up and take it,” right? Yes, yes you do.

        You don’t have a right to control everything that passes through your line of sight. You’re not Louis XIV.

    2. If you take it in the context of the art Banksy is known for, it seems to me what he’s justifying is, essentially, defacing advertising placed in public by drawing mustaches on the models.

      Of course we know that’s not really what he means, but the right to “take, re-arrange, and re-use” is something many here advocate for, and it’s essentially something we already have so long as the corporations don’t get their way. Their viewpoint may be taking it to the extreme, but the idea behind it is sound and considering that art is fundamentally about taking, rearranging, and reusing the things that came before – yes, I believe we do have that right.

      1. But as you say, he’s not talking about remixes. It’s not about intellectual property. It’s about physical property. It’s the difference between copying something and destroying it. And then having the gall to say that he had a “right” to do so because it was something that offended his delicate sensibilities.

        1. But is someone’s advertising their physical property or their intellectual property? What is a billboard ad? I don’t think it’s the paper and the ink they bought, I think it’s the message itself. The message is intellectual property.

          If advertisers are angry at someone drawing mustaches on their billboards, it’s because they’re defacing their intellectual property, not because they’re defacing their physical property.

          Put it this way: if instead of using ink, Banksy projected mustaches onto the ads so that it didn’t harm the paper at all, would the advertisers have any less right to be angry? If not, then I think we’re agreeing that what’s important is the intellectual property.

          But if we’re talking about intellectual property, then the notion of public squares, free speech and “remixing” can come into the conversation.

          1. As a matter of fact I do think they would have less of a right to be angry. But even in that case, that’s not a “remix.” A remix is taking a copy of something and modifying it. That’s not the same thing as modifying the original, which has nothing to do with “free speech.”

            If the Pepsi corporation projected ads onto the front of your house, wouldn’t you be annoyed?

  8.  Isn’t this “his thing”, the whole point of his art, movie, posters from the beginning? Meta or not, it would be against his whole groove to say or do something not based on something else. To thine own self be true, right? His “own self” may be a brand that he has created in this case, but it seems to me he stays pretty damn true to the persona he’s crafted so meticulously… every time, all the time.

  9. so, a priest, a rabbi, and a nun walk into a bar.  the bartender says “what is this, a joke?”

    someone please let me know whom i should attribute this to so that i can continue to say it.  oh, wait, no.  that’s completely ridiculous.  it may be happenstance that banksy uses appropriation in his art /= he is appropriating mr. Tejaratchi’s quote.  you and i do it every day and nobody gets worked up over it.

    1. Okay, sure.  Just so long as it’s made clear that even though Banksy published this screed under his own name, and attributed it to no-one but his own damn self, no matter how much he agrees with Sean’s point and wants to make it his own, he didn’t have the wit or honesty to put the sentiment into his own goddamned words.  Best he could do was slightly rearrange someone else’s essay.

      Yeah.  Wotta genius.

      1. thank dadaism for showing artists that skill could be a dirty a word and originality was optional.  and making it that much harder to tell the wolves from the sheep

  10. Whatever our opinion of this is, at least he’s just failing to reference a quote somewhat supporting his actions. Not, say, plagiarizing an article enforcing copyright. 

  11. I don’t see what the hub-bub is. They are two totally different ideas. Banksy said it’s “like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head,” meaning the person who was HIT gets to keep the rock. Sean said it’s like the THROWER asking to keep the rock.You can’t have two more diametrically opposed statements.

    1. Perhaps you should read again.  Sean Tejaratchi’s quote:

      Why should I ask my assailant’s permission to keep a rock he’s just thrown at my head?

      That means the permission to keep the rock must be asked of the assailant, by the target.  In other words, not diametrically opposed at all.  The opposite of opposite, in fact.  What we laypeople refer to as “the same.”

      I know the issue’s been cleared up, but you know how I can never just shut up.

    1. Being concerned about “stuff white people like” is the very essence of “first world problems.”

  12. Um, I don’t think you can plagerise ideas or concepts.  I was expecting to see he’d lifted a paragraph, but this is really reaching.

    Copyright trolling on BoingBoing is weird.  Where’s Cory when you need him?

  13. Banksy is just remixing the quote.

    Speaking of which, here’s the Skrillex version:

    “Any advert you see in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours to take, re-arrangeeeee DROP THE BASS WUB WUB WUB WUB…”

  14. Sean’s original commentary on the situation is actually pretty inspired. Seems like a lot of this comments discussion wouldn’t be taking place if people had clicked through and read his solution. 

  15. This isn’t “missing an attribution”, this is outright plagiarism.  He picked and chose specific sentences, tweaked them, and then mixed them into other sentences and made them look like his own.  How are you supposed to attribute a sentence you changed?  That Banksy tries to explain this away as bad lay out is disgusting and deceptive.

    The very idea that Banksy stole justifies stealing from big guys who make us see their stuff, Banksy hypocritically stole from a little guy who had put his idea in a book.  And stealing this sort of material isn’t the tired graffiti/pop art cultural criticism that Banksy champions; it doesn’t mean anything to “recontextualize” something if no one knows the context it started in. 

    Banksy isn’t just stealing words, and he’s not just stealing an idea, he’s stealing the “street cred” of having this great thought and mincing around in it like a Halloween costume.  He’s using the thoughts of others to build up the Banksy brand.

    If you want to help the Crap Hound guy out he happens to have a Kickstarter up to reprint the issue that Banksy stole from:

    If Banksy is really up for this whole free culture thing, maybe he should fund the whole Kickstarter in one go.  He has more money than Jesus and he obviously places great cultural value on the book.  And more importantly, he made money on that same idea that he stole – the very, very least he could do to fix this is to hand money back to reprint something that is great enough that he plagiarized it. 

Comments are closed.