Inspiration or Imitation – Banksy accused of stealing ideas

Written by Margaret Briffa | October 17, 2018


We have all heard of Banksy. A good number of us probably also gasped at his latest stunt in which one of his most famous works ‘Girl with a Balloon’ self-destructed as soon as it was purchased at auction.

Now a lesser known artist, freelance cartoonist Cindy McLeod has come forward and accused Banksy of stealing some of her ideas to create a number of his famous artworks. Mcleod first noticed similarities between her work and Banksy when she attended a Banksy exhibition in Toronto.  After some more investigation McLeod says she can point to 15 of her artworks which resemble but predate 16 of Banksy’s including his Think Tank, Bomb Middle England, Bomb Hugger and Armoured Dove of Peace.

I have taken a look at three of McLeod’s art works and it is true that for each the idea is reproduced in Banksy’s works. But that is where any similarities end as the works themselves are very different indeed. It is a well known principle of copyright law that the ideas are not protected by copyright and copyright protects the expression of those ideas when committed to material form. An artist can claim copyright where there has been copying in whole or in part where the part taken is substantial. Merely being inspired by another’s work to create your own is not an infringement of the original work. McLeod may know this because although she has accused Banksy of stealing her ideas there is no report of legal action.

So why the accusation?  Well it has certainly raised her profile. It has also taken the shine of what I assumed was pure Banksy genius and given pause for thought and that can only be a good thing.

Written by Margaret Briffa


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