26 February 2013

It's not "your" Banksy

Who owns graffiti?

Let's say you own a building.  Yes, I know that for some this concept of property rights is rather alien, but humour me for a moment.  It's your building.  You have a wall on the property line up against the footpath or another public space.

If someone spray painted it you'd think that you had every right to do what you wish with your wall, as long as you don't put others at risk.  You could leave it, remove it/paint over it, or even remove the wall right?

Banksy Wood Green
No.  You see this is exactly what has happened in Wood Green, London.  

The anonymous artist 'Banksy' had painted this image of a child working in sweatshop conditions making bunting.  The owner of the building, a pair of property developers, cut out the wall to sell it at an art auction in the United States, sparking outrage.   Locals were outraged considering that the art was "theirs", because it could be seen publicly.

The sale was halted as even the FBI allegedly asked Scotland Yard to "investigate" according to the Evening Standard, but Scotland Yard has refused to investigate as it is not a criminal matter.

The locals who thought a wall, that they didn't own, was theirs, managed to gee up a few local politicians, ever keen to hop on a bandwagon and treat property rights as ephemeral.  Alan Strickland, a Labour councillor (big surprise) for Haringey has said he wants it returned.  Local MP, Lynne Featherstone (Liberal Democrat - another party with little respect for private property rights) has also called for it to be returned asking "will we get it back"?  Who is this "we"?  

Why do politicians think that just because a (relatively small) group of loud people demand other people's property that this is "ok"?  Do they really think that the future of graffiti on a private wall should be put to public acclaim?  Does it mean anyone can paint your external wall and if he gets a gang of locals and a couple of leftwing politicians on side, that you can't paint over it?

One of the owners points out the irony:

I cannot believe it’s over graffiti on a wall that has caused this. We had a case with one of our buildings where we had graffiti and the council told us they would fine us over £1000 if we didn’t remove it.“The council have done nothing to protect it. They’ve not helped us in any way. They’ve just caused us more problems and more problems"

So on your own property, the council fines you if it doesn't like it, but then harasses if it does?

It ought to be simple.

If Banksy (or anyone) chooses to paint on a wall of a building that he doesn't own (or without the permission of the owner), then he takes the risk that it is removed, obliterated or left as is.  Bear in mind that using someone else's property temporarily is the crime of conversion, and that the painting may be seen as vandalism.  Art it may be to some observers, but it isn't their property.  You don't have the right to tell other people what they may do with their property.

The owners were quite within the rights to ignore the baying crowd and remove the wall.  The baying crowd that didn't offer to buy it, that didn't do anything to protect the wall, that are only too willing to demand something that isn't theirs becomes theirs.   Cheered on by politicians that belong to parties that would tax the property owners every year to pay for the bloated states they support.

Not one of them offering to buy the wall themselves with their own money, they just want to regulate and interfere.

What of Banksy?  Well if he wants his art to be protected then he might approach the property owners before he paints on their walls.   Yes that "isn't the point" and is part of the anarchy that the anti-establishment loves, but property rights are important.  Because when you can't control what you own, then you don't own it.   So if he wants to be "pure", then accept that sometimes the property owners wont like it, sometimes they will accept it and sometimes they will say "thank you, that's our wall".

1 comment:

Kiwiwit said...

Even Kafka couldn't have imagined this.