Infamous for its protests against the Church of Scientology and website attacks on Sony, Visa and, most recently, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the loose-knit hacker group Anonymous is perhaps best known for a single image that’s become a symbol of its anarchic movement: The V for Vendetta-inspired Guy Fawkes mask worn by its members in public protests.
However, as The New York Times notes this morning, each of those masks purchased by the largely anti-government, anti-corporation activists puts money in the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. The parent company of DC Comics, which published the Alan Moore-David Lloyd miniseries in the United States, and Warner Bros., which released the film adaptation in 2006, owns the rights to the image, and receives a licensing fee for each mask sold.
And there are a lot sold, thanks largely to the Anonymous movement. Rubie’s Costumes, the New York company that produces the masks, sells more than 100,000 a year; by comparison, it sells only about 5,000 of each of its other masks.
But it wasn’t until recently that Rubie’s knew why Guy Fawkes was a bestseller. “We just thought people liked the V for Vendetta movie,” Rubie’s executive Howard Beige tells the newspaper. “Then one morning I saw a picture of these protesters wearing the mask in an online news article. I quickly showed my sales manager.”