Time Warner Takes Anonymous to the Bank

When the hackers emerge en masse, Time Warner is the one getting paid

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Hacking collective Anonymous usually have a hard time making friends. They aren't the most popular kids on the playground, especially with the Big Business clique. Time Warner has a small soft spot for the group, though, because Time Warner makes money every time members of Anonymous gather for a protest. The New York Times reports the Guy Fawkes masks that members of Anonymous like so much are essentially owned by Time Warner.

Guy Fawkes was busted with 36 barrels of gunpowder under the British Parliament in 1605, in what is remembered as the Gunpowder Treason Plot. He was sentenced to death. His memory lives on every November 5, celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day in Great Britain.

The movie V For Vendetta came out in 2006, based off a graphic novel of the same name. Set in an alternate reality, it's about a man fighting against a totalitarian British government in an effort to restore his country to its former glory. Fawkes' face, and the rhyme remembering his failed plan, were central to imagery in the movie, and the graphic novel. "V," the main character, fights the government by causing as much chaos as humanly possible (via explosions, mostly), concealing his identity behind a Guy Fawkes mask. Sound familiar?

Time Warner owns the rights to the image now, and makes a cut off every mask sold:

Indeed, with the help of Anonymous, the mask has become one of the most popular disguises and — in a small way — has added to the $28 billion in revenue Time Warner accumulated last year. It is the top-selling mask on Amazon.com, beating out masks of Batman, Harry Potter and Darth Vader.

The popularity of the movie, and its message, inspired members of Anonymous to start wearing the mask anytime they organized a protest, most recently against BART in San Francisco. The Times quoted a costume company saying they sold about 100,000 copies of the mask at $6 each. The next leading seller only clocked in around 5,000 pieces sold. How much of that $600,000 revenue is going back to Time Warner isn't made clear. Regardless of how much they make off licensing fees, Anonymous won't likely take too well to the news. Be aware, Time Warner web security.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.