Hot Topic selling rip-off of Threadless design

I received an email from someone who found a RIP-OFF of my design Lil’ Soap being sold at HOT TOPIC’s website:

http://www.hottopic.com/hottopic/store/product.jsp?FOLDER%3C
%3Efolder_id=2534374302028385&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=8455244421
72215&bmUID=1203491138193

Lil Soap rip off

This is my origional design that was printed by Threadless.com:

http://www.threadless.com/product/409/Lil_Soap

Lil Soap original

The rip-off was designed by “Newbreed girl” who seem to have an under construction website. Hot Topic buys from many design companies and venders, this is just one of them and either they did NO back checking or they knew what they were ripping off.

I sent “Newbreed girl” a cease and desist email, and one to Hot Topic as well.

NewBreed girl’s president responded to say that is was unfortunate but probably the cause of hiring freelancers to do t-shirts for them, which was the same response Todd Goldman gave about his stolen designs, coincidentally he also pirated this design of mine for some paintings around the time of the Shmorky controversy.

(as seen here: http://flickr.com/photos/23184972@N02/2279191355/

However the soap in Goldman’s painting is not even nearly as similar as this design by “NewBreedGirl”. The facts in the case against Goldman are that he actually offered me a job and told me in email and in phone conversations that he loved my Threadless Lil’ Soap design BEFORE he took the idea and sold it for incredible amounts of money.

Everything on this Hot Topic design is similar, the soap is pink (soap in real life is most commonly white anyway) the hands and feet are done in the same manner, the word “Soap” is in the same place and the soap itself is in the same body position. The words even feel forced to include the word “butt” I mean, what does “I love your butt” coming from a soap mean anyway?

I’ve still not heard back from Hot Topic about this, and the design has NOT been removed from their website.

I do not want to put too much blame on Hot Topic for this, but the fact is that they have made money off of something that I own the copyright to. A soap cartoon is a soap cartoon, I do not claim ownership of any and all soap cartoons, but this design is so similar to mine specifically that it cannot be ignored.


32 comments

  • I would blame the “designer,” not Hot Topic. I can’t conceive of any possible way that Hot Topic could “back check” and independently verify that every merch item they purchase for their stores has not been ripped off from someone else, nor should they really have to.

    I work for a music merchandising company that sells to Hot Topic, and when they order shirts from us, they clearly assume that we haven’t stolen the artwork. Business would come screeching to halt if we all had to assume that everyone we were dealing with was a thief unless proven otherwise.

    It’s conceivable that Hot Topic went to that designer and said “We like this Threadless shirt, but would rather pay you to license it than the original artist” and purposefully had them rip it, but that seems rather unlikely.

  • P.S. I love that Threadless design, by the way, it’s been in my rotation of wallpapers on my comp for some time :)

  • That’s blatant. I’m sorry that happened. I love that design of yours (I asked for that shirt last year for Christmas but didn’t get it). I hope those jerks get nailed.

  • Oh yeah, Jess, what about the Natalie Dee thing? The concepts are the same, even if your execution is better.

  • Copyright protects fixed and tangible forms, and the expression of ideas.

    Copyright won’t protect abstract ideas, facts, or scientific principles.

    Jess Fink is definitely getting ripped off. The way the concept is executed is too similar.

    Her design is not similar to the Natalie Dee thing, so even though the idea is the same, it’s not a ripoff.

    My sources? A woman came to my school and did a lecture on copyright. Her name was Susan M. Richey. I’m reading from my notes here.

  • Leopold Stotch

    isnt like every other post on here a hot topic vs threadless rip? you’d think at this point hot topic would have some intern just do a quick scan of threadless FIRST before giving the go ahead to any new product.

  • So sorry Jess :( , that is so incredibly blatant. I definitely do think two people can have the same ideas seperately, but this is not the case here.

  • That’s awful. Sue everybody!

    Man that would hack me off.

  • The Natalie Dee drawing is in her 2006 collection, Jess Fink’s design was made in 2005.

  • I’m so tired of non-artists making money ripping off my incredibly talented friends.

  • Sorry to say, but they have the long straw. Sucks, but that’s the fate of “great” design. You’re gonna get ripped off. Doesn’t make it right, but its been going on for ages.

  • Another designer certainly ripped off your work. It’s dishonest perhaps, but not illegal.

    Copyright covers specific creative works. The similarities are just similarities, it’s not the type of copying that copyright law prohibits.

    It’s not the same creative work (in the legal sense of “creative work”).

  • That’s complete BS Eric, try feeding a line like that to a copyright lawyer for a large company like microsoft or even threadless and see how much they agree with you.

    The problem with these things is not proving that something is directly derivative (which has happened countless times) but having the money upfront to pursue legal action.

  • Thats horrible.

  • The fact is, you lose, and you can’t do a damn thing about it.

  • Just no.

    It’s not like this is super original in the first place. Not unless your idea is like 15 years old. I saw a version of this on T-shirts in junior high except for then it was Mr. Bubble. Further, when you deal in post-modern pop culture idioms you have got to realize that your ideas aren’t going to be all that unique.

    I once did a ton of work for a concept about Maoist cats only to find that someone had done the same thing about Pugs. A couple of years later, guess what? Someone else blows up over a very similiar version of Mao cats.

    Get a life, a trademark, or at least some very good lawyers.

  • A polite letter to Hot Topic’s General Counsel might get them to stop infringing on your idea. You’d be surprised how seriously the lawyers take things like that in publicly traded companies.

    Perhaps, they will use your design instead and pay you.

  • you people are idiots

    Who are these people who leave comments randomly on pages without reading all the details of the subject or knowing anything about it? Oh wait that’s right, they are from the internet. It is like a country where everyone is an asshole.

  • Chiva, I would like to say that you are blatantly rude and I would like to punch you in the face. Besides that, Hot Topic has had several designs that seemed to be rip offs of Threadless designs. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Hot Topic design of Lil’ Soap is the original or a coincidence.
    Especially when Jess Fink obviously had her design out and scattered about the web before this one even came into being.
    Keep going Jess, punch Hot Topic in the face with JUSTICE!

  • I have a friend who is a textile artist who had some similar issues with Macy’s in one of their advertisements and they settled. Most companies want to minimize their liability and are eager to settle for some form of compensation. There are a few, like that assfish Goldman who make their living by stealing and build refusal to settle into their business model; however, that’s not the norm.

    Hang tough and don’t be swayed by anything other than the compensation you’re due. Good luck!

  • Nothing is original. Everything is derived and inspired from everything around us.

    Give it up.

  • hay pople watzup my homie g dogs

  • ok first of its an abstract picture of a bar of soap. It kinda looks like a rip off of the south park towel. So that like saying everything that every artist does is stealing. Because you get concepts and ideas from other things that you see. If it was a painting of a realalistic person I could see you getting somewhere with this but to be totally honest I drew a bar of soap that is saying “don’t dropped me” on the side of my note book in 6th grade it looks exactly like yours but in pencil soup bar, face, stupid cartoon arms and legs. So really if you think shes ripping you off I feel like thats a cover for the fact that you ripped me off.

  • hi

  • Pingback: you thought we wouldn’t notice » Blog Archive » Forever 21 ripping off Threadless artist

  • You call yourself an artist? Your just ripping other people off yourself. They obviously have a talent to make money that you don’t. Give it up.

  • yours is better!

  • I wouldn’t even post this on a blog. Get a lawyer, and sue everyone from the designer to Hot Topic.

  • Jess–

    I had a similar experience with Hot Topic, actually. I had designed a line of monster hoodies for a third party company who often sells designs to Hot Topic. They swiped the concepts without paying myself or the third party and now sell similar (but uglier!) version on their site. While I mostly blame the middle man company for not legally protecting our ideas as they promised, it seems HT has absolutely no qualms about ripping off designs. Even though I have the original drawings dated two years ago, I was basically told that their lawyers would just jam up the claim and I’d never get anywhere, despite my evidence of ownership.

  • I must say, you have a very nice site. You have a extraordinary understanding of these ideas and explain it great.

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