It looks like Retail giant Forever 21 is at it again.
I kept hearing about Forever21, and so I thought I’d check out the site.
Although I never purchased anything, from time to time I’d check out their new inventory. On my second or third time there, I saw a shirt that said “Lost Cat” and immediately I thought something didn’t look right. It looked almost exactly like my “Loss Cat” t-shirt by Atlanta based multimedia artist R. Land (which brought “Speckles the loss cat” to street art cult status), but there were slight alterations. The concept was exactly the same, the font was the same, and the copy was from a poster I’d seen on one of R. Lands facebook pages. I was totally confused. I contacted the artist and discovered that the Forever21 “Lost Cat” shirt had never been authorized and was a knock off of the original from 2001. I had heard stories of the big retail giants ripping off designs from sites like Etsy, but I guess I didn’t realize how blatant it was! Turns out upon further investigation this is nothing new for Forever21 with almost 60 copyright infringement lawsuits filed against them in the past three years by designers including Diane Von Furstenburg, Anna Sui and Gwen Stefani. I was shocked!
The problem of artists (commercial or otherwise) getting ripped off by retail giants is growing. Artists need to be made aware that unless they protect themselves legally in this predatory economy, they are vulnerable to attack by culture vultures with big gun lawyers. Why should the term “buyer beware” only apply to the consumer and not the big corporate giants? Some of the biggest ones are not showing due diligence in researching and/or ethical judgment in their buying habits. They hide behind buying entities (LLCs within LLCs) to defer the blame. Interestingly enough, the owners of Forever 21 are “christian” and they print the bible verse John 3:16 on the bottom of their bags. Apparently, they don’t spend money on advertising. Instead they spend money to settle out of infringement cases in court. It’s their strategy.
Forever 21 has also sued a blogger who was complaining about these predatory business practices for “brand infringement and dilution.”
It brings to mind the question: At what point does a creative entity become it’s own thing and no longer a copy? If something is just different enough, it can pass on it’s own sometimes. An interesting debate. The threshold varies for a lot of people. In this case, I think it’s pretty obvious. . . I think it’s a timely story that hits a nerve with a lot of creative people.
Here is a screenshot of the unauthorized product being offering (it looks like the link is inactive / they may have taken it down now):
Forever 21 copy cat version
He gets used everywhere…
My original drawings…
I usually don’t mind too much since I didn’t create the real life Tourettes Guy , I just drew him. When I see someone is trying to profit from my drawings I gotta go after them.
Wish me luck.
My website they are stolen from..
Adding the links to the biggest offenders:
An eBay seller ripped my friends dress design, name, and description. The seller actually copied the item name and description from my friend’s site, and then pasted it into their eBay listing. When Momi boutique called the seller out on it, the seller immediately changed the description, but still insisted that the design was not copied.
Here is the original:
Here is the knock-off item being sold on eBay:
This happens all of the time to her. These talentless, uninspired hacks just copy her designs and try to sell them cheaper on Etsy or eBay.
Is it only coincidence? I say not. Especially since the item description was copied letter for letter.
“Here in this post we have gathered a unique variety of gorgeous hand drawn illustrations by Grzegorz Domaradzki aka Gabz. We hope that you will admire these worthy works.”
Clearly using flipped Jill Greenberg as reference material
I emailed Jill’s studio and they said they were going to look into it. Shame since the intent of the poster is obviously a good cause.
The news is two weeks old, but seeing it in Forbes today means that it’s gone mainstream. I wanted to share since F21 is a regular feature on these pages. Forever 21 sues blogger behind WTForever21, and blogger lawyers up:
[Kane says] “I used to shop at Forever 21 a lot. It was my go-to shop for single-serving fast fashion, kind of like Kwik-E-Mart, but with a shitload of sequins. Even though I loved the low prices and easy- to-wear trends, every so often I’d run across something utterly insane. A leopard print jumper with gold fringe along the collar. Shiny, golden boat shoes. Cocktail rings smothered with rhinestones like some kind of wearable Liberace acid trip. I started WTForever 21 as a way to chronicle these missteps,” she explains.
While Kane meant her blog to be taken as good-natured snark, Forever 21 didn’t see it that way. In April, the company sent a cease-and-desist letter that took exception to her site’s cheeky play on the store’s name and her use of images from the company’s own website. The letter demanded that she take down WTForever 21 or face being sued for copyright infringement.
I don’t want to get too deep into the inevitable “fair use” discussion, since that angle continues to get hashed out by other sources. All I would say is that satire or parody is one of the best-established foundations for a fair-use defense, and if I had to pick a side, I’d probably be comfortable arguing that Kane’s use of Forever21′s images is “transformative” in the sense that is generally required for courts to find that a complete copy is fair. So net/net I think it’s good Kane has retained counsel- as the recent 8-bit Miles Davis flap has demonstrated, the range of fair use suffers when ordinary people can’t afford to put up a fight.
I’m posting this mainly because most of the F21 posts here are documenting situations where Forever 21 is selling product based on a design created by someone else. In light of that history, it’ s … interesting… to see them take this “do as we say, not as we do” approach to intellectual property rights. I wonder what Anna Sui would have to say about it.