Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pride and Plagiarism

It's no secret that big High Street stores steal ideas from independent designers. It's one of the reasons why I avoid the High Street like the plague. (With the exception of Marks & Spencer... where else would I buy my socks?) You'd think that, with all the money that they make, chain-stores like Topshop and Gap would be able to hire designers with the talent to come up with their own ideas... but apparently not.

Stealing ideas from designers and artists is commonplace- you only have to look at the blog youthoughtwewouldntnotice to see that.

This isn't the first time my designs have been stolen and printed onto T-shirts. Urban Outfitters carried a whole range of "Doggy Greetings" T-shirts which were all very similar to my Bonjour/Hola/etc designs. The company who produced the T-shirts (not UO, although I'm still uncertain as to how much input they had in that case) eventually pulled them from sale after an internet outcry.

I drew the "Bonjour" design in 2009. It is, I'll admit, not the most sophisticated of concepts. A French Bulldog, wearing a beret and stripy T-shirt, with the word "Bonjour"; all in the red, white and blue of the French flag. Anyone could have thought of that, right?
New Standard, the company to which I license designs for T-shirts, printed my Bonjour design in 2010 and it has sold pretty well. It is for sale through various online stores as well as on the NS site. It's no huge stretch of the imagination to think that a company like Junk Food might visit the site of a smaller company like NS to find "inspiration"... but at least they changed the concept and the design to a point that I'm almost not bothered by it. They even went one step further... "BONE-jour"? Why didn't I think of that? So, I wasn't hugely upset by the Junk Food T-shirt.

What I am upset by, however, is the baby Gap T-shirt (above). A friend sent me this photo yesterday, having spotted the T-shirt for sale in the US. It is very similar to my design, from the markings on the dog's body, to the pink underbelly... It's not the same, which in a way is more annoying. If they had literally just traced my design, I might have been able to do something about it. Although... a company in the Philippines traced my "Pugs Not Drugs" design and printed it on a tote bag and there was sod-all I could do about that, mostly due to the sketchy copyright laws that cover China and most of Asia.
Because Gap (is it THE Gap, or just Gap? I'm not sure, so sorry for the inconsistencies in this mini-essay) haven't exactly copied my design, but made their own version, I can't do anything about it except quietly seethe and write short essays on the subject on my blog. It's incredibly frustrating. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a design-foodchain (along with all the other illustrators and artists that this has happened to) when we're the ones thinking of the ideas, only for the bigger companies to steal them and make their own crappy versions. We make pennies, they make billions. It isn't fair.

64 comments:

Alice said...

This is awful Gemma! Really frustrating. I noticed recently that Sweet and Sour have a Pug's Not Drugs t-shirt in Topshop too http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33057&storeId=12556&productId=2151490&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=222021&parent_categoryId=203984&sort_field=Relevance&pageSize=20
It's not exactly the same, but then again, they nicked your saying!

beyond said...

ugh. that must be so frustrating. i mean, i'm frustrated now, and the designs aren't even mine. i feel for you...

cecilliahidayat said...

i'm really sorry to hear that Gemma :(
How dare they who hack your artworks, your stroke and style is so unique everyone would know it belongs to you on the first sight! :(

leche said...

gemma i'm so sorry that this just keeps happening to you.... instead of stealing your ideas they should hire you..... you just keep it at girl, you're the one who's doing it right!!!!! and we know it!!!

Maddie M. said...

Gemma,
That is so frustrating, I can't even imagine. Ugh! With all of the money they earn, you would think they could at least pay you royalties.
xoxo

Lu said...

Wow, this is really shocking! I really love your design and it's so sad to see that big companies make profit from other people's creativity and hard work. Although it is some sort of a compliment for you that your designs are sooo good that they are worth being stolen by large companies, it is just totally annoying and sad! Isn't there anything you can do against that? Well, probably they will have the best lawyers to protect themselves... So annoying!

LaRon said...

i know you may think you can't do anything about it, but i say still try.. go to a lawyer and see if he can make a case because its obviously stolen

mydeerfriend said...

That is inexcusable, you must be scathing :(

orange you lucky! said...

Super annoying! What a bunch of stealing bastards without shame or vision.
Gap disappoints me in so many ways already...
and to think that they could just approach you and licence the designs for probably similar amount as they paid the in-house designer.
Makes me boil.

Flora said...

That is just truly terrible. Both the stealing of the idea and their ham-fisted mangling of your charming original.

Bad Gap. I think try and pursue this, and failing that, remember the power of the internet. Nobody likes a copycat.

Casey said...

Sorry this is happening to you! I wonder if Gap even knows it's a stolen idea? They probably just trusted their designer and thought what he was doing was his own idea? I would say atleast get advised on writing a cease and desist Letter. It's worth a try.

Lesley Barnes said...

arrggghhh! what horrible copies too......

Little Blue Day said...

no words for this....

Matilde said...

This is disgusting. Makes me very wary to post any work at all. Shame on Gap. They know it is stolen, which is why they have slightly altered the pose. I think you should definitely contact them. Good luck. xxx

Hayley Potter said...

I guess the only comfort this can bring, is that people only start copying you when:
a) they can't think of anything better themselves and
b) you've made it big and they want a share of it

Its still unacceptable though. I don't understand why companies don't just hire the original designer to do it for them. They would have a much better quality product, with a recognisable name attached to it. Shame on them.

Lx - my mr lugs said...

OMG how frustrating for you!! It makes me angry that you did the hard work and they make all the money out of it!!! I feel sorry for the pug with the strange mouth too :( Hope it doesn't sell very well .... karma :)

People are SO crap sometimes!! Grrrr!

Laura Sherriffs said...

This is horrible. I hate how big companies can just pretty much copy an original design/idea that you have invested so much time and energy into, yet they'll be the ones who will make more money out of it. So disrespectful of your work to not even credit or ask you about it.

x

http://fight-fires-in-your-best-clothes.blogspot.com/

vintagereflection said...

Can't believe the cheek of them! I would be so annoyed! Really wish there was something we could all do about it! I know its a complement that they like your work so well and they want to copy you but at least give you money or credit!! Maybe you should start printing your own tees so they cant do it for you!? I would buy them and sure others would to and would rather buy from you than them!! x

Kerry said...

it isnt fair. its disgusting. they have millions at their disposal, so to nick your designs without even crediting it to you, or bothering to investigate where the idea came from is just simply wrong. I wish you all the best in the future, you will get there.

Hi! said...

That really sucks!

Tati said...

I really don't know what to say about it. You said it right: it's very frustrating.

Something like that happened to me. But fortunately not with big companies (well, not that I have discovered yet). A guy tattooed my Voodoo Doll illustration on his body without my permission... Just because he found it online.

That's the blog post about that:
http://www.tatimaia.com/stealing-my-art

I invite you to read the comments too. Now someone is telling me that the only solution is not putting my stuff online. o_O'

So, that's why I am putting watermarks on everything I do!

Hugs,
Tati

monda-loves said...

yep this sucks, and it isn't fair at all.
If it wasn't for all the money the bigger companies make on stuff like this you'd probably be quite flattered and maybe feel a bit sad and sorry for them that they can't come up with good ideas/designs of their own.
Maybe you need to find a no win no fee lawyer to sort them out for you. sigh.

Monda
x

Nan said...

This so sucks x infinity.

CGriffin said...

Have you contacted Gap with evidence of plagiarism? It's not unlikely that their graphics dept. DID knock-off your illustration but no one was the wiser, except said designer/thief. Since it was placed on clothing, you may not be able to do much in terms of copyright BUT if you play your cards right, maybe you can sell them a license? Or offer them other designs FOR A PRICE. Turn lemons into lemonade!

flou said...

what a shame!!!

Liz leadest said...

My friend had a similar experience with Urban Outfitters but manage to prove the design was hers - they paid for its use and removed the items from the shop.
Could you find a contact at Gap who we could all bombard with complaints on your behalf? I'd be happy to do that and know lots of others who would as well.

heidiburton said...

Let me know if there's anything we can do, I'll spread the word as much as poss. Don't let them get away with it!

Amy Walters said...

lets do a mass retweet, gemma tweets one tweet with a hash tag and get everyone to retweet it. maybe include an @gap or whatever their twitter is...?

Stephen said...

This pisses me off as well...Everyone can be creative but they would rather rip off other artists...;/

Legal action is such a pain in the arse because their seems to be so many stupid little loop holes they can get around.

I suggest we make a mob of about 10 000 people and go tear down buildings, thats just me though. :)

Daria Hlazatova said...

so frustrating :( although it's better to know WHO does. very annoying. i still think something should be done! although it's easy to say.. oh well

Mellybee said...

Noticed this Tee in david and goliath over christmas- it hasn't got your saying but I think you've definitely inspired the pug theme...
http://www.davidandgoliathtees.com/women/tees/you-so-pugly.html
it must be like being back in school with the bigger guys copying your art work and pretending its theirs. :(
don't let them wear you down.

Paula said...

Keep fighting the good fight girl! You're amazing and they're just a bunch of salivating cavones in the background, wishing they could think of something like that!

Miriam said...

I'm not entirely sure you can't do anything about this. It's a copy of your design and a breach of your copyright. I think you have got legal rights. We had a lecture at uni about this and illustrators have won costs against companies for rip off's that are more subtle than this obvious one. I recommend you contact the Association of Illustrators (AOI) and ask for some advice. Don't give up so easily you might be able to sort this out. They can point you in the right direction.

melissa said...

I'm so angry for you. I hope you can get this taken out of their stores. It's a small gesture but I wont be shopping there anymore. I have left other stores over the exact same thing with other artists. It's bullshit that they are able to do this.

Nosideup said...

Totally feeling this!
I am placton in the design foodchain, but I´ve had huge moments of sorrow with my It Bags (posh bags drawn unto totes in a way that the handles of the drawn bag and the actual bag are the same).
The impotence is horrible, and the thinking of how much money they must be making is horrendous.
I feel really sorry you have to go through this.

Emmeline Illustration said...

This is such bad news :-/
I really hope I don't ever have to deal with this sort of rubbish. It's so unfair to struggling artists - it's hard enough to get noticed with out this sort of stuff happening!

Good luck with everything Gemma.
Hope it all works out okay.

Polyrhythm said...

I second Miriam - contact the AOI, and perhaps they'll be able to get you in touch with someone who can help.

I'm really sorry this is happening to you. :(

Melissa said...

very very sad. And frustrating. And one more shop I have to take off my shopping list.

Anonymous said...

Come on! the font on Bonjour is identical! Crap heads! All they did was alter the color of a couple of the letters (the contrast of those white letters on the black Gap shirt really bothers my eyes, if that helps you feel any better, btw)! CHEATERS!

Josh LaFayette said...

I can't believe this! Total crap.
I feel for you, Gemma!

uberkraaft said...

I'm releasing the hounds! (Again!) x

Susan Schwake said...

i will retweet - but man, this deserves a lawyer. they need to PAY UP. how utterly discouraging. sorry to read this!!!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to be perhaps the only person who disagrees entirely with these comments. I am sorry that you feel as though someone has plagiarized your design. However, the case is weak. I think one of two things happened, neither of which is plagiarism. In the first scenario, the person did see your design and was inspired to recreate it. A good deal of art falls under this category, and not just fine arts, but also literature and music. The theme of the nude female reclining is not just limited to one artist. Cubism is not just Picasso. In the second scenario, someone else in the world put together french bulldog, a stereotypically french outfit, and the most commonly used french word. I don't think this is such a novelty. In fact, I highly doubt that your dog is the first nor do I think this baby Gap t-shirt is the last example one will see in this lifetime of this design.

Nate Bear said...

YARG! If I had any lawyering powers i'd kick some major Gap ass right about now.

Speaking of are you gonna take any legal action? I feel like you'd have pretty clear case.

Nate Bear said...

I mean these are even clearer rip-offs than that Aaron Meshon US map debacle.

gemma correll said...

Thank you, everyone, for your supportive comments. I am currently speaking to a Lawyer.

@Nate Bear,
I didn't hear about the Aaron Meshon map thing... Do you have a link?

@Mellybee
David & Goliath are absolutely notorious for thieving.

@anonymous
Well, I believe you're wrong and so does the Lawyer I'm talking to. The issue is *not* that they used the concept of the French Bulldog, the issue is that they used a drawing which is pretty much identical to mine, just shifted to a different angle, and the writing in a different typeface.
Next time, don't hide behind an anonymous poster if you're so sure of your convictions.

Nora said...

damn. i feel for you. my english is not very well, but i can tell you, "jack wolfskin" for example, has the right to admonish everyone who is using any (!) pad on textiles. (in any case in germany) i think, it's not only a picture and his composition, its a special and creative idea. and an idea is also protected by the national and international (copy)right.
good luck!

handmade romance said...

oh no! so sorry to see/hear this. hope you and your lawyer can sort this out with a positive outcome. all the best! x

Nekocherry said...

gemma.....

:(((((

Seethergrrl said...

I have to confess to only recently discovering you!
However, I thought you might be suitably cheered up to learn of how that discovery came about! After sharing my love of pugs with a friend recently they told me of some t-shirts available on the high street - "from River Island, New Look or H&M... Somewhere like that." So, a couple of Google searches later I not only found the t-shirt they were talking about (Junk Food at Topshop) but I also found your Etsy page! Yippee! And waaaaaay better than any offering at Topshop. I am now the proud owner of a 'Pugs not drugs' tote bag and yes, I'll be buying more (from you, not Topshop) :)

Georgie Watts said...

Yes having a pug on something per se is not copying but the examples shown look pretty dodgy I think.

It must have been an awful shock, I'd absolutely hate this to happen to any of my work. Although it shows that people love your stuff, so why can't they just pay YOU?!

Best of luck fighting 'em Gemma!

Doj said...

This makes me so angry!!

● Sandra Dieckmann Illustration ● said...

big big giant bear attack at them!

Helen said...

This makes me really sad. I really hope you find a way to fight retailers on this - it's not fair for them to be profiting off a design you made.

Good luck.

Charles said...

Nowadays it is very easy to steal ideas.
Artists need to be a bit more proactive in protecting their art and ideas.
Such as putting one's name and copyright information right on the illustration, graphic or photo. Plus watermark it somehow. Or slice up the images when posting them on their website.
(I checked your website and very little of your art has your name or copyright directly on the graphic - maybe just on the page somewhere or not at all.)
Putting one's name and copyright info will not protect the art from being stolen, but it may deter theft. Plus those that take the art graphic know who the art belongs to because your name is on it.
I wonder how many times your images were passed on to others and someone along the line asked "Who drew this?", but no one knew or could remember because there is no artist's name on the graphic image.
All artists need to pay more attention to protecting their art and ideas.

gemma correll said...

@charles

I see what you're saying about being pro-active and I agree.
However, I really dislike watermarks! I think they look terrible! I have started putting my copyright info on the bottom of the things I post on flickr but I'm not keen on doing that on my website. If people are taking images from there, they should be linking back. Also, it's not a possibility on places like my agency's website...
I like the slicing up the image idea though, hadn't thought of that.

Part of the problem is sites like Tumblr and weheartit.com where people don't link back to the original image/artist. Most of the time, these images are from Flickr, which is why I've started putting info on my images on there... I've got quite a backlog to go through, though, & obviously not much I can do about the stuff that's already out there!

I think having a name on the graphic is good for promotion too (as you said, if the image is passed on but nobody knows who did it, could be missing out on possible work) but if a company finds an image without info I don't think that gives them permission to use it! Some people seem to think that once something is on the internet it becomes free-for-all.

Karin said...

I tried to post a review of the item on the gap website but i doubt it'll get through... but if lots of people do it it might get their attention?

Paz López said...

This is outrageous!
I can't believe they don't even give you an effing phone call and just buy your design!
Like they couldn't afford it.

I don't understand the slicing method but I agree with you in disliking watermarks... It looks horrible when people try to make their names more obvious than the drawings... but yet, what can we do'

Big kiss from Spain

Lauren said...

My friend had one of his products traced for the movie BOLT from Disney. It was a hard battle, but he eventually won (I think in the end he probably just made up for legal costs). So sorry to hear that this has happened. It's a scary world.

Fidget said...

i stopped posting artwork on line after someone in asia stole my direct piece of artwork and was printing it on shirts- no alterations, my friggin signature was on it and everything! I sent a strongly worded letter, which apparently scared the tar out of them but that was all I could do. Thievery from large corporations makes me physically ill. You pour yourself into creating and they pay someone to swipe it.

Mel the Crafty Scientist said...

Just wanted to add my support for you here - this is obviously incredibly crappy and your style is so unique and fun that they quite clearly copied it and it's absolutely ridiculous that they wouldn't try to properly collaborate with you!

Robin Priest said...

Wow, it's total crap that they ripped off your design!!
I never liked the gap anyway, but now I seriously dislike them!!

Koey said...

I can imagine how bad you feel.
Gemma, support you!

nevertheless said...

Oh my goodness :( It must be so frustrating to see your designs so blatantly copied!!! I hope karma bits them on the bum

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