As the artist and creator of my own designs, I am particularly disturbed when I hear about large companies ripping off the designs of individual artists. The recent controversy surrounding Urban Outfitters and the work of Indie artist, Stevie Koerner, is an excellent example. Stevie created some unusual and attractive jewelry with the following theme, “I ‘heart’ the US” or “I ‘heart’ Canada”. Urban Outfitters reproduced her designs without her permission and didn’t even compensate her for her creativity. The jewelry designs are just too close to be an accident. When Urban Outfitters was challenged about this issue, they claimed the situation was coincidental. When researching for this blog post, I came across several other examples in which Urban Outfitters stole the creations of an artist, for example, the Johnny Cupcakes shirt. The artist provided a few shirt samples for review to the Urban Outfitters buyers. Next thing you know, his designs appeared in their stores but Johnny Cupcake didn’t receive any compensation for his work. This happens all too often. I was on the Internet about a year ago and I stumbled upon the Shanghai Textile Company web site, which had posted images of my products (they even used my photographs) followed by the claim they are the designer and manufacturer of Tail Wags Helmet Covers. This is nonsense! I have never used a Chinese manufacturer and I am the SOLE designer of Tail Wags designs. All of my designs have been copyrighted and trademarked as fully as possible. The problem is some overseas companies do not recognize or respect intellectual property rights. Even large chains like Gucci and Prada can’t seem to successfully stop imitation goods of their designs from being manufactured illegally in China. So how is a small company like Tail Wags Helmet Covers supposed to fight them? The same is true for individual artists such as Stevie Koerner. In the United States and Canada, individuals and small companies have a better chance of fighting for their property rights because our courts respect copyright and trademark laws. But legal proceedings are expensive and not everyone has the money to fight the big companies. That’s why companies like Urban Outfitters have been getting away with this practice for years. However, social media is beginning to change the landscape in favour of individuals. Stevie Koerner has received tremendous support from the public via the social media network. There is a growing groundswell of people encouraging others to boycott Urban Outfitters. I will never purchase any products from Urban Outfitters and I would encourage you to do the same. Think of the problem in these terms: If you were an artist and you made your living by selling your art work, how would you feel if a large corporation took your ideas, mass produced them and then made a huge profit from your work – without compensating you a cent? Please think twice before buying a product knock-off! It’s the little guys that are being hurt.
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- Tags: Artisans, Business, Copyrights, General, Social Media, Tail Wags Helmet Covers, Trademarks, Urban Outfitters