Urban Counterfeiters?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Now this is just crazy.

I was scrolling through Rachel Held Evans's Sunday Superlatives, which caused me to stumble upon this story about Urban Outfitters ripping off an Etsy seller's design.

I don't know much about Urban Outfitters, but wow!

And then as I clicked through links here and there, I came to this:

Sold here as wrapping paper for $4.50/sheet.

Sold at Urban Outfitters as a poster for $24!

In the UO item description, it says, Perfect for framing, but can also be used for gift wrapping, decoupage or other artistic purposes.

Again: wow! That is ridiculous.

But let's be real -- the copyright issue is a tough one. Like the rest of life, it's not black & white. How do you copyright an idea? And going back to the original story, why is it ok for there to be tons of variations of that state necklace on Etsy, but once a large corporation gets ahold of it, it's outrageous? {Read a great article about that here.}

And this has made me think of another issue -- I confess to having one print in my home that I totally ripped off from an independent artist. Why? Because to buy it from her, with shipping, would've been $30. To have a friend make it for me in Photoshop and have it printed at Office Depot? $5. It looks exactly the same. I haven't blogged about it, because I respect that artist's business. {But apparently I don't respect it enough to purchase a crazy-overpriced print from her. Hmm.} I've justified it in my mind because I'm not selling it. It's for my personal use (and enjoyment) only. But is it wrong? I don't think so... but you might disagree.

I do think it's crazy & kind of cool how fast news spread about the UO/Etsy story and how it caused a major corporation to cry uncle. It reminded me of Dooce & the Maytag saga.

By the way, Urban Outfitters? They deny everything.

Very interesting. That's all I'm saying.


Amanda said...

I read an article about this yesterday. Apparently it's a big problem.

As for your version of the print you saw on Etsy, I don't think that's wrong either. It's like seeing a painting you like and finding a way to DIY. Producing it in mass quantities or selling it would probably bring about an ethical issue; but, I think it's totally fine to create a version for yourself. So many times I see something I like but would change just one or two things about it. If I do it myself, then I can make it my own. Just my thought.

Ashley said...

Interesting new twist: http://www.regretsy.com/2011/05/27/urban-outrage/

Anonymous said...

I found this post trying to figure out why the Urban Counterfeiters blog is now just a feed of Google news or something and I just started clicking links so I apologize for just sticking my nose in here. The thing I don't get about this particular example is that I'm pretty sure that's just an old Ernest Haeckel illustration or maybe not Haeckel but someone similar - one of those artists whose work filled the pages of those late 1800's books with those wonderful, lush illustrations of the natural world. So the ripping off is multi-tiered here unless this is just a phenomenal impression of that sort of work. Even if it is, it's such a good impression that it really pushes the boundary between an homage and plagiarism so this particular seller is not someone I'm feeling so bad for. (Clicked the link and it says "archival images from Italy" so this isn't an example of an original...well, anything, really. Unless the idea of using it as wallpaper is just all kinds of crazy, mad unique.)

I'm not a fan or defender of UO in any way and know how much they've screwed independent designers but this is just iffy at best. Oh and for what it's worth, the whole recreating-art-you-can't-afford-for-your-own-home idea doesn't strike me as a jerky thing to do. Unless you invite people over to crowd them around it while you gesture wildly and proclaim it is your own work, I think you're okay.

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