Artist James Soares aka Spires, sells his art prints and art designs printed on 3-D items in his store on the e-commerce site Society 6. Spires created the above side-by-side comparison of his artwork obviously used on the Urban Outfitters mini skirt. On his Tumblr blog the artist is asking others to reblog his story and share. The Huffington Post wrote this article about the design printed on the mini skirt without the artist’s knowledge, permission, any licensing contract, or payment. The Village Voice published an article on the mini skirt design yesterday. In the comments from readers of the Huffington Post article, one artist wrote, “It’s happened to me. I had my painting “Arizona Sunset” turned into a print for a dress . . . flattering and maddening at the same time.”
According to other artists, and other news stories, Urban Outfitters has copied more than one jewelry design. A necklace in the shape of New York State with a heart cut out, that was designed by Etsy artist Stevie Koerner and available in his e-commerce Etsy store as part of his United States of Love line, appeared in a new Urban Outfitters line of the same name. Steve Koerner wrote, in part, “The World/United States of Love line that I created is one of the reasons that I was able to quit my full-time job. They even stole the item name as well as some of my copy.” The story of this design theft appeared, with photos, in the Huffington Post article Urban Outfitters Steal and on the artist’s Tumblr page as Not Cool Urban Outfitters.
Some non-artist commenters on the recent Huff mini skirt article bring up questions of originality. Are these original designs– a map of New York state, the heart shape, a landscape of an Arizona sunset in a painting, or the geometric triangle pattern in the artist’s print (the one obviously copied and used on the mini skirt)? Haven’t we seen these things before and aren’t they part of our collective consciousness owned by all? Another question, does Urban Outfitters work with another company, BamBam, and are they responsible for the ripped off artist’s design on the mini skirt? Yet, it’s also reported by The Brooklyn Paper, and in an article in The Village Voice that an Indie jewelry designer selling at a Brooklyn flea market found her designs sold as very similar items by Urban Outfitters. Are such artworks and designs deliberately searched for, copied and used by large companies for the very reason that they doubt small business owners have the resources to fight back? Can these artists prove loss-of-income or originality of design?
It is time-consuming for artist-owners of small businesses to pursue matters legally, yet one artist that we featured in our blog last year did just that. She received a check in payment, compensating her for the unauthorized use of her artwork on three album covers. The lawyer she worked with was available free of charge via Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
I’ve always found the Huffington Post to be artist friendly–publishing artist news and featuring quality art news columns by several writers. Is Huffington Post the largest news source to cover these matters for artists? The Village Voice supports artists with reports on these artist rip-offs as well.
I can’t help but wonder how many times they get away with it? That is, how many times do such infringements go unnoticed in relation to the few instances companies are caught in outright copyright infringement?