It’s like they say: everything is a remix (or stolen, depending on how you look at it).
By now you have probably read this story about Urban Outfitters allegedly ripping off an Etsy artist’s necklace designs.
As you know, I love this kind of thing. Nothing gets me more excited than busting someone who rips off an independent designer and tries to profit from their thievery. Extra special drama points if the thief is also a douchebag.
I’ve mainly limited my rage to Etsy artists ripping off other Etsy artists, but I’ve also been seeing an increase in the amount of made-to-look-handmade shit being hawked at hipster meccas like Anthropologie. So the fact that the handmade aesthetic has been seeping into the marketplace like a toxic mold has not gone unnoticed.
But there was something about this story that just wasn’t gelling for me. I tried to write it up several times yesterday, egged on by a persistent stream of email and tweets from outraged readers, begging for the Regretsy Thugs to put the smackdown on Urban Outfitters. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
It’s not that the evidence wasn’t compelling.
That’s pretty damning. But what part of the design is proprietary? The shape of a state or country isn’t really something anyone can lay claim to. So you’d have to conclude that it’s the addition of the heart that makes it her design.
And that’s where this starts getting complicated.
Truche sold her first state pendant on Etsy in 2009.
Sudlow on Etsy sold a similar pendant in 2008.
So is it really Sudow’s design?
Or did they both rip off James Avery, who was selling a similar design at least seven months earlier?
Before you answer, here are more Etsy sellers selling similar designs they claim as their own creation.
Click on images for larger view and store link
Are all of these independent designers on Etsy stealing from each other? Or this is such a simple and generic idea that many people can come up with it at once? Certainly the idea of a charm in the shape of a state is nothing new; they’ve been selling those to tourists for years. Is it such a leap to put a heart in one? That seems like a logical progression from the I heart NY design, which I first remember seeing in the late 70′s.
Now, I’m not generally the voice of reason, so this is an uncomfortable position to take. But I’m just not sure I want to start a boycott over an idea that many people have had, some for years before Truche even opened her Etsy store.
I’m not saying that Urban Outfitters doesn’t help themselves to the designs of others. They certainly have a record of pilfering designs, and they may very well have stolen this one. The question, for me at least, is who did they steal it from? And if we don’t know that much, how do we know it’s really been stolen at all?
Something to think about before you get the pitchforks out.