On October 7, I wrote a post about how to copyright objects posted online in a post called “Copyright…or Wrong”. In that post, I wrote about some of the copyright laws that I was less familiar with and sites that you could use to safely and legally search and use digital files. I also mentioned an incident that I experienced when I made a couple of projects from a knitting book and posted them to my Etsy.com page to quickly sell them. Even though I gave the author of the book credit (at the time, I thought that was enough), she emailed me to remove my posts because the projects were copyrighted.
After publishing that post, I received a comment about how Anthropologie allegedly hires interns to search websites like Etsy.com for unique projects that are not copyrighted. Once these projects and items are found, Urban Outfitters, the company that owns Anthropologie, mass produces the item to sell in their stores. So, in short, Urban Outfitters (allegedly) takes advantage of artists by looking for their unprotected projects and stealing them to sell for profit with no credit given to the original creator.
I love everything that Anthropologie sells, so I did some research to see how popular and accurate these assumptions are. My heart was broken!
Here is one example of MANY that I was able to find. Attorney Oscar Michelen is currently leading a lawsuit for shoe designer Karen Kell against Urban Outfitters for “stealing” her trademarked shoe design from her Etsy.com page. Kell was featured on The Martha Stewart Show in April of this year for her “Candy-Link” shoe design and her style has gained incredible popularity over the last four years. She is also in the process of expanding the sale of her shoes on a much larger scale, but due to Urban Outfitter’s release of the “Multi-Loop Shoe”, Kell may not be able to capitalize on her own design.
Karen Kell’s Etsy Screenshot:
Urban Outfitters Screenshot:
Kell and her lawyer, Michelen, had issued a “cease and desist” letter to request Urban Outfitters remove this design from their website and stores by May 18, 2012. While there is still no update on Attorney Oscar Michelen’s website, I cannot find the “Multi-Loop Shoe” on the Urban Outfitters website. Karen Kell may have won this case, but I don’t see an end to the Urban Outfitters theft any time soon.
It is so sad for me to say this, but I do not think I will be shopping at Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters again… or at least until they come up with a honest way of designing the products sold in their stores. From now on, when I am looking for one-of-a-kind creations, you will find me at Etsy.com supporting the little people!