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    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    Lots of links ahead. Bear with me.

    Cartoonist Jess Fink is raising hell on her livejournal about a t-shirt for sale on Hot Topic's site that's remarkably similar to a design of her own on threadless.

    Additionally, my friend Rachel Dukes of Poseur Ink mentioned in her livejournal other questionable dealings where Hot Topic is selling a tote bag with a loungefly design strikingly similar to the Poseur Ink logo.

    What say you all? Accidental appropriation, malicious plagiarism, The Man being a dick to independent artists, or a case of left-and-right hand miscommunication? I'm curious to see where Whitechapel stands on this. It's not as cut-and-dried as, say, Todd Goldman, but something still smells iffy to me.
  1.  (1119.2)
    Wouldn't surprise me.

    Cyberdog did the same thing to a friend of mine who used to do original t-shirt designs.

    These cases are always oh-so-slightly different so it becomes legally ambiguous too.
  2.  (1119.3)
    Not surprised. Still, if Rachel and Jess have registered copyright, I'd say it's time to get out the lawyers.
  3.  (1119.4)
    Yup thats infringement not plagiarism. Register and send in the hounds!.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    infringement. that's the word i wanted. this sort of thing happens a lot, doesn't it?
  4.  (1119.6)
    Yes, sadly.

    And its actionable. But many artists are in a place where they don't know how or don't have the resources to deal with it.

    The White Hats: Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations, artist Pro Bono legal aid and education nation wide.

    //somewhere right now, Ariana is setting a watch//
  5.  (1119.7)
    fuck hot topic anyway- this just adds to it. a bunch of old white men re-appropiating the underground to sell rebellious imagery and accoutrments at the mall? please die. i have never given them one dollar, and hopefully never will.

    before anyone complains, yes i know its been done a thousand times before. i just happen to get extra bothered by them in particular.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    The Jess Fink thing--yeah, totally. Hot Topic ripped that shit off, almost no question.

    The Poseur Ink logo--eehhhhh, maaay-be. I mean...they're both based on the recycling logo, which is a pretty common image, so that one would be really, really hard to argue legally. I think that one could very well be coincidence.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    If I weren't already an emotionally stable 27 year old man, I'd boycott that store.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    Wait--Hot Topic appropriated someone's design to sell t-shirts? That's, uh...not that surprising. I thought that was, like, their official business plan. I mean, they had no small part in that ubiquitous Ramones t-shirt thing from a few years ago (I once had someone try to tell me it was a clothing brand). The whole point is popularizing someone else's success to make money on it.

    Still sucks for that artist. I cans see how frustrating it would be to have that happen, especially since Hot Topic will probably sell more of those shirts than Threadless ever did.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    Hot Topic is just a retail outlet though. Someone else designed, manufactured and sold the items to HT and I bet the contracts would show that the designer claims it an all original design. I'm not saying HT is isn't guilty of a number of other questionable practices but blame should go to the orignal person who lifted the images from the web, not the store that was selling them. I'd be surprised if they didn't pull the merch from the racks right away.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2008
    I freelance for a company that does a line (not clothes) for Hot Topic, and in my experience they've been pretty wary of stuff that comes close to an established design (my job has often been to redesign the knockoff stuff they reject). That said, they do seem to want things that look like a current trend and that does tend to invite this sort of plagiarism... I agree that is more the fault of the third party supplier then Hot Topic, but they should have checked it more carefully before they stocked the items, seeing as a good deal of their products are "exclusives" which makes them at least partially responsible.

    I hope I'm making sense, I broke a tooth today and drank a bunch of Bushmills to self medicate -- it makes typing... interesting.
  6.  (1119.13)
    In the summers, I work at an alternative boutique store -- the kind that Hot Topic started out as, and then became a poor corporate imitation of.

    Our manufacturers tell us, "Don't buy our product at Hot Topic." Because Hot Topic has come to them, and said, "We want this item you make, but we want to sell it for $__ less than everyone else. If you cut enough corners to get it down to that price, we'll buy 20,000 of them." Which causes what I call the Hot Topic Self-Destruct Sequence: Where the clothing you buy from them falls apart at an astonishing speed. The fabric rips, the seems rip, the applique peels off, the belts snap in half if you fold them too far. Meanwhile, the mom-and-pop alt-retailer down the street is going out of business because they're trying to make a living, not a killing, and they don't have pockets deep enough to compete. While an entire generation of young people learn to associate "rebellion" and "shopping at the mall."

    So, Hot Topic or a Hot Topic manufacturer plagiarizing other people's designs? Would that that were their only sin.
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2008
    The undercutting thing is pretty standard in chain retail. Look at Wal Mart, Target, Best Buy--even book chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders: they all have 'Low, Low Prices!' to get you into the store. The problem is that those Low Low Prices come at cost to someone, and it tends to either create lower quality products, an unstable industry, or both.

    One thing that really gets me is the book market. Mom & Pop Book Store orders 10 copies of Book X and sells five--too bad. They have the stock, they have it for good. Borders orders an entire flat of Book X and sells 10 copies because of their advertising ability. Oh, crap! They ordered too much--wait, it's fully returnable. The larger chains are able to return books months and years after initial order, and therefore have basically no overhead risk in stocking product. The larger ordering power increased exponentially, they have every opportunity to destroy all area competition outside of the corporate chains.
    • CommentAuthorzenbullet
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2008
    Speaking as an ex employee of Borders, books are only returnable up to thirty days, and we reject the shit out of stuff the best we can.

    {it's so obvious when people return "Learn Spanish in Three Days" after the fourth day}

    What really pisses me off is how in bulk a lot of books are bought, and then sold as remainders for a dollar. There is no way we can sell that many King novels, but as part of the buy in bulk to reduce costs strategy a lot of paper gets wasted...

    If, by returnable, you meant the books Borders returns, we don't really, they get thrown away at the end of the year. Ripped off covers return a portion of investment, but not much.

    Total derail, sorry, boo artistic infringement!
    • CommentAuthorInexperto
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2008
    Jess Fink has recently posted at, a blog that highlights plagiarised design work.
      CommentAuthormuse hick
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2008

    coilhouse put something up about this too
    • CommentTimeMar 4th 2008
    Not to be performing any uncalled-for thread necromancy, but Jess Fink just posted some promising results about the situation. One point for the little guys.