Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Your work can be copied

Published online, here.

One independent illustrator made the news recently when she accused stationery giants Paperchase of copying one of her designs.

The illustrator, who goes by the name of Hidden Eloise, draws and creates a range of items that are sold online via the craft site Etsy.

In November 2009 a buyer informed Hidden Eloise that Paperchase were using a design almost identical to one of hers on a range of their products. 

The image of a dark-haired girl leaning against a mushroom appeared to be an exact copy of her original illustration of a girl leaning on a large brown bear titled, “He says he can hear the forest whisper” (see video).

Despite the obvious similarities between the works, Paperchase denied the design had been copied. The company said it had bought the print from an agency called Gather No Moss who claimed one of their designers had created it.

Hidden Eloise maintained that she had created the design in March 2008 and put together some very strong evidence, which demonstrated Paperchase’s version was indeed, a copy.

Hidden Eloise told artsLONDON news: “Sadly there is not much one can do to protect from copying itself. However, it’s a good idea to have public records of when you created your art so you can fight plagiarism.”

Then, on February 11 this year, the story unexpectedly began to receive global attention after Hidden Eloise's fans began to twitter about Paperchase’s treatment of the case. And it was reported that Paperchase and the agency received thousands of complaints.

Later that same day, Paperchase's blatant plagiarism made it on to The Guardian’s website. Pressure was clearly mounting on the stationery company and they finally released a statement admitting they were “not without blame” for the situation.

A statement from Paperchase was released alongside apologies from the agency. The freelance designer admitted: “I copied the outline pose of the Hidden Eloise character called – “He says he can hear the Forest Whisper” to create a new pose for my character. 

I did not intend to copy the girl but use her pose to create a new design for my own character, I now realise it was wrong to do this.“

Hidden Eloise has decided not to pursue the case into the courtroom and has returned the cheque for £350 that Gather No Moss sent — the fee, which they claim, was paid for the design in the first place.

Hidden Eloise had no reason to expect her work would be copied; she was careful to present her work alongside the copyright symbol and always signed and dated it.

She told artsLONDON news that the situation would not change how she publishes her work: “The internet is a great way to have your work recorded, through an online shop or just flickr and so on.

“And that way you can show dates if you need to fight for your intellectual property. I have always used Creative Commons for all the content in my blog. Making it easy for people to talk about your art is very important.”

Visit Hidden Eloise's blog to see more of her work and read more about her story.

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