Things are looking up for the independent pin artists fighting back against copycats big and, as we recently covered, small. Artist Susie Ghahremani, who is currently involved in a lawsuit against retailer Francesca’s for allegedly ripping off hers and ten other artists’ pin designs, took to Twitter yesterday to share a milestone in the case.
As court documents show, OK Originals and Express, co-defendant retailers in the case — OK being the alleged supplier of the Francesca’s pins — attempted to have the case dismissed using the argument that the plaintiffs’ designs were not original or creative enough to be legally protected by the Copyright Act. The defendants also argued that the artists have no protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because the alleged copies that occurred were physical rather than digital items.
guess what?— susie ghahremani (@boygirlparty) April 5, 2018
"Basic" and "unoriginal" giant retailers systematically copied 12 independent artists' designs, and violate the DMCA by intentionally stripping designs of their owners' copyrights.
Their move to dismiss our case kiiiinda backfired. pic.twitter.com/1uU3q9lkDG
Instead, the judge ruled in the artists’ favor, upholding the originality and creativity of their work as well as pointing out that the DMCA prohibits “(1) intentionally remov[ing] or alter[ing] any copyright management information, (2) distribut[ing] or import[ing] for distribution copyright management information knowing that the copyright management information has been removed or altered without authority of the copyright owner or the law, or (3) distribut[ing] ... works, copies of works, or phonorecords, knowing that copyright management information has been removed or altered without authority of the copyright owner or the law.” Basically, any time the retailers may have removed what are referred to as “copyright management information” (these can be markers like brand or artists names on the artwork) in creating their copies, they violated the artists’ rights under the law.
The judge's decision sets a powerful legal precedent that future artists can use! Thanks to the DMCA (what we already use to take down unauthorized copies of our work from websites like Etsy and Facebook!)— susie ghahremani (@boygirlparty) April 5, 2018
keep reading... pic.twitter.com/BgvUh6IZer
With this new opinion as a precedent, artists may now have stronger recourse against copycats who knowingly rip off works but simply remove identifying markers. This also means that artists looking for stronger protections on their work may now think twice about not printing their or their brand’s names directly on all of their products. The case against Francesca’s is ongoing, but this development counts as a win for independent artists.