Hipster chic chain store, Urban Outfitters is in hot water, yet again, for possible copyright infringement. A necklace line the company carried (it was pulled as a result of very public backlash stemming from the situation) bore a striking resemblance to a line created by Stevie Koerner, a Chicago-based independent jewelry designer. The design in question is her World and United States of Love line, which is nothing short of identical to an Urban Outfitters line titled I Heart Destination, seemingly only a variation of the same title, right? Koerner, who sells her designs on Etsy.com, noticed the similarities, blogged about it, culminating in a statement that spells out her justified frustration, “I understand that they are a business, but it’s not cool to completely rip off an independent designer’s work.” After the post, the public uproar began, supplemented by celebrities like Miley Cyrus tweeting about the problem.
This isn’t the first time that the brand has been at the helm of controversy stemming from copycatting, in 2006 a shirt depicting a plane dropping cupcakes was identical to online store Johnny Cupcakes own shirt. And yet again, this past year in 2010 two vendors at Brooklyn street markets noticed their own designs in the store. It seems a recurring problem, maybe one that must be settled in court, for right now though, copyright laws have a lot of gray area when it deals with this sort of thing, in a sense, almost rightly so. Imagine a world where you couldn’t take artistic liberty with famous works of art such as the Mona Lisa or the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Pizza boxes are suddenly droll), or new interpretations of old designs (how many variations of planes turning into birds have you seen on shirts?) Though this is a problem dealing with ripping off smaller designers, it could turn into something much more.