In December 2008, an artist in East Atlanta painted a local billboard with the simple, loving message, “You Look Nice Today” and painted a small red heart next to it. And this week, the same artist found out that her sign now also adorns doormats, pillowcases and towels at Swedish mega-retailer H&M, which didn’t pay to use her original design in its products.
Tori LaConsay told her story of being misappropriated by the retailer in an email to Regretsy, which posted pictures of LaConsay’s sign and the products on offer from the chain’s UK website side by side. (Local photographer Gabrielle Kai posted a photo of the sign to her blog in January 2009, so we’re confident it’s been around for a while.) When you look at them, it’s pretty easy to see that H&M’s products are near-perfect copies — we suppose for intellectual property reasons they chose to leave out the period that closes LaConsay’s kind sentiment, but otherwise the designs are identical.
And the worst part is, H&M flat-out denies that the items are similar. LaConsay’s friends emailed the company to complain that her artwork had essentially been stolen, and one of them got this message in response:
We employ an independent team of over 100 designers. We can assure you that this design has not been influenced by your work and that no copyright has been infringed.
Sure. When a massive corporate entity uses someone’s proprietary work of public art for monetary gain without securing the right to do so first, no one’s copyright has been infringed whatsoever. Laws work that way.
LaConsay probably isn’t going to sue — or at least she doesn’t appear to have the desire to right now, but we think what’s happened to her is just plain wrong. It’s one thing for fast-fashion chains to copy clothing and other products from big companies that sell originals for hundreds and thousands of dollars, but it’s quite another to take the work of a community minded artist, who never got paid for her work in the first place, and turn it into profit. Shame on H&M for being so greedy, and for being so unapologetically unoriginal. Should you like to complain to the brand about this flagrant abuse of someone else’s work, you’ll find their customer service department here.