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Image comparing two pieces side-by side. Pulled from Case 2:22-cv-04128-PA-GJS
Image comparing two pieces side-by side. Pulled from Case 2:22-cv-04128-PA-GJS

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Chinese fast fashion giant Shein sued by artist Magdalena Stephenson for copying her artwork

US-based artist Magdalena Mollman, professionally known as Maggie Stephenson, has accused Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein of using her artwork without permission.

She has sued Shein and its distribution company for more than US$100 million in damages on account of four claims: copyright infringement, vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement, removal of copyright management information, and false copyright management information (CMI).

The argument centers on her famous bestselling artwork “One Is Good, More Is Better,” which ranges between US$19 up and US$300, and is also sold by third parties like Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Sephora, Lucasfilm, ELLE Magazine, and Harper Collins Publishing.

As per the lawsuit, Shein has been misusing the artist’s “copyright-protected elements” from her Instagram account since 2019 and selling derivatives of her art prints under the category “Abstract Pattern Wall Painting Without Frame” for as low as US$4.

The freelance illustrator got her famous artwork protected under US copyright only in 2021.

The lawsuit argues that Shein never contacted Stephenson for “licensing her work,” and “simply copied the Original Art Work, created the Infringing Work and sold copies thereof for a fraction of their value” without considering her “creative rights and financial interests.”

It further alleged that Shein “intentionally” removed Stephenson’s name and signature “with the intent to induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal their infringement.”

The lawsuit also showed a screenshot of a side-by-side comparison of Stephenson’s artwork and Shein’s product.

Stephenson claims that fashion retailer’s “notorious” business practices are “predicated upon willfully violating the rights and interests of independent artists and designers who create original works entitled to protection under federal copyright law.”

She cited four cases in which Shein allegedly used other artists’ work without authorization, and also claimed that the company has already been sued in more than 30 separate actions for infringement and/or unfair competition.

In just a few years, the Chinese apparel behemoth has become very popular among millennials and Gen-Z for its affordable shopping and trending styles. It has also accumulated a long list of allegations of copyright infringement from major businesses and small designers along the road.

It has become a common phenomenon for established brands to rip off independent creators and erode the value of their work because brands like Shein believe they have the upper hand over creators.

PitchMark frequently covers cases of young creators getting ripped off by bigger brands. Our recent articles look at Nike being sued by graphic designer Adobe Bryant for stealing his design for a basketball tournament’s promotional campaign, and London-based fashion designer Chet Lo accusing the Swedish clothing brand H&M of copying his signature highly textured knitwear.

PitchMark helps innovators deter idea theft, so that third-parties that they share their idea with get the idea but don’t take it. Visit PitchMark.net and register for free as a PitchMark member today. 

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Mark Laudi

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