Seeing as how he hasn’t done a Swipe File for it yet 😉

The last few days have seen something of a twitter-storm, and one that I’ve taken a great deal of interest in as an artist who has concerns about plagiarism myself.

It all kicked off after Neil Gaiman tweeted a link to the site of the UK artist Hidden Eloise, high-lighting the issues she was having with her work being plagiarised and used on products sold for mass market consumption by Paperchase.

Fascinating Paperchase plagiarism over at http://bit.ly/cdrzKZ . Bad Paperchase.

From Neil Gaiman’s Twitter feed

Obviously, having a Twitter user with a profile as high as Neil Gaiman (around one and a half million followers) post about your problems is going to have a major impact, and indeed the proverbial fan has been spraying bird crap as far as a National newspaper and has forced both Paperchase, gathernomoss & finally the designer from who the plagiarised design was originally sourced to come out and make public statements.

Hidden Eloise GathernoMoss

 

The image on the left is the original © Hidden Eloise, and the image on the right is the design sold by gathernomoss to Paperchase, and subsequently put on a wide range of products and sold by them.

Paperchase’s responses so far have been disingenuous at best, and they have moved from a stance of seemingly insinuating that Hidden Eloise could be lying…..

Mr Melgund said the issue raised serious concerns about the “powers, and there in the danger of Twitter”.

“I am sure it can be beneficial but if you get an untruth (on it) it can be very dangerous,” he said.

….. to one of furiously passing the buck back down to the design studio gathernomoss and the designer herself. Their current response to people emailing to complain about the plagiarised work is to send them the direct email address of the designer who copied the work of Hidden Eloise.

From a legal standpoint I have absolutely no doubt that Paperchase have airtight contracts with the companies and individuals they source from that absolves them of any responsibility for work they use in good faith as being original. However, from an ethical standpoint they have behaved appallingly over the last few days. There has been no apology from Paperchase themselves, who are no doubt the ones who were profiting the most from the plagiarised design. They have simply denied everything until it was far too clear that it was indeed a clear copyright breach and then clammed up completely and diverted the shit-storm onto gathernomoss and the designer who supplied the plagiarised design.

It’s revolting corporate behaviour, which should I suppose come as no real surprise.

Rather than go into all the details here, I would suggest a visit to Hidden Eloise’s website and read her posts from the last two days. Starting from the post dated 10th Feb “Cannot Chase Paperchase”. I would direct link, but there seems to be something preventing link to individual post pages.

As usual, there is an opposing view and some people have been accusing Hidden Eloise herself of plagiarism, claiming that she has plagiarised the illustrator Jen Corace. See this comment on the Guardian article.

There’s a problem with this counter claim though. The Association of Illustrators blog states (quite rightly) that you cannot copyright a style. Neither is Jen Corace’s style so original that there’s never been anything like it before. Both Jen Corace’s and Hidden Eloise’s work bring to mind late 19th / early 20th Century childrens book illustrations with a ‘Grimm Fairy Tales’ feel in palette and style.

Below is a comparison of the same image as above © Hidden Eloise and to the right an illustration © Jen Corace.

[one_half_first]Hidden Eloise[/one_half_first]

Jen Corace

Similar.. yes. Plagiarised? I would say no. Of course I am no legal expert but what the AOI says rings true. If a particular style was to be copyrighted and locked down until 75 years after the originators death, we would rapidly end up with complete artistic stagnation. That would be a Very Bad Thing. Every artist looks to others for inspiration, we would learn very little in a vacuum.

Consider the following images, I can see elements of their style in both Hidden Eloise’s and Jen Corace’s work. And why not? These are classic works from revered illustrators:

[one_half_first]

Sassy Girl

Sassy Girl – 1924. From the book “Tucked-In-Tales” – Stories by Pattern Beard, illustrated by Clarence Biers.

[/one_half_first]

Untitled Illustration

Untitled public domain illustration. Sourced from GrandmasGraphics.com

[one_half_first]

Storybook Girl

Storybook Girl – Edmund Dulac

[/one_half_first]

Alice Underground

Illustration for Alice’s Adventures Underground – Arthur Rackham

I await with interest to see if Paperchase are going to do any sort of apology or Mea Culpa, at the very least they should remove all these designs from their shops and online stores. It’s now being stated by some that other elements in the Paperchase designs sourced from gathernomoss are also plagiarised, so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.

To be clear, the designer who did the plagiarising has admitted that she “copied the outline” – which is, frankly, bullshit. It’s been traced wholesale, all you need to do is overlay the two images and you can see that it is virtually stroke for stroke an identical tracing.

Apologies for the enormo-post on this, but it bothers me a great deal when this sort of thing happens.

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