Urban Outfitters and Etsy Artists: Who's Stealing From Whom?

UO stealing .jpg
via Regretsy
​It's well known by now
 that Urban Outfitters sometimes rips off designs from independent artists. Last summer, Foster Kamer noted that the hipster warehouse was stealing from Brooklyn designers; this week, Averie wrote about how the chain could be basing their state pendant necklaces on the design of artist Stevie Koerner. Here's the thing: Those state necklaces are all over Etsy. You've probably seen them, they're the ones in the shape of California or Texas or whatever with a little cut out heart. A post yesterday on Regretsy's blog takes issue with the idea that UO is the only bad guy here, given that there are a LOT of Etsy artists making the exact same thing. Who's stealing from whom?

The Regretsy post includes multiple examples of the state plus heart design from numerous artists. It doesn't seem as though the idea originated from just one person.

Are all of these independent designers on Etsy stealing from each other? Or this is such a simple and generic idea that many people can come up with it at once? Certainly the idea of a charm in the shape of a state is nothing new; they've been selling those to tourists for years. Is it such a leap to put a heart in one? That seems like a logical progression from the I heart NY design, which I first remember seeing in the late 70′s.

Now, I'm not generally the voice of reason, so this is an uncomfortable position to take. But I'm just not sure I want to start a boycott over an idea that many people have had, some for years before Truche even opened her Etsy store.

The question is less "Did Urban Outfitters steal?" (probably) and more "Who did they steal from?" It's unlikely that there's only one victim of UO's sticky fingers. On the other hand, does this mean Etsy artists are stealing from each other? And do we care? And if we actually think these necklaces are really cute and want a Massachusetts-shaped one, is that bad?

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]


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