On Twitter recently an allegation was made that Melbourne fashion business Leonard St sold tshirts that featured artwork plagiarised from a Melbourne artist (web and Livejournal). The allegation was made by the artist and a friend at a creative agency who, in a blog post, replicated and discussed the content the artist had posted about the situation in her Livejournal account.
I read the information with interest and came to the conclusion, based on the photographic evidence and the discussion, that the allegation of plagiarism was legitimate and appeared fundamentally truthful (through who was responsible remained unresolved). I retweeted the information, along with many other social media users, and posted links to it in Facebook on Leonard St’s official page, where a discussion was developing.
Unexpectedly, the post on the agency blog was removed, then a day later the post on the artist’s Livejournal was also deleted. It is plausible to infer that these deletions occurred because the authors were threatened with legal action, such as being sued for defamation.
I am able to make this assumption because I was also threatened. In a Facebook message, Leonard St owner Amanda McCarthy said to me:
Please remove this defamation of my label form [sic] your blog as it is incorrect and damaging my label without true fact.
McCarthy apparently mistook me, via my Facebook and Twitter posts, for the author of the creative agency blog. Is is coz I iz a blogger? All bloggers look alike apparently. Along with her terrible writing and the petulant princess attitude it suggests, I knew I was soon to find myself swimming in a skinny decaf latte of stupidity.
After a couple of days I was forcibly ‘unliked’ from the Leonard St Facebook page and my posts there were deleted, along with many others from similarly critical people (I know because I was not permanantly blocked and I briefly ‘re-liked’ later in order to see what had happened). Only the positive posts remain.
The Leonard St owner seems to be a barely literate leotard. She opted for the ‘passive-aggressive make excuses for our shitty behaviour and thus make the situation worse’ PR strategy with predictable results. It got worse.
It is unclear whether the initial allegation in the blog and Livejournal posts suggested that Leonard St intentionally plagiarised the artist, or whether it merely stocked and sold the shirts without knowing the provenance of their design. They were deleted before I could save their text (though fortunately I had saved the images).
In her Facebook message to me, McCarthy argues that she was not responsible for the plagiarism:
I purchased some print tees form a supplier last summer, I DO NOT PRINT THESE MYSLEF [sic] UNDER Leonard St label. They had no labels so I and attached a Leonard St swing ticket with price as required.
This is illustrated in the image published (then removed) on the artist’s Livejournal profile (below).
Image copyright Eveline Tarunadjaja / used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 / c2011
I was contact [sic] directly by [the artist]. And I passed the copyright infringement onto the people I bought them from and they did infact give [the artist] some compensation, as they themselves were not aware of it.
Leonard St claims it was not aware of the plagiarism of the shirt image, and implies that the shirt manufacturer was also unaware of it. For the sake of the argument, let us accept these assertions as facts. Leonard St did not intend to sell plagiarised clothing.
This implies that whoever designed the shirts stole the artwork from the artist. What is crucial here, however, is that the Thai manufacturer took responsibility for the problem and compensated the artist, thus acknowledging its partial responsibility in contributing to the plagiarism.
In contrast, Leonard St refused to acknowledge its part in perpetuating the plagiarism and instead made pathetic excuses for its behaviour. McCarthy says:
i did not produce these prints. The label area is blocked in the image that would show the public it is not a Leonard St product.
How incredibly disingenuous. They sold the shirt in their shop with their branded price tag on it. In the eyes of a customer this makes it their product. Just because it does not have a branded logo sewn onto the back of the collar does not mean that they can deny all responsibility.
Their first response should have been to issue a public apology and state that they had immediately removed the stock from shelves. But in none of their statements have they indicated when they removed the offending stock from sale and they have not apologised.
It is also a curious coincidence that the work of a Melbourne artist (which is presumably best known in Melbourne), is plagiarised by an unknown designer, printed by a Thai manufacturer, then bought and sold in Melbourne by a Melbourne retailer.
A suspicious mind could suggest that Melbourne fans of the artist’s work may be likely to buy it on a tshirt in a Melbourne shop because it may be familiar to them, but this hypothetical observation was labelled a conspiracy theory on Facebook before being deleted.
McCarthy then says:
Over a few conversations with [the artist] I suggested she should always water mark her work online so that it is not copy-able like this.
I am incredulous at the subtle ‘blame the artist for not watermarking their work’ distraction. How insulting. The legal onus is on people and businesses not to plagiarise content, not for content creators to try to make it difficult for their work to be stolen.
It gets even worse. McCarthy tries to make herself appear sympathetic by also claiming to be a victim of plagiarism while simultaneously claiming that it should be considered a compliment to have your work stolen:
I too have my had my own designs copied by major retailers and it is distressing alothg [sic] compliemtary [sic] at the same time.
McCarthy implies here that the artist is being ungrateful for not having her work appreciated (stolen). OMFG what a leotard. One in which the elastic has gone rather saggy.
Leonard St is a business bully that appears to have further victimised the artist into removing her legitimate complaint from her Livejournal profile.
The plagiarism itself is an agreed fact. The argument is about who is responsible for it. The artist (and her friend) may have made inaccurate allegations about who they thought was responsible, and it would have been reasonable for Leonard St to insist that they amend their posts to reflect this, but they should not have had to remove them entirely.
In addition to this, by deleting the Facebook discussion and telling me (in lieu of the author of the creative agency blog) to delete an allegation of plagiarism, Leonard St has acted to censor and stifle discussion of this issue well beyond attempting to get to the truth of matter and protect its reputation.
Leonard St is responsible for treating the artist with contempt and engaging in belligerent stupidity. Consider this statement on its last post on its Facebook page:
the artist has recently launched her own tee line, wonder if thats [sic] got anything to do with it as the live blog is in fact hers. good luck Eveline, hope your lies about Leonard St make you lots of money of [sic] thats [sic] what your [sic] after.
The artist does not appear to have been asking for significant financial compensation for the plagiarism, but to be treated with dignity, for her moral rights to be respected and for her legitimate complaint to be addressed fairly.
In relation to these matters Leonard St has failed to respond honestly and ethically and this has earned the enmity of many Melbourne people. Its passive-aggressive attitude and vindictive behaviour is an embarrassment.