In the world of republishes and screenshots, the line between shareable artwork and privately- owned designs is quite thin and consistently being blurred under the guise of good intention or pure ignorance. Through various networking sites, artists advertise and post their work, either for personal appreciation, professional clout or marketing purposes. But when does a simple repost become something more sinister?
Large corporations (specifically fashion houses) have been stealing small artists’ work for ages, but Instagram account @diet_prada presents such controversy with daily posts exposing the so-called “copycats” in action. With photos of old designs contiguous with new collections, @diet_prada leaves it up to the follower to decide if the fashion house was a little too inspired by another, using a simple poll to vote “preach or reach”. By using social media to provide both news and evidence and a space for interaction, the general public can get in on the drama while learning a little bit about the industry and conceivably give the consumer a twinge of guilt or responsibility.
The controversial Instagram handle’s usual target, Zara, has a reputation for both imitation of major fashion companies as well as theft of small designers without any compensation. This is nothing new.
Zara has been under fire for over 7 years and been involved in many lawsuits regarding such plagarism. Recently, Diesel’s skinny jeans and Marni’s sandals prevailed in Milan court against Zara, who was forced to recall their imitations.
However, possibly the most foul excuse for such actions is the commercial over luxury argument. Many say that brands like Zara are providing a cheaper product for the general public for a fraction of the price of the designer original. The key concept here is that theft is theft, and the artists and workers at Gucci or Versace own their designs, regardless of salary or prestige.
While America’s fashion industry has grown and matured, copyright laws have stayed vague and never updated. Creators are not protected, and the paradox remains; harsher laws may provide some security but perhaps will harbor growth or creativity in the marketplace as designers tiptoe around patents.
Perhaps it is obsolete, outdated copyright laws or even just the pure power of a big business as compared to an independent indie artist that is to blame. Nevertheless, fast fashion and social media have contributed to this ever-growing issue. While it is difficult to truly know if artwork is original or stolen, in an increasingly digitally public age, privacy and censorship must be considered.