Thursday, 11 February 2010

Paperchase vs HiddenEloise

It's clear as day that the one thing that Twitter shows us is that modern companies cannot keep up with fast paced events that threaten to harm their brand image. Not that Twitter is necessarily a poor place for brands, with some research suggesting that Brands tend to do ok in public image. Today's failure is by the company Paperchase who (at the time of writing) have left this rather defensive comment on their site (link is to a screenshot for posterity) concerning allegations of plagiarism by the company of an independent artist, known on Twitter as HiddenEloise.

It is, as with all these trending topics, easy to get carried away. Some have already accused those of us pushing Paperchase for a definitive action or even appropriate comment as being a "lynch mob", something that happens every time one of these "crusades" goes about. However while sometimes people might collectively get the wrong end of the stick, on this I'm not so sure the masses are.

The story was first blogged by the artist in question on her website, Hide n Seek, and painted a tale of someone at the end of their ability to deal with this problem.

Since I have written to them, Paperchase made sure to put up even more items for sale with my plagiarised art! I'm sure Paperchase think that there is nothing that can make them stop. Proof is that the albums in the link above are actually freshly listed after the notebooks that I had written them about have apparently sold out!

So please, if you are any bit angry or frustrated with huge n ancient vampires sucking the creative juice of indie artists, a simple e-mail sent to them here might save me from having to raise $40000 for court expenses!


Paperchase contacted the artist in 2009, at the beginning of December, with a message that as far as they were concerned the art they are using had been bought in good faith from an unnamed design agency. That, it seems, was the end of that.

Roll forward to today, and an opportunity for Paperchase to maybe search a bit harder, ensure that they were not using stolen artwork no matter how initially in the dark they were about the theft, and to generally make amends. As one twitter user put it, however...

@pauleec #paperchase today took a battering, then steadied themselves, stemmed the tide, got back on their feet then gave themselves a wedgy.


Indeed far from simply apologise and look in to it, they've briefly (in the space of an hour or so) questioned whoever they have decided to and come back with the snottiest and most insulting veiled "apology" I think they could have.

The illustrator who is making the allegation made us aware of her concerns in November 2009 and we duly responded to her in early December, since when we had heard nothing….until today. Back in November 2009, we spoke at length to the Design Studio in question and they categorically denied any plagiarism.

It is worrying that such an allegation can create such reaction and again, Paperchase apologises for any ill-feeling caused.


So from Paperchase's eyes the word of their design studio is better than this individual...that's not too hard to believe. But then they also try to insinuate that "the illustrator" is just making a fuss, trying to suggest that because she didn't reply to their December comments that she mustn't have had a problem perhaps? Furthermore they are kind enough to apologise for the "ill feeling", even though throughout their statement they absolve themselves and the design studio of any wrong doing. Essentially they're apologising that this annoying "illustrator" has caused such a fuss, it's the kind of apology an embarrassed neighbour might give when their neighbours kids defecate on her lawn, just to "play nice".

So is there any substance in their claim? They say they bought the design in November 2008. The small cynical part of me wonders about the coincidence of this date and the start of the archives on a site who's domain was registered in May.

But it takes less than a minute to take a look down the right hand side of the website and see some links to friendly blogs, Wildflours and Hanna's life is cool, both who reference this amazing work done by an illustrator they've seen online.

Clicking through some more we find the online shop etsy.com where the design that is allegedly plagiarised was put on sale (and sold out) on April 5th 2008, a full 7 months before Paperchase bought the artwork from their design studio. Fellow twitterer TotallyToRA even found a Flickr page that shows the image tagged as having been created no later than March 31st 2008.

The timelines seem to add up, the work was created, and even sold in early 2008. It even had some minor buzz among fans of the style of work perhaps, and then later that year an amazingly similar design is sold for untold money to a company that makes profit off of the original illustrators hard work.

Right now they're standing by their story, as can be seen in the Telegraph, that they have "rigorously" investigated this claim and can't come up with any other answer than that they are right. It's an abomination of a stance given the evidence that is out there and the general common sense that can be applied to see the vast similarity of the two sets of work.

It's highlighting how powerless people are to back themselves up legally on these arguments, and it's likely Paperchase and their studio of choice knows this. When an individual has to stump up thousands to fight companies that plagiarise their innovation it's hardly likely that a company is ever going to be brought to justice. But in this age of "twitter mobs" there is more consumer power, to demand honesty and transparency, and given the evidence scattered around the web right now I think it is only just that we all call on Paperchase to name the studio that so evidently stole this work and to no longer use their services in the future.

Update:

Paperchase have updated their statement (and with it updated the dates they claim they first bought the artwork, always something concerning when dealing with official statements)...

Gather No Moss, the Agency we bought the artwork from, have asked us to post the following statement:

"We are the small design company that represents the independent artist who created the Paperchase design. We have contacted Hidden Eloise by email and are hoping to talk with her soon. We carry the work of designers who like Hidden Eloise are all trying hard to make a living through their art. We would never knowingly sell a design that infringes the copyright of a fellow artist. We have worked with Paperchase for many years and found them a great supporter of independent artists."


Hopefully HiddenEloise will be able to get some closure through all of this, and the support that she's received. It's annoying that Paperchase still can't address a concerned public reasonably, but clearly the pressure has opened up a door for HiddenEloise to make a more strident move towards justice.