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Did The Gap Steal This Image From Flickr?

Illustration for article titled Did The Gap Steal This Image From Flickr?

In February 2009, Chris Devers took a picture of an old Jaguar, and posted it on his Flickr photostream. Yesterday, someone contacted Devers, writing: "This photo is on an outfit my wife bought at Baby Gap."

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The tipster added:

I could tell it was a Jag, so I googled for Jaguar images and came across this. To our surprise, you can tell it's the same image due to the reflection of the overhead wires in the windshield. You may already know this, if not then I hope they sent you a check.

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The image on the Gap onesie, called the "thermal body double" has a monocromatic, stenciled effect easily achieved in Photoshop. Perhaps a designer thought that by stripping the color and details away from the image, no one would be aware of its provenance. But as a Flickr commenter points out, "The reflection of the wires on the windshield is as good as a barcode, to proof your ownership."

This kind of theft is, unfortunately, quite common in mass-produced fashion. Recently, Forever21 has been under scrutiny for copycat designs. Urban Outfitters has also been accused of knockoffs. The site You Thought We Wouldn't Notice tracks art ripped off by corporations.

As for Devers, he is, for now, keeping a somewhat open mind, writing:

I have various thoughts about what's going on here - for example, the mind-boggling idea that some unknown factory in southeast Asia somewhere is cranking out thousands of $16.95 tshirts with my photo on them on behalf of the Gap, and yet they never attempted to contact me about their use of my work - but I'm trying to keep most of my thoughts to myself until Gap has a chance to respond.

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My photo of a Jaguar E-Type from Flickr being used on a Gap tshirt design [Flickr]
Thermal Body Double [Gap]

Earlier: Forever 21's Bizarre Knockoff Empire

Related: Urban Outfitters Rips Designer's Cupcake T-Shirt [Consumerist]
Urban Outfitters rips off Chloe [You Thought We Wouldn't Notice]
You Thought We Wouldn't Notice [Official Blog]

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DISCUSSION

Curious: How far does copyright law go to protect pictures available via flickr, Facebook, etc.? Does it matter where the image is pulled from? For instance, would Flickr have legal ground to stand on, on behalf of a photographer? If you haven't copyrighted an image, is ownership implied? If an image of an object is fair game, how would that affect a photograph of a painting I do or my own image [although I think in the U.S., a person has ownership of their likeness and must formally convey it to someone else, see: Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia merch.]