Zara, the Spanish fast-fashion empire that’s made a whole business out of “borrowing” ideas from other designers, is back at it again! Their latest victim: Tuesday Bassen, an indie artist with a large internet cult following thanks to her illustrations and line of pins, patches and apparel.
On July 20, Bassen—who’s been previously profiled by Jezebel—posted the following to Instagram:
“Over the past year, Zara has been copying my artwork,” Bassen writes. “...I had my lawyer contact Zara and they literally said I have no base because I’m an indie artist and they’re a major corporation and that not enough people even know about me for it to matter.”
The Instagram photo includes images of her work side-by-side with incredibly similar pieces sold by Zara, along with a letter, allegedly from Zara’s legal team, that states:
We reject your claims here for reasons similar to those already stated above: the lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.
According to fashion law blog The Fashion Law, Zara’s legal argument could be flawed (and not just ethically):
Sure, there is the merger doctrine, a caveat to copyright protection that holds that if there is only one conceivable way or a drastically limited number of ways to express and embody the idea in a work, then the expression of the idea is not copyrightable because ideas may not be copyrighted. Given that Bassen’s illustrations consist of intricate details, such as the “Keep Out” and heart-lock designs on the diary (as opposed to a more simplistic drawing of a diary) or the “Erase You” writing on the eraser (as opposed to a straightforward drawing of an eraser), which were all re-created by Zara, this is arguably not an applicable exception. There are certainly ways of depicting the aforementioned ideas - a journal, an eraser, etc. - without including the details included in Bassen’s works, suggesting that the merger doctrine may not apply in the case at hand.
Bassen, who’s already paid thousands of dollars in legal fees, says that she will continue to fight Zara, both for her work and the work of other artists.
To prove that Bassen is not alone:
(At press time, neither Zara nor Bassen had returned Jezebel’s request for comment.)
Image via Tuesday Bassen.