Urban Outfitters and its ilk only make artists better

What happened:

The large company Urban Outfitters stole the i heart _____ design from Stevie Koerner of tru.che, an independent jewelry artist.

How the artist reacted:

Koerner posted about the theft on her blog. She called Urban Outfitters out publicly but she did so gracefully, naming what the company did and what she intends to do about it without using any mean words. Then she tweeted about what happened and generally spread the word in her community.

When I last checked, everyone from BoingBoing to CBS was talking about tru.che. In other words, Koerner turned something that could have been bad for her brand into a very good thing.

Stevie Koerner truche

Stevie Koerner's i heart France.

As a copyright law radical, this whole thing pleases me. It pleases me that Urban Outfitters should be able steal designs from anyone it wants to, and it pleases me that those anyones can fight back and score for the independents. This is the chaos of culture-making at its best, where copyright law is ignored in favor of allowing the public to decide who it wants to buy from and be associated with.

In the end, the real point of all of this is that Koerner's i heart _____ series is not the most original design in the universe. And I say that without detracting from the value of the work in any way, because to my mind the real value of Koerner's jewelry is in her, in the relationships she builds with her clients and in her vision for her future work. Urban Outfitters can't possibly take any of that away from her.

Independent artists may bemoan the reach that large companies have. We may want to be able to promote our creations as widely as they do, and we may love the idea of being able to partner with a corporation without being ripped off by them.

But the truth of the matter is that the companies we envy are always looking to us for what's fresh and of the moment. And when they find that new "it" thing, they mass-produce the soul out of it to the point where it has nothing to do with what we created in the first place. A corporation's product may still hold some appeal for a certain demographic, but it lacks the personal, and plenty of people are looking for that connection when they make a purchase.

- How I make sure my art doesn't get ripped off on the Internet
- John T Unger says "DEFEND ART."
- Paint your life.

Gwenn Seemel is a French-American artist who blogs bilingually.


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