Designer Cecilia Monge found herself at odds with Converse after accusing the shoe brand of using her designs, which she introduced in 2019, in its national park collection.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence, and it’s kind of a pity that big companies are borrowing from smaller designers,” Monji said in her May 2021 TikTok video, which has garnered 22.8 million views. Converse denied the accusations in a comment on a post on Diet Prada’s Instagram account.
Monge, which did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment, and the shoe brand, which also did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment, have never cooperated.
But months later, in October 2021, Monge had a new opportunity: to create a line of clothing using her original national park-inspired patterns in collaboration with lingerie brand Shinesty. The set is now almost sold out.
While some creators may seek legal retaliation for work they believe has been stolen, few have the resources to go after a famous brand. However, recalling a brand online is free.
Which is why many creators, like Monge, are increasingly using social media to call out brands that they say don’t give them credit and compensate them properly.
Copyright laws regarding creative work aren’t always straightforward, and anyone who publishes online risks having their work stolen and distributed without credit. Large companies have always had the upper hand in working with creators, especially those with a smaller platform.
The tide is turning in favor of creator pay, but is it actually worthwhile to summon brands to use allegedly plagiarized work?
It depends, according to Evan Morgenstein, CEO of influencer talent agency The Digital Renegades, which manages partnerships between creators and brands.
“A consumer brand [marketing] He died. ”
-Evan Morgenstein, CEO of Digital Renegade
Morgenstein said that public defamation of a brand can be tempting because consumers tend to trust other consumers more than they trust a large company.
“A consumer brand [marketing] Matt,” he said. “If you represent a brand, you can’t advertise to consumers anymore. It has to be consumer-to-consumer, which is why brands want to start in the communities, and hopefully people in the communities will talk about the product.”
Public elites can pay off, sometimes
Public Snark can sometimes end up in a fruitful partnership, benefiting both the brand and the creator.
One of the most notable events of 2020 happened with Epic Games, the parent company of the game Fortnite.
Epic Games ended up working closely with actress Anna Cotto, who debuted in early 2020 with a figure skating routine for the song “Jenny From The Block.” Coto posted a side-by-side video from her original TikTok from March of 2020 with a clip from the similar Fortnite game Freewheelin, which was added to the game that summer.
Flattery but no credit for dancing? Coto commented on the TikTok video.
A week later, Fortnite attributed the dance to being “inspired by” Coto, who eventually worked with the game to create another skate-themed expression.
Epic Games has been criticized in the past, and even sued, for using viral TikTok dances as in-game emotes without taking credit for the original creators who designed the choreography. Although Epic Games began giving credit to creators last year, such as “Renegade” choreographer Jaliaiah Harmon, other TikTok creators still accuse Fortnite of using their skins without permission.
Now, however, the company is reportedly paying directly to creators to use their viral dances, and includes attribution on sentiment lists in the game’s online store, Billboard reported last year.
Couto did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Epic Games, which declined to comment, directed NBC News to previous comments made on Billboard.
Nate Nanzer, Head of Partnerships at Epic Games, “I wouldn’t say it’s a choice we’re making to correct an earlier mistake” He told Billboard in March 2021 to move to pay creators for their choreography.
“When we were thinking about this program, frankly, it wasn’t just a question. We were like, ‘Of course we need to compensate the creators.’ We wanted to make sure we could tag it in the posts. [and] Work with these people from a marketing perspective as well, and make sure you give them the right credit.”
Some creatives prefer flipping fate when it comes to brand recall.
Since launching as an anonymous fashion account in 2014, Diet Prada’s Instagram account, for example, has served as an online whistleblower to draw attention to the creative industry’s grievances.
The account, which has 2.9 million followers, is notorious for defaming luxury fashion brands and fast fashion chains for copying the work of lesser-known fringe designers.
Diet Prada’s approach to the pursuit of digital justice has been criticized as bordering on sensationalism and in bad taste – the account known to have canceled others has finally been taken down for criticizing Kanye West’s Yeezy collaboration with Gap with statements referring to the rapper’s controversial political positions.
The post, which Diet Prada later apologized and deleted, failed to acknowledge Mollola Ogunlisi, the black designer who is leading the collaboration.
Diet Prada declined to comment on the story.
Other creators, such as Amina Mucciolo, end up taking legal action against the trademarks.
Mucciolo, a black artist who goes to studiomucci on Instagram and Twitter, is known for his eccentric, rainbow-patterned personal style. Their apartment, which they named Cloudland, features pastel-colored cabinets, vibrant furniture, and a few rainbow accents.
In 2019, Mucciolo’s followers point out the similarities between their apartment’s interior design and that of Lisa Frank’s pop-up residence in the 1990s. Mucciolo was invited to view the pop-up, which was across the street from their apartment in a building owned by the same management company that owns Mucciolo’s. The pop-up was eerily similar to Mucciolo’s, right down to the nearly identical design.
Mochiolo alleged On Twitter, they and their partner were evicted from their apartment after falling out with Lisa Frank, after the landlord refused to accept the rent.
That same year, toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment released a LOL Surprise doll that strikingly resembles the hairstyle Mucciolo wore in a 2018 Instagram post. They held off on talking about it until Bratz, also owned by MGA Entertainment, posted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last year.
Mucciolo told LA Magazine in 2020 that they found the post blank, and that MGA Entertainment had not provided them with evidence that the company had begun developing the doll prior to Mucciolo’s Instagram post.
Mucciolo declined to comment to NBC News.
Representatives for MGA Entertainment and Lisa Frank did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
In a tweet in June 2020, MGA Entertainment said it wanted to “purify the air” in connection with Mucciolo’s allegations.
MGA Entertainment wrote, “We have seen the allegations and are taking this very seriously. We apologize for the delay but felt it was important to review the schedule and facts internally.” “The Rainbow Raver was designed by one of our talented black designers, now a successful fashion entrepreneur, and confirmed that the doll is not based on Amina Mucciolo.”
One month later, Mucciolo announced in a blog post that they are taking legal action against MGA Entertainment. They said they were able to hire a lawyer with the support of a crowdfunding campaign.
“MGA uses this historic battle for black liberation to sell games in one breath and then crush and mutilate me in another. All because I tried to assert that they were guilty of the injustice suffered by the blacks they had declared standing against,” Mucciolo wrote in his blog post.
“And while big corporations are known to routinely steal from indie artists, this happens to black creators more than you can imagine. But because of racism, when we talk about these things, we are not believed or silenced or worse!”
More than a year later, these experiences have left Mocciolo frustrated.
Mucciolo wrote in a blog in September 2021: “I tried to stand up for myself, I don’t regret it, but it took me a lot and it still drains. Finally I can’t stand the fight for my past Amina anymore, I have to fight for this. That means Use everything I have to survive and keep making art.”
Later, Musciolo wrote “I’m not famous enough to impress a judge” and “I didn’t invent rainbow hair and clothes” were “actual things my lawyers told me long after they took my case.”
“The truth is we didn’t get out, but we definitely fell,” Musciolo wrote. “We need support and help in all its forms, and I don’t like to admit it. I’ve been ashamed, bullied, harassed and scrutinized every time I talk about my experience or ask for help. But I’m still here, and since you are, I’m committed to being honest.”
disgrace him streak
Publicly raising concerns about similarities between creators’ work may be warranted, Morgenstein said, but angry posting could jeopardize any chance for the brand to rectify the situation by working with the creator on future collaborations.
Creators are advised to avoid posting anything vitriolic against a brand.
General removal likely won’t be Morgenstein cited stimulating change other than burning bridges, citing the massive Proctor and Gamble company as an example.
If the company uses the work of a creator without permission, seeking legal advice will be more effective than inciting a campaign against Proctor and Gamble.
Bad press will not kill such a large company, especially if it is fleeting.
“And everyone is like, for two days,” Proctor and Gamble, hashtag Proctor and Gamble [expletive] You.” Morgenstein said. “And then you disappear. And if there is any legitimacy to it, you will need to address it… you have to go after it legally because there is no other way. You cannot destroy a brand through social media.”