Threadless deals with plagiarism

(Updated since original posting; see end of post for details)

Paging boogah!

Interesting situation playing out at ThreadlessI think this may be the first time a stolen design made it through voting and so on, onto cotton, without being spotted. Here’s the design, supposedly by someone called ‘rocketrobyn’:

And here’s the (apparently original) stencil art by miso and ghostpatrol:

BTW, note the perspective being copied from the photo’s odd angle, to the shirt design…

The Threadless design’s submission page has some classic comments:

  • Boney_King_of_Nowhere: Wow. Are you by any chance a fan of Bansky? Because this is almost a rip off. Almost. Awsome though.
  • rocketrobyn (this is my design): Thank you for the positive comments. I really like this shirt too! […] I’m not sure who Bansky [jm:sic] is, but I’ll check it out!


I heard about this via You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice, a street-design plagiarism blog, where ghostpatrol (one of the stencil artists) posted a blog post about the situation. In the comments there, Jake from Threadless pipes up:

jake n on 12 Dec 2006 at 4:30 am

hey, jake here from threadless. i was just made aware of this situation and want to give you all my assurance that we will handle this properly.

the designer will not be paid and the design will either be removed or licensed from the original designer if they are willing.

give us a couple days to sort the details.

Not to appear whingy, 2 hours later “n.” posts:

The original owners are not willing to license this design to Threadless, and want it removed from the site. Neither artist has yet been contacted by Threadless.

Bit of patience there ;)

More links:

It’s an interesting situation, and so far Threadless is handling it very well as far as I can see — the only people who aren’t are some other graf and stencil artists in the reaction threads, vituperating about Threadless not using psychic powers to detect plagiarism:

i tell you, you aren’t printing any of my subs, i know it as they score way too low to get noticed. but on the off chance that someone rips off a design i’ve done, as blatantly as this…i would definitely seek reparations from threadless and the offending subber. do a background check with the subbers available websites etc.

Background checks?! wtf.

Good reaction from miso though:

Once again, we own automatic copyright on these images,…

To clarify — we are not blaming Threadless. They didn’t take the design knowing that it was stolen [if they had done so witch such knowledge, we would be approaching this very differently].

This is the fault of the “designer”, and hopefully this will sort itself out in the next few days. [Who, by the way, has claimed to have done these designs — “This is a t-shirt I designed for Threadless.”]

As yet, either GP nor I have yet been contacted by either the company or “designer” to fix this, but Jake from Threadless has left a very nice comment for us on “You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice”.

The Threadless blog reactions are worth watching if you want to follow the ongoing drama.

Update: reposted to preshrunk. In the comments there, someone notes that it’s not the first Threadless tee to make it to production before plagiarism was spotted — The Killing Tree was first. There are some oblique references to this in this blog post’s comments.

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  1. Posted December 12, 2006 at 14:29 | Permalink

    Wow, that’s really interesting. I’m a huge Threadless fan and just bought a load of their tees as xmas pressies.

  2. Posted December 12, 2006 at 14:33 | Permalink

    In case you’re interested, deviantART has an entire forum devoted to art ‘rips’, as they’re known.

    dA rips forum

    Sadly, this sort of thing goes on way too often. It’s usually clueless teen blogs and Myspace profiles, but occasionally you have people selling T-shirts or posters of people’s artworks.

  3. Posted December 12, 2006 at 14:41 | Permalink

    Sinead — I’m a massive Threadless fan! So much so that I made a couple of unofficial RSS feeds for their stuff:

    (Of course, this also means I have buckets of the shirts in my closet now due to the affiliate points from that ;)