In yet ANOTHER case of stealing, artist Vera Brosgol noted via Twitter that Hot Topic had totally ripped off her T-shirt design. Brosgol’s drawing had been created for Erika Moen’s birthday. As Valerie D’Orazio pointed out, this is sadly common. But by the end of the day, Hot Topic had pulled the T-shirt (below). Depressingly, it is sure to happen again and again.


  1. As a victim of art theft myself (my art was used without permission for an iPhone app), it is something that is unfortunately common. Having your work stolen is a risk all artists take when they upload their work online. To prevent such theft, the only thing the artist can do is not upload their work online at all. But what good would that do, if you want to show your portfolio out there to anyone who might want to hire you?

    I suppose that along with the risk that an artist takes when he or she uploads their work online, is a willingness to fight for their art when necessary. I went ballistic at the iPhone app maker, threatening legal action. They eventually pulled it. I guess I’m lucky, because some thieves don’t back down.

    I guess all I’m saying is that if you are going to put your work out there online or in print, be absolutely prepared to have it stolen, and if you have balls, be prepared to fight for it as well.

  2. This was going around Reddit yesterday and I’ll just repost what I commented there:

    I think Hot Topic is as silly as the next guy, but I doubt any of these products are actually manufactured and designed by Hot Topic itself. I’m sure, like any retail clothing store chain, they purchase the stuff from other vendors/manufacturers whose *designers* are the people we ought to be bitching about. One can hardly expect Hot Topic’s buyers (meaning the people who decide what goes in the stores) to somehow cross-check every product they’re presented to make sure it’s an original design. I’m sure all they give a shit about–and all they can reasonably be expected to give a shit about–is whether it looks good atop some skinny jeans.

  3. I suspect this type of art theft is one of the negative side-effects of our current “YouTube” culture. The internet has leveled the playing field for creative people (I’ve reaped the benefits of that myself), but in doing so, it makes it just as easy for people with little or no creative voice of their own to do something that superficially resembles quality while being devoid of any new idea. See any YouTube “response” video for evidence.

    But more than that – and more to the point – it encourages “entrepreneurs” trying to make a buck to sell product based on some new catch phrase or buzz word. And hey, if something’s on the internet for free, the person who made it doesn’t give a damn about making money, right? It’s an extension of the old ignorant mindset about artists not deserving to be paid well – or at all – for doing something they enjoy.

    Just because you hate your lame-ass desk job that you only took for the steady paycheck doesn’t mean I don’t work as hard as you – it means I work HARDER. Because I’m running my own business as sole proprietor, keeping my own books, paying taxes out of my own pocket (including an NYC public transportation tax so that office folk can get to work), etc. It’s like being an office worker times ten.

    This kind of thing is just insulting, not only to the artist involved, but to all of us. But what do I know, I just draw pretty pictures, right? ;)

  4. kevin, try to see it this way:

    As long as artists aren’t curing cancer or building bridges, the average layman won’t respect them because art serves no ‘useful’ purpose.

    If you’re going to name a series of Renaissance fine artists right now–stop. Most of them had day jobs as scientists and architects. Some of them weren’t aprreciated until they were dead.

  5. Hey just thought I’d weigh in as I’ve been that guy on the other end – designing graphics for fashion.

    Hot Topic most certainly didn’t “produce” this shirt – a salesman for a smaller outfit sold them individual items from a collection of shirts presented to them. A designer – the person responsible for the clothing line – gives a production artist – a photoshop / illustrator technician with a wide range of artistic / design skills – “inspiration” for a collection, with color swatches, torn pages from magazine, and artwork that matches a given theme. That Vera Brogsol illustration may have been part of that inspiration or something the production artist found on his own. The production artist, who might have to create as many as 50 designs in a week, takes a shortcut and rips off the drawing making appropriate changes to have it fit in with the rest of the collection.

    It happens all the time and 98% of the time nobody’s caught. In fact, that image may have been altered enough to withstand copyright protection (the colors are different and one of the characters gender is reversed).

    It’s easy to blame the production artists or the designers, but I would put equal blame on the corporations who demand a ridiculous amount of product and want things to look as trendy (ie, similar to what’s already out there) as possible. In the fashion industry knocking something off is encouraged as a legitimate business strategy.