Aritzia might have stolen some art

Canadian clothier Aritzia has made bank as it expands in the US, but a copyright infringement suit against its viral storefront sculptures could make its pockets a little lighter.

What happened: Artist Richard X. Zawitz is suing Aritzia over claims that squiggly metallic sculptures featured in the company’s spring window displays rip off his squiggly metallic sculptures. 

  • Zawitz is seeking up to $30,000 per each infringement, claiming that Aritzia's art consists of the same design and colour of pieces he’s been making for over 40 years. 

Considering that Aritzia’s sculptures look essentially identical to Zawits’s, it’s hard not to feel that Zawitz has a pretty strong case. However, proving copyright infringement in the courts is often a struggle for artists taking on big companies. 

  • One law professor told The NYT that original works are protected by copyright as soon as they’re recorded, but basic shapes, themes, and tropes fall into the legal grey area of “fair use.” 

Why it matters: Artists have long pointed fingers at big brands who seemingly use their designs without credit. Even world-renowned artists like Bansky have brands ripping off their ideas, and in just the last year, brands like SheinDisney, and Converse all faced theft accusations. 

  • Since many artists make their living off of licensing their works, copyright infringement from companies takes money directly out of their pockets.

  • The problem is particularly apparent in fast fashion, with one intellectual property expert telling The Guardian that design theft is growing “ever more prevalent.”

Zoom out: The copyright fight between artists and brands will only get worse as AIs trained on millions of copyrighted images start spitting out artworks. Let the legal games begin.