Anatomy of a trending topic: How Twitter & the crafting community put the smackdown on Urban Outfitters

Today has been a fun ride. Behold the power of social media muscle.

This morning, online buddy Gayla Trail (also known as You Grow Girl) posted a link to her Facebook page. It was to a tumblr post by Chicago independent jewelry artist Stevie of tru.che.

Urban Outfitters (and their sister brand Anthropologie) – notorious for ripping off independent artists’ designs, mass producing them, and selling them back to their customers at a premium – had done it again. In such a blatant way. Here’s one of Stevie’s “I Heart NY” necklaces:

I heart NY Necklace

And Urban Outfitters’ ripoff “I Heart ____” necklace:

Urban Outfitters Ripoff Design

From Stevie’s tumblr post:

My heart sank a little bit. The World/United States of Love line that I created is one of the reasons that I was able to quit my full-time job. They even stole the item name as well as some of my copy.

Bad news travels fast

Bad form, UO. I put up a tweet.

my boycott urban outfitters tweet

About 15 minutes later, my phone lit up. Tweetdeck let me know “there are 56 new updates about you“. What?? I clicked through and sure enough, I was getting retweeted like crazy. I recognized many of my followers from the independent crafting and Etsy community. Cool, I thought. Stick it to em, crafters!

Five minutes later, Tweetdeck told me I had 121 new updates. And my Gmail blew up. Whaaaaa??!! It was time to get on Twitter.


I started scrolling through dozens of @replies and saw several from TrendsmapUSA that @amberkarnes (my Twitter handle) was trending in L.A., Portland, New York, Toronto. Then this one came in.

Trends Map USA tweet

Uhhh, what? My name was a national trending topic?

trend map

Well yes, it appeared that I was. The live feed showed dozens of tweets coming in every couple of seconds. People were retweeting me like crazy. I was a little baffled and really excited. Then I got some @replies alerting me that Urban Outfitters was trending all over the place as well. And sure enough:

Urban Outfitters was trending internationally

urban outfitters top tweets trending

Urban Outfitters was trending nationally in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And mine were the top two tweets. Edited to add: the statistics for Stevie’s original tumblr post show it was clicked over 260,000 times at last count.


And it’s viral

Huffington Post and Boing Boing picked it up. It spread on Twitter like wildfire. My tweets were retweeted hundreds of times. Twitter users alerted me that former “fans” were blowing up the Urban Outfitters Facebook page.

Urban Outfitters facebook page

Messages of support for Stevie and her jewelry poured in. Lots of people seemed outraged that they weren’t being sued. Many people seemed downright shocked and hadn’t heard of their previous douchebaggery in ripping off indie artists. Then I got this:


Heh. And indeed the images were gone, and a message “this item is no longer available” appeared on the item page on Urban’s website. (Edited to add: early this morning I got a direct message (from a credible source) whose sister works for UO. She said they’ve been told to pull the necklaces from all stores immediately.)

The Urban Outfitters Twitter page remained totally silent, although other tweets were being posted during this time. LAME.

UO Twitter

(Edited to add: It was pointed out to me that UO did put out a tweet about this, before my screengrab below in their timeline. Just one.)


It’s been about 6 hours since my original tweet went up, and I’ve gotten hundreds of @replies and followers. It’s just crazy.

Three big lessons

Here are my takeaways as someone who is obsessed with the power of social media muscle and the ever changing pulse of marketing (thanks to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Michelle Rogerson for helping me think these through):

1. Don’t underestimate the power of Tribes.

In his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin explains that you only need 1,000 true fans to make a living. That the secret of success is no longer in mass appeal, but in niche. In the tight knit group of a network. Today’s Twitter craziness was all about that.

I am not a Twitter celebrity by any means. I barely had over 1,000 followers when the day began and I’m pretty sure about 200 of those are spam-bots. What I do have – and the reason that my call for a boycott on Urban Outfitters spread so fast and wide – is a tribe. A tight knit group of independent artists and crafters that follow me. My cause resounded with them. They spread it, and their friends spread it, and a few big influencers on Twitter spread it, and then it was gone.

When I worked as the webmaster (and often-shouted-down social media champion) at Fortune 500 railroad Norfolk Southern, I had a hard time explaining this concept. Their PR heads would say, “Why should a big corporation worry about cultivating a relationship with some railfan who only has 600 followers? Shouldn’t we go after the big ones? These little nobodies can’t do us any damage.” Well, today proved the opposite. Urban Outfitters is trending not because they have a great new line coming out, but because of a PR nightmare. Because one “nobody” put up a tweet about a crafter that had been wronged. And her tight little tribe of crafters responded.

2. If you have customers, social media matters

Urban Outfitters has so far remained completely silent about this whole thing, even though they are trending internationally on Twitter because of their screwup and their Facebook page is flooded with boo-hiss complaints. They have big social media followings, and they’re being silent at the time when they should be paying attention, apologizing, and making it right. They have social media people on staff, obviously. They’ve been posting other things. But they’re ignoring this huge PR nightmare.

If anything was reinforced to me today, it’s that social media happens FAST. If you have customers, you can’t afford to sleep on it. You need to be monitoring, whether that’s with free stuff like Google Alerts, or paying one of the excellent monitoring services like Radian6 to help you keep on top of things. Listen to the buzz, because just ignoring it does not make it go away.

3. People love a cause

A big corporation ripping off small businesses and independent artists is wrong. And in a time when it’s hard to find or keep a job, that’s an easy cause for people to get behind. I think another big reason this spread so quickly was because it was a genuine sentiment (stick it to the man, support this little guy) and that’s something that plenty of people believe in. When I worked at a big corporation, they were always asking how to “make something go viral” – but the truth is that nobody wants to retweet some lame press release that talks about what a great company you are, or asks people to buy your latest product. But something with meaning, something with a story behind it, something that people can identify with – now that’s an idea that spreads.

What about you?

Have you seen the power of social media muscle? Anything crazy like this ever happened to you? What do you think about the whole UO ripoff debacle? Do you know an intellectual property lawyer that can chime in on this stuff? Will a van full of hipster CEOs pull up and kidnap me in the middle of the night? Tell me in the comments.

Edited to add: Followup post #1 | Followup post #2


      • says

        Amber, great get! One sight I would tell you to check out is They put independent designers together with independent boutiques. No rip offs-and the designer makes more money because the middle men are cut out.

        This really is the power of social media. Linked to this today.

  1. says

    Awesome post, Amber!

    I know UO has been ripping off people for years, including designs from my own friends & muses. Glad you guys were able to shed some light on the situation.

    Excellent breakdown, too. I saw the topic floating around today, and would have never known you were the one stoking the fire. ;)

  2. Katrina says

    Well done- just read your tweet, it was a toptweet – I usually never bother Reading them but yours caught my eye. This is a really interesting story and a real sign of our times. Please keep us informed about what happens next! By the way I live in Scotland.

  3. says

    Amber, this is an EXCELLENT analysis/demonstration of the power of social media. I have forwarded it to one of my professors here at Washington State University Vancouver to discuss how important it is to pay attention to your social media. Thank you so much for this well-written story, and for being proactive in the face of such moral bankruptcy.

  4. says

    I love the power of the Internet and social media. I think you’re absolutely right, these mega companies haven’t quite figured out how it works and that it can’t be boiled down into a formula and canned. It’s organic and has to be sincere.

    Great job today.

  5. says

    I am a photographer, so I understand the fear of someone stealing at that is yours. I had NO idea that UO did this sort of thing. Awful, AWFUL! They should be buying the originals and selling them, not making a terrible knock off. Thanks for the info. I’ll be on my FB soon : )

  6. pz muffinbottom says

    I’m just glad i was to cheap to ever buy cheap merch from an over priced store. As an artist I am completely disgusted with this news, and have been spamming my friends’ TL with this nonsense. Much love to you Amber and the owner of IMakeShinyThings!

  7. says

    It was amazing to see how all of this unfolded and wonderful to see how many sales Stevie has had today. Kudos to you! :)

  8. Michael says

    I too am a small, indie manufacturer. It’s hard enough to compete with large manufacturers without the betrayal of retailers. Thanks for shedding light on a wrong.

  9. says

    What they’ve done to Stevie & other artists is absolutely shameful. I hope they realize now that we will retaliate with more than just a glue gun.

  10. says

    I just love this story-not for the design theft, that is awful-but for the power of our community and our willingness to support each other. Integrity matters-this shows that. The power of our ethics can create deeper change, each time we stand up for each other we make it clearer that theft wont be tolerated. I hosted an ethics theme for my contributors/site in March and wrote a post on keeping ur community safe from copying
    this is the solution. Thank you for sharing the breakdown of how this story came to make such an impact!

  11. says

    amber, i’m part of your tribe. i, too, have had my designs stolen again and again, with little recourse, likely because i’m too small. and they’re too big. i’d had IP lawyers and the whole shebang, and i laugh (yes, out loud) when i read one of the twitter comments that said something like, “this is why you should trademark and patent your ideas!” hah. you can’t copyright an idea, sadly, and i know this all too well. but you may have won today, because you’re no longer small. i join you in being heartsick that our work gets stolen, i’m envious that yours did at a time when there was a way to get some attention.

    • says

      Yeah, I got a LOT of responses like that. “Copyright!” And it actually wasn’t my work, tru.che is the artist, I just spread the word…

    • @lizzhay says

      The only problem is that this isn’t an isolated incident in the crafting community – in response to her tweet, I’ve seen at least four others that have items that were ripped off by UO or are currently ripped off by them… that is entirely not cool, and I only can wonder if they responded not because they didn’t notice before but because of the social media backlash. IF I were them I’d be heavily analyzing my purchasing teams’ cred, if this was really a concern.

  12. says

    I’ve been boycotting them for 7 yrs now, and was happy to see this. I think what they do just stinks. I do give them credit for celebrating *some* indie designers, but they are, unfortunately, few and far between.

    I think they have built their aesthetic on the backs of indie people, creating style at the very grass roots level. And they, in an ideal world, owe that community a little more than they’ve been willing to give.

    I don’t think this is all about audience…I think it’s just something that is finally, finally, ready to be said. And heard.

  13. yvonne says

    I think it’s kind of funny that amidst this whole thing…which is so great as it is…all you are talking about is yourself and how many followers this got you!

    This story had nothing to do with you at all…it has to do with the artist, and the UO company – but you’ve managed to make it more about you, here.

    • says

      Well I sure hope it didn’t come across that way, I agree with you – this story is not about me, or my (still very puny) number of Twitter followers. It *is* however about the power of tribes and social media. And it *happened* to me. So I share my perspective and thought people would find the timeline interesting. That’s all!

    • says

      Yvonne, You must not know Amber personally or have spent much time interacting with her on social media. I assure you, she is the last person to make a story all about herself. She is committed to good causes and has a great heart. She is a humble person and loves to share and help others using social media. I’m sorry you didn’t get that impression. But the point of her post is that a “nobody” on Twitter still makes an impact. And I think it must be very exciting when that “nobody” turns out to be YOU. She had an exciting day watching as her tweet was spreading all over. Maybe she wasn’t the only one to tweet it and I’m sure the Huffington Post and Boing Boing had much more influence as the events unfolded. However, if you look at the tweets, hers was the first out there and the one with the most RTs. And that IS pretty cool, and I think it’s a-ok for her (and the rest of us) to be excited about that. I think her post was very well-written and not at all self serving!

    • says

      I thought the read was not only clear and easy to follow, but exciting as well, especially when I got to the edit about how they were told to pull the item from stores, and that the item is now removed from their website.

      I am so happy to hear they finally got it stuck to them!

      I have a vintage shop on Etsy and was approached by one of the Fashion Development managers at Urban Outfitters back in January. Although they weren’t ripping off MY original designs, they wanted my vintage items in bulk and basically at cost. I wouldn’t have made any money, and the garments were to carry the UO brand tags in their Vintage and Art Space1520 in Los Angeles. No promotion for me, no anything. Just “You think I’m cool right, want to give me your stuff?”

      Not anymore, and helllll no.

  14. says

    Glad to hear of your triumph. I think it’s not just “rooting for the little guy” (though everyone does love the underdog); people legitimately hate corporations because most of them engage in underhanded tactics to increase their profits and screw over the competition, and quite frankly anyone involved in that type of business deserves everything bad that ever happens to them.

    Their knockoff wasn’t half as good as your design anyway.

  15. says

    Awesome job today using your voice, Amber. We have always believed in the power of social media and preached it in our training sessions together. Today, YOU created the case study! I was just as excited watching it go down as you were and am thrilled we got to talk about it and reflect together while it was happening. Excellent analysis and recap post. Companies have a lot to learn from this example. Apparently, Urban Outfitters needs to not only change their business practices, but they need to change their policy of handling social media and crisis communication. I am floored by their lack of response. I they were my client, I would first recommend they apologize and address the thousands (yep, your were RT’d in the thousands!) of people on twitter and Facebook who are upset!

    PS-Thanks for the shout out in your post!

  16. Rob Wetherington says

    Great insights. You’re a phenomenal individual, Amber! Pumped for you!

  17. says

    I’ve re-posted your article on my Tumblr. My girlfriend is trying to get her own crafting business off the ground. It still boggles my mind that so many people across the spectrum of life banded together because wrong was done to someone they didn’t know.
    Damn but I love social media.

  18. says

    It is so exciting to know the power our community can have when we all work together to support each other! I was in this same situation about two years ago when someone purchased an acorn necklace from my website and had it shipped directly to the UO corporate office in Philadelphia. Not less than 4 months later and a cheaply made replica was being sold in both UO and Free People stores and websites. I felt so helpless and didn’t know what to do at the time, but am so happy that the power of social media and our amazing community can have such a huge impact and hopefully prevent things like this from happening to even more hard working artists.

  19. Seleena says

    Cool – but let’s keep it to the topic of Urban Outfitters and how they’re ripping off designers – not how clever you are for posting a sentence on the internet. You are not really the important bit of the story.

    • says

      Well I sure hope it didn’t come across that way, I agree with you – this story is not about me, and if you made it to the end, you will see that I referred to myself as a “nobody”.

      It *is* however about the power of tribes and social media. And it *happened* to me. So I share my perspective and thought people would find the timeline interesting. That’s all!

    • says

      Again, I don’t think Amber’s post is at all touting how clever she is. She was surprised and excited that something she believed in resonated with other people and spread so quickly. She has been tweeting for 4 years and this has never happened. I think we can understand that she is pleasantly surprised and her blog is an appropriate place to share that enthusiasm. But her intentions are true to the cause and she used this post to make a PR case study to serve as an example for others. We both are social media consultants who work together and have tried over and over to convince clients that “little people” count when it comes to social media. This sometimes never resonates with them. But maybe it will now because this time, the “little people” was her and the story hits closer to home.

  20. says

    Not only do they rip off the little guy, but they appeal to the liberal/gay demographic and then donate 96% of their political contribution to Republican candidates, most notably, Rick Santorum who compared homosexuality to “man on child, man on dog” sex. Sickening. Boycott now.

    • vonfancypants says

      Was just about to post similar info, Heather, but saw that you had. THANK YOU for pointing this out. UO is the ultimate fraud in presenting themselves as indie/alterna – friendly. I wonder if their employees even know the whole story.

      Boycotting x3 years now and I can’t say I’m missing anything at all.

    • says

      I got a *lot* of responses about this today, but totally forgot to include it in my story. It is pretty ironic.

  21. says

    This is amazing!! It’s so important for us indie artists to stick together. So important, because unfortunately it is us against the big guys. They can’t be satisfied with with what they have. No. They have to take yours as well.

  22. Steve says

    What you failed to report is that you were also tweeted a link to show you you the original designer of those necklaces, SUDLOW who didn’t profit from this at all. It wasn’t cool for OU to steal from Stevie, but it was OK for her to steal from Sudlow? How about tweeting the update as to who was selling those necklces first?

    • says

      I have gotten thousands of @replies today – I am sure there are some I’ve missed. A couple people have told me that tru.che is not the only designer on Etsy selling these. That’s something to look at – copying on Etsy itself is rampant and an important issue to discuss, but the story spread because of Stevie (and they did rip off *her* design, name, and website copy). So that’s what I posted about.

    • gs says

      It looks like sudlow uses a heart stamp rather than a heart cutout in their state neckaces. also, sudlow’s the chain connects at the back of the charm, rather than using a loop. designwise, UO was definitely working off of truche’s design, not sudlow’s.

      there are a few people selling similar state necklaces on etsy — and like was mentioned before, you can’t copyright an idea, only the execution of the idea. truche’s first sale of one of the state necklaces on etsy dates back to March 2009.

      but speaking of copyright, i doubt sudlow’s got licensing permission from lucasfilm for these:

  23. Instruct says

    We all read about this in the UK when you was asleep on the designers own blog, I’d give credit where it’s due but I think it’s a global thing rather than you spreading it as many big celebrities were tweeting it over here. Everyone plays their part.

  24. says

    I’ve emailed your story to all my coworkers – you’re an inspiration, girlie.

    Oh – still trying to work in that sushi date. I’ll email you.

  25. Elise says

    This reminds me of the “Cooks Source” debacle last fall (where a magazine, albeit a small one, ripped off an article and then had the audacity to tell the author that she should be thanking them for stealing her work and “correcting” it). Of course, in that case I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman jumped on cause with their Twitter accounts.

  26. @grabbeh says

    I have much sympathy for the designer here. It is very difficult in these David v Goliath cases to get redress, and it is good to see that social media and the spectre of bad publicity can work wonders in the absence of legal redress.

    Whilst in this case due to the usage of the same name and copying of text, it would be very difficult for UO to argue innocence, I think the reality in many cases is that a foreign manufacturer may have seen the designs and decided to replicate in bulk. Subsequently, a buyer for UO saw the designs, and bought them.

    I would also suggest that this isn’t the strongest case to hang some form of infringement action on. The overarching concept of using an outline of a state is too broad to protect, and arguably insufficient skill and labour has been used in creating the design. I say arguably in the role of Devil’s advocate.

    In the UK, the items may not attract copyright protection in any event due to their mass-produced nature. They may be able to gain protection as unregistered designs, however, they would have to be novel and have individual character. Again, it might be argued that the outline of a state is not particularly novel.

    In terms of what can be done to protect smaller designers, creating a distinctive brand around their ranges can assist. It is worth noting that copyright protection is unlikely to vest in short titles also. Trade mark registration would assist (it would be a pretty clear case of TM infringement if UO have used the same name) although on a cost-benefit analysis this may not be plausible for small designers.

    Hopefully in this case UO will recognise that they have attracted much bad publicity and potentially take a licence from the designer to use the designs. I would however caution that on a strict legal analysis that in this specific instance, protection is limited(excluding the alleged infringements in the case of the copy that was taken, provided this was identical).

    These comments are made from a UK law perspective. I would certainly welcome comment from a US IP lawyer.

  27. Jo says

    I came, I read and now I’ve shared with everyone I know too.
    Excellent post.

  28. Nico says

    You’re darn right.

    I barely ever retweet, but I saw your tweet in my feed and it instantly made my blood boil because of its resonance in the times we live in. The rest, as you say, is history!

  29. says

    @UrbanOutfitters Ripping off designers is an outrage. You have enough cash to hire people with creativity. Rebrand idea: Urbane-Shitters.

  30. Heather says

    This whole situation sucks, as a seller on Etsy I’ve heard so many of these stories and while they say imitation is the best form of flattery, it clearly screws the artist.

    I agree with @grabbeh though that it is possible that another jewelry manufacturer was probably the one who ripped off the design. I worked at one of UO’s sister brands, and the jewelry was always bought, not designed.

    I hope UO finds out which manufacturer copied the design, drops them as a resource, and makes that decision public. UO should recognize the creativity of independent artists, and consider licensing these unique designs directly from the artists.

    Best of luck with this unfortunate situation, I hope the story keeps growing!

    • says

      Thanks for your input, and yeah a few people have pointed out that the manufacturers are to blame as well. But UO is the one who directly stole her exact copy from the Etsy listing and put it on their website! I think that’s an important part to the story.

      I’m going to do a followup post on how UO could have handled this situation, and I’m gonna quote part of your comment in there. :)

      • says

        UO could have gotten copy from the manufacturer and just put it on their site as is. I’m not justifying anything that UOs did at all. They have a responsibility as a large brand to make sure their products are legitimate. Just saying that they probably weren’t aware that the design or the copy was stolen.

        Great story. I like the concept of “tribes”. Once your tribe started spreading the word, I’m sure other tribes picked up on it as well. The crafting community is made up of so many subcategories. I had never heard of you but a tweeter in my “tribe” RTed your post and I did the same after reading hers.

  31. says

    I’ve followed your blog for awhile and I’m one of those who saw the message and retweeted it, I just didn’t realize you were the one who got those wheels originally in motion! It was great for you to put up this back story to explain the whole thing.

    Power to the (craft) people!

  32. says

    Amber – amazing article! i saw your tweet and all the trending online and just had to blog about it. Hope you don’t mind i pinged back to your blog since you are the source of the hoopla!!!

  33. says

    I can’t stop thinking about what happened! This is such a fascinating example of the power of social media.
    The thing that gets me is that not only was the design swiped but the copy as well. That means someone knew very well what they were doing versus “it was the jewelry manufacturer’s fault” or “it was a coincidence that the design was the same.”
    Thanks for writing about the experience of having something go viral. It’s a wonderful lesson on how something can go viral – your experience is completely a case study of the step by step breakdown of how a message grows. (Girl, get ready to be talked about at conferences!)
    Kudos all the way around – for standing up for a friend, for holding a company accountable, and for doing so in a classy way. Cheers!

  34. says

    Well done, Amber. This is truly a triumph. It’s hard enough to build your audience as an Artist without larger corporations with deep pockets can swoop in before your grassroots movement can even set down roots with people. So yes, Social Media is key to me as a creator, to stay connected with, and understand my customer base. Well done indeed!

    since 1989

  35. says

    Social media backlash is certainly a force to be reckoned with so brands should absolutely be listening – AND engaging. Excellent post. Thanks for including our platform.

    Trish (@Dayngr)
    Community Manager | Radian6

  36. Ted E (chiefted on Twitter) says

    Couple of things.

    1. I started to follow you
    2. ““Why should a big corporation worry about cultivating a relationship with some railfan who only has 600 followers?” Big corporations most of the tine really don’t get it. Because that 1 of 600 who is a rail fan (and yes I am) might be a Logistics person (yes I was) who needs to ship a very important piece of equipment when there are no planes (aka 9/12/2001) to New York City (which I did).

    Cultivating these relationships can be extremely helpful. In my case (the one above) it was knowing, through e-mailing lists, a traffic manager at BNSF who moved heaven and earth to make sure I could load this piece of gear on a box car, and get it to NYC ins 72 hours.

    The person also, through the mailing list knew someone who worked at..either CSX or NS, who also moved heaven and earth to forward the car to NYC.

    The piece of gear by the way was a complete VHF-FM radio system and antenna since the antenna for NYC harbor was on top of one of the towers.

    Sorry for the long winded story but, yes through the power of social media and the tribe things tend to get done rather quickly.

  37. says

    I noticed late yesterday afternoon that the necklace was “no longer available” when I searched for it on their site. I texted my husband since we had a conversation about it before he went to work and we both did a cheer and a happy dance that despite they haven’t addressed it, they obviously felt the backlash. YAY for the independent artists! We need that support to continue doing what we love and it was wonderful to see such a show of solidarity. I’m just amazed to see what can happen when people band together in support of another.

  38. says

    What a great write up! I too, shared this link on my facebook page. I have over 1700 friends that follow my vintage clothing biz, so after I posted it, I saw that at least 20 of my friends did too. Its good to know people can still stick together and gang up on the big guy when need be. Glad this is being barked at!

  39. says

    i have just read this and i had to say WELL DONE! Reading things like this makes everything we do as small designers worth the effort. I have shared this with all my friends on facebook and on my facebook page. It really sickens me that our work can be taken by these big companies just because they are bigger and have more money!! This defo is one big success story for the little people. Also this goes to show just how much social media is apart of everyday business now. A fantastic read, thank you ;~) x

  40. says

    wow is all i gotta say really, very disappointing but really kinda flattering that such a big corporation liked your design so much they stole it. wouldnt it be nice if people would just be polite and ask permission first? maybe throw down a few bones too. geas im sorry to hear about this! aloha from maui

  41. says

    Great post, thanks for breaking it down and being so humble about it, too. I’m sharing this with all of my clients, friends and family. Social media definitely has power and this is just one of the many examples why companies need to pay attention to this space. Thanks again!

  42. says

    Amber – I must admit that I did not read through all of the comments, so I’m not sure if this point has been made.

    It seems to me – and I am less of a social media expert than, say, Jesse Helms – that this sort of thing happens only when there is something wrong. That the “tribe” only gets activated and agitated when they get aggravated.

    Seriously, when did a Twitter topic trend that was extolling the virtues of… well, anything?

    (And the death of Osama Bin Laden doesn’t count, because that had the media as its origin – despite the protestations of the Twitterverse.)

    This does not mean that this was not righteous, nor that I disagree with the use of social media in this fashion.

    But it does speak to a kind of negatively-reinforced mob mentality – and that is not necessarily a good thing, not at all, not when innocents (not the case here) might get stomped in the process.

    Will all of those well-intentioned folks retweet the story if Urban Outfitters suddenly ‘fesses up, does the right thing, and pays royalties to the artist they wronged?

    I would love to see it happen – both their actions and that the story goes equally viral – but I have little hope of either.

    • says

      The iPad? The American Idol winner? These are both big-brand stories that get lots of positive social network attention. And I just thought of these this second, give me a minute and I could probably think of some more.

      UO “fessing up” isn’t really a feel-good story. So, no, I doubt it will get much attention.

    • says

      That’s sarcasm, right?? (and to clarify – there is no sarcasm intended by this question). Other than the fact that both designs make use of a common illustration style and depict seahorses, I see no similarities.

    • J says

      I can see it- the sort of patchwork design making up the body of the seahorse, the idea of a large seahorse as the main image- i don’t have the lingo of the field here, but the biggest thing they changed, it seems to me, was having the seahorse face the other direction!!!

      in a lot of ways i think the un-copyrightable IDEA itself is the most valuable thing!

  43. says

    While I had already been a member for a while, I fell in love with Twitter when a social media boycott championed Rock Art Brewery over Monster Energy, who was in the beginning stages of bullying Rock Art out of existence through the US’s corrupt court system. Over the course of a month, the boycott resulting from Rock Art’s plea for help via social media brought Hansen Foods (parent co) to their knees.

    #BoycottMonster and #MonsterBoycott hashtags spread like wildfire, just like in the UO case. It’s only been a day; it’ll take more time to see if this Urban Outfitters debacle has a lasting impact on the way they conduct business.

    Here are some related links to the Rock Art SoMe story:

  44. says

    This has been standard practice for larger retailers for far too long & smaller designers/artists have had little or no recourse. Finally there are consequences for their actions! Yay!
    Thank you for getting the ball rolling!!

  45. says

    Just found your site via Twitter and the UO incident. Great writing! On a completely unrelated note, I start work at Norfolk Southern on Wed. and would love to hear your opinion/thoughts on the company.

  46. Terri says

    I work @ the largest bead store in Texas. I wish I could say copy cat sellers are only in big companies, but they aren’t. On a weekly basis, we get women who have seen something on etsy, or this catalog, or that who want to make it cheaper for themselves. The biggest one Ive seen is 2 Christmases ago, Needless Markups had a magnesite, wood and Swarovsky necklace listed for $399.99. We got our client the same magnesite, upgraded from wood to bronzite beads, and skipped the few Swarovskis. Her cost to make 2 necklaces: $99.00. Too many things being sold have crazy high mark ups. Its worth it to craft. However, making isnt a big issue, but many will copy and resale. There is no integrity out there anymore. Thats my professional opinion on the matter.

  47. says

    As my husband pointed out, you heart the greater NYC area, and they only heart Syracuse. In all seriousness, I am glad you called them out. As an independent artist you have worked hard to get yourself out there. OU will probably never respond but you have a bunch of new fans.

  48. says

    Pretty astounding, their silence. Didn’t they hear (was it last year?) about the realty company that got bombed b/c of harassing a renter (I remember the general details but not the names – so no link, sorry!), and there’ve been many other cases as well of companies stupidly remaining silent when being attacked – rightly or wrongly! – for their actions.

    When will they ever learn?? ;-)

  49. says

    We re-posted this in our StumbleUpon as well as our Twitter and FB page. Stop screwing the artists, Urban Outfitters. Start hiring them if you are so creatively bankrupt.

  50. says

    Amber, amazing story and I am sorry to hear of more artists being ripped off by UO. As an artist that has been ripped off be the company, having sent them a portfolio of my work only for them to tell me I was not what thy where looking for then to have my work show up on their inspiration boards( I know many people who work in the stores) and then to have the catalog at the time look just like a previous shoot I did. They are cultural vampires. I am glad too see the sunlight hit their soulless wrong doings.

  51. says

    I hope that the artist registered this design with the US Copyright office prior to the infringement. If she did, there will be a large settlement coming her way!

  52. Eric says

    This is awesome thanks for sharing. Good for standing up to those bullies. I’m sharing this with my friends who are also artists.

  53. says

    i found out about UO’s latest fit from a retweet of one of your followers. i also posted it in some of my Etsy forums. my thoughts exactly- the more the handmade community knows, the more they can inform their friends and customers…and the more likely UO (and other rip-pff artists) will have to answer for their unacceptiable practices.
    it goes to show the little guy does matter.

  54. says

    Awesome overview and insights of a topic that’s still hot at this moment – it’s great to see how it snowballed (in a good way) over such a short span of time.

    Heather makes a good point about UO buying from the copycat designer; however, even if the designer provided everything (even the product copy), if anyone at UO simply googled “i heart ny necklace”, it would have been clear that the design wasn’t original.

    It’s definitely heartwarming to see the community stand up and support causes like this :)

    • says

      I find it interesting that it seems that a lot of the “I’M OUTRAGED” blogs seems to not notice this Regretsy article. AND the recent update of Truche’s flower designs being VERY similar to another Etsy artist. See the update at the end of the post

      It is clear that Urban Outfitters probably did use designs in the past that weren’t theirs, but this is not the case for this artist (Truche)… AND I feel more outrage for the other State Love necklace makers who did not make an upwards of $50,000 in sales over the last three days.

  55. says

    I love it, we can hold people responsible in a digital world. We just have to make sure we use it responsibly. Help people rather than use it to hurt one another.

  56. Joe says

    I keep reading these “power of social media!” stories, but they seem to be short on actual … power.

    Other than one person’s excitement at being mentioned and RT’d a lot, what actually was the net effect of all this? If U.O. made a payment to the designer, or the stock price dropped, or tens of thousands of people pledged to boycott, that might be one thing. But by the author’s own admission, U.O. has remained silent. So what gives? So far, a bunch of people have made some noise, and that’s it. I don’t see much “power” in that.

    (To be clear, this is not a knock on the author. She’s just the latest in a long line of people who seem to be overestimating the alleged “power of social media” in situations like this.)

  57. says

    This story also makes me glad we have sites likes Etsy, which allow people who do want to support independent artists to have full access to their wares.

  58. says

    Thank you for this, for the first tweet, for the follow up, and everything. It’s time that corporations understand that things like this are no longer private, they can’t be hid and only recognized by only a few people. I shared this on facebook through a knitting friend. Having my own yarns, fibers, and farm I know how tight the market can be, my stuff really can’t be copied as such but being a knitter I know how to point and say “COPY!” :) I have a small business, my husband has a small business and my friends have small businesses, it’s hard to care about a corporation when billionairs are stealing from those of us just trying to make a little better of a life.

  59. Heloisa says

    There’s a small band from Brazil that, in only 3 days, got over 2 million people watching them on youtube – a Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade (The Most Beautiful Band in Town, in English)

    Their are simple, not fancy at all, but awaken love and hate for the same reason: they show honest feelings! That’s all that moves people on social medias, right?!

    Hope you like them and Congrats for your post!

  60. Leslie says

    PLEASE, there are a couple of blogs y’all gotta check out. I love the power of social networking as much as the next person, but not-totally-true news spreading like wildfire only undermines the efforts of those who want it to be seen as a legitimate form of communication and activism. Submitted for your consideration:

    Regretsy: Urban Outrage

    Chicken Whisper: Twitter Scream

  61. Marc says

    Your lessons learned are spot on. I would say though that this post has a very strong “ME ME ME!” thread to it. “I tweeted”, “People were following me”, “I was trending”, “People were retweeting me”, etc. I appreciate that you were an important voice to the chorus of people denouncing Urban Outfitters, one which helped give the story visibility, but your write up is pretty self-centered.

  62. Skeptical says

    A quick Etsy search showed at least 6 people selling these things, including one that was listed a full 2 months before truche started listing hers:

    It’s either a terribly unoriginal design, or she (consciously or not) stole it first. Not saying it makes UO any better, but watch out who you’re rooting for.

    • says

      This design has been around since the 70′s, and Oregon has had bumper stickers with the same design for at least two decades.

  63. says

    You so totally rock! What a great thing that you are doing for sharing your complete story! Will be watching how this plays out! Oh and of course, I retweeted and will be following you also! What a start to a long weekend!

  64. says

    Great story, this article itself has gone viral too, I use to shorten my links and the link has already been clicked on 13,384 times, very impressive.

  65. JonKioti says

    Heard your interview on As It Happens, broadcast nationally on CBC Radio across Canada Friday evening – you sounded great! Well spoken, excellent points, and knowledgeable – better than many politicians they interview.

    Good show.

    Jon in Canada

  66. cak says

    This whole thing is a joke, the original artist is a scumbag, since she admits she new Urban Outfitters stole form other people, but did not stop buying from them until they stole from her. What a complete scumbag.

    Anyway, this idea is not original.

  67. Roy says

    i love that this is possible to do in US.
    in Germany you would be sued the crap out of if you would tweet something that even vaguely hint that a stored should be boycotted. Thats why the service in germany is so crap, they rather sue people for saying anything bad about them, then trying to increase their service.

  68. Derek says

    First, let’s stop using romantic language like “smart tribes” and call it what it is: angry mob violence. The verdict was handed down, UO was guilty and defamed before anyone could really think about the issue.

    The truth is that the fashion industry has very liberal copyright laws. No one bothers to register a design because by the time you do that, it’s already out of style. Copying is rampant. Think of alll the knock-off Coach bags you’ve seen in stores or on the street. It’s a situation most designers are just OK with.

    So, if it’s OK for mom and pop to rip off a coach purse, then it’s OK for UO to rip off mom and pop. Is UO a great fashion design company? No, they obviously thrive off of others work and they should be recognized as such. But please, put down the pitch forks and keep supporting independent artists. They can thrive on the merit of doing novel things that they love.

    Here’s a great video on the subject:

    • JimmyJam says

      Excellent for calling this out. As others have noted, charms in the shape of a state with a heart cut out of them have been around for awhile, and hardly originated with this girl. So is she paying someone royalties for the “design” she took from them? No. But indignant Internet yuppies have a cause! They also have consulting services to sell you at the bottom of their diatribe. Click through analytics to glory in! Eyeballs to monetize!

      End of the day, it’s a win-win for the Etsy nerd who picks up more business before descending back to obscurity, the marketing maven who gets more traffic and even Urban Outfitters, who will no doubt see a small increase in business from all the people who hate Gawker and Miley Cyrus and figure anything they dislike is reason enough to support it.

  69. says

    Hipster CEOs? Try hardline right-wingers who funnel the money from UO & Anthro into political donations. I unliked both companies on FB as soon as I saw this on tumblr. I worked at UO in college and it was horrible.

  70. says

    awesome job. i’m so excited to know i played a very small, minute, mini, tiny part in spreading this message! we can make a difference with our tribe. we DO have a voice. THAT alone should make us as artisans feel better about ourselves!

    appreciate you!

  71. Lee says

    Very interesting. Proof that people around the world still have strong feelings about justice and integrity. I am not a crafter and unaware of how the industry works, but I gather that “copying” is rampant. And that UO is copying designs of microbusiness people, mass producing it it and selling it as their own. This is not ok. I hope you indie craftsfolk band together (a single stick is easily broken but when bundled together, nearly impossible to break) and take these corps to court to reap justice and financial compensation. Best wishes to you all!

  72. says

    This is awesome! You can also get realtime click analytics and social distribution data about the link you posted by putting a plus sign at the end, as you can with any bitly link:

    250,000+ clicks and still going strong!

  73. says

    Word got around to Facebook as well. What pleases me most is that people will rage buy. What I mean by that is that I know a decent chunk of my friends all went to her etsy store and bought the hell out of her inventory. Not simply to support a heretorfore unknown (to most of us) artist, but also to send a message to UO that we won’t stand for this kind of stuff. i hope she makes a hundred jillion dollars from this.

  74. says

    Urban Outfitters not only ripped off the design, but created the cheapest looking knock off imaginable. No wonder only the desperate ‘wanna belongs’, who are slaves to what are perceived to be cool labels buy their junk in the hope they’ll gain a grain of social acceptance.

    Well, now their label isn’t cool anymore… at least not in the minds of people with any sort of moral conscience or ethics.

  75. Abi says

    This is total BS. Yes, UO gets “inspiration” from small companies. They also buy designs from small companies all the time. There are many small artists who got their big break when UO discovered and featured them. This Etsy seller however, is in the wrong. She did not come up with those designs. There were people selling that same concept long before she existed. I have a charm from 1970 of Ohio with a heart stamped out of it. I bet this seller was not even born yet in 1970. What a wonderful ploy for attention and sales. And people are just eating it up. How can you claim someone copied you when you copied from someone else? Ridiculous!

  76. says

    I’m sure UO will fire the lowest person possible on the totem pole as a sham make-peace offering.
    I suggest some shareholder activism here!

    “And well you know… we all wanna change the world.”


  77. Bruce Campbell says

    My Twitter Case Study is almost 2 years old, and more relevant because of it. One of the first people I followed on Twitter is the author Neil Gaiman, who tweets as @neilhimself. He took to the medium quickly, and is very real about being online, and how that effects his interactions with fans. Here’s what I wrote in August 2009:

    Social Media Works: a case for Twitter
    I expect that some would like to see this topic die, but I just saw a very effective communication and decision-making exercise, complete with real data behind it, happen in less than 4 hours.
    Neil Gaiman is a long-time Twitter user (Really! he doesn’t have an admin assistant filling in for him) who often posts more than 15 messages a day. He isn’t trying to sell anything; his tweets aren’t carefully crafted, focused 140-character mini-campaigns to get followers to buy his books or go see the movies or plays so he will receive yet more royalties.
    He basically (or so it looks to me) just shares things about his life to anyone who cares to know. Kind of like what you do when you’re kicking back with a beer and some friends on a Saturday afternoon get-together.
    OK, he’s a VERY successful writer, who has more than a half-million followers, and he can put a sentence together. But I would estimate that less than 20% of his posts relate to promoting his works. The rest are about people he knows, things he likes to do, people he wants others to know about, and just kind of random stuff. I do exactly that (except I don’t have a speaking schedule that I want to remind you of), as do most of you. Usually via e-mail.
    Why Gaiman’s example from today as a case for the benefits of Social Media’s importance, is that he seems to care an awful lot about certain causes, like free and open education, and logical and reasonable copyright, and is an enthusiastic proponent for people using the technologies available to the limit of their ingenuity (assuming that no-one really suffers as a result).
    This morning, Gaiman posted a request to any teachers following him, or for followers to ask any teachers they knew, whether they would prefer to get a DVD of his recent The Grave Book, or just get to the multimedia via a website (search Twitter for #TGBDVD). The end of the story is that he got a very solid response back from his followers, which enabled him to go to his publisher (Harper Children) and tell them that 97% of teachers who responded wanted a DVD to be available.
    A quick perusal of the tagged messages revealed loads of information that wouldn’t be obvious, like “websites can go away, and so would the media available from them” “I would BUY the DVD” and “My school’s firewall wouldn’t let the content through.”
    I wonder if such insights were discussed at the production and distribution meetings at the publishers? My guess, from experience working at publishers, as well as other content “producers”, is that they would have been worried about the costs of copying DVDs and the additional distribution hassle. The numbers (as they see them) come first, the customers after. And, what the customers actually want usually comes as a complete surprise to the “content providers”.
    So, with Mr. Gaiman’s presentation of a significant percentage of the marketplace, in less than 1/2 a day Harper Childrens has flipped from distributing the multimedia version of this book on web only to also distributing DVDs, possibly even for additional revenue (and profit. It’s WAY cheaper to burn a DVD that it is to print & bind a book).
    The target market community was polled at a very high sample rate about their preferred means of acquiring product. The product creator did it himself, with virtually no overhead. Is it so difficult for the “content providers” to wrap their heads around the possibilities available? This affects everything about product and service. And it shouldn’t take long before the early adopter curve tops out and everyone gets on the train. Be prepared. We will all be affected.

  78. Vera81 says

    My eyes welled up with tears when I read this. Good job and thanks for starting a tweet riot for the little guys.

  79. says

    I really think it’s time for you to revise this story. You seem very pleased with yourself, but the central thesis is 100% wrong. The artist in question (truche) was not the original designer of these trinkets. She was not ripped off by Urban Outfitters because there was nothing to rip off. These pendants have been around for decades in one form or another. I think you were more in love with the idea of this story than any of the actual facts.
    Will you be issuing a mea culpa at some point?

    • Ange says

      Agreed. Regretsy dug around and found lots of other designers peddling similar wares and also James Avery’s design predates the etsy seller at the center of the controversy. While I do agree that companies do need to be mindful of their public face because of the nature of social media, I wouldn’t be quick to cite this experience as a shining example. If anything, it’s a loss for the other independent designers who are being ripped off simply because the one who got all the media spotlight didn’t know how to use etsy’s search feature or google prior to asserting her claim of ownership. now the copy was problematic, but the design itself, her claim of ownership is dubious at best.

      • John says

        By “dug around” you mean typed in “state love necklace” in the Etsy search.

        And I mentioned above it seems like her designs are actually similar to other artist designs (not just the State love) ones.

        Also here is another big beef. There are PLENTY (a whole crap load) of Etsy “artists” who blatantly steal from other artists, well know artist like George Lucas. And this person has admitted to selling copyrighted images and that they hope they don’t get caught.

        To the OP- Please update your original post if you do want to have this be a legitimate news source

  80. myn says

    Could have just contacted a lawyer. Any lawyer would have seen the potential in such a case and gotten her paid big time for the infringement. That’s what the law is there for (sort of). The last thing I’d have done is just whined and then thrown up my arms and said “aw shucks, guess there’s nothing I can do”.

    It’s great that the internet got upset on her behalf, but do you think in a reversed situation that the corporation would have done the same? No, they’d have sent a C&D and gotten their lawyers on it.

  81. Ethan Kirschner says

    People who feel they’ve been ripped off by UO should call or email our office for a free consultation. We’re Los Angeles intellectual property lawyers and we primarily represent artists.
    (213) 935-0250

    The only way to get corporations to quit doing this sort of thing is to make them pay for it.

  82. says

    Great story… When I saw Stevie’s post on my Tumblr dashboard, I thought, ‘Well, that sucks.’ You actually made something happen from it.

  83. Diane says

    Way to Go Amber! What a great example of how to use social media for good! I stumbled on your blog while following the story and I was delighted to realize that I know you from working in downtown Norfolk.

  84. Sarah says

    This does my heart good. I felt horrible when I saw that – as an independent artist / crafter myself, it’s awful to think of people stealing your work and it happens all the time – but it’s ESPECIALLY disheartening when it’s a big company because you would feel like there was nothing you could do about it. So glad to see the power of social media!

  85. Joan says

    Except Regretsy proved that it wasn’t her original design and people were doing it 7 months before she even started.

  86. says

    Back in 2009 I posted a short video to my Myspace page telling my 2500 “friends” how I had just finished reading New Moon and how a song I wrote when I was 15 called “Need” really seemed to match Bella’s angst. Within 2 hours the largest Twilight forum had picked up the video and posted the song to their site. By the next morning the song had 250,000 plays, I was popping on every Twilight web forum and was being contacted labels, music managers, and people from Australia, France Brazil etc. My Myspace blew up to 70,000 followers. The song went in to sell thousands of copies on iTunes and I met with several movie music supervisors. The main push of my “tribe” was to try to get “Need” onto the New Moon soundtrack. Although that campaign did not work, the song was eventually put into an independent film in the UK and continues to be my best seller. The Twilight frenzy is over, but I gained and still have a core worldwide fanbase of about 25,000. Google the word Need & Hana and you’ll see the notice the sing got. It has been streamed over 10 million times and the various fan videos and official video have over 2 million views. I got the power of social media early…I was only 17. Thanks for reading this!

  87. says

    read this, it says it is a Mario flower-Mario of NINTENDO:

    “itty bitty flower power.From truche
    Designed by me and laser cut out of black acrylic. Tiny Mario flower power!
    These are .5″ (1.27cm) tall. The acrylic is glued to sterling silver posts.”

    Mario of copyrighted and trademarked Nintendo to be exact:

    So either it’s a Mario flower or the Mario name was used to make a sale. I wonder which one it is? OOPSIE!

    This one says “inspired by old school mario”

    If she can be inspired by something then why can’t someone be inspired by her? Or is inspiration a one way street that only favors handmade sellers?


  88. mjzombro says

    I entirely sick of hearing about this “outrage”… People need to realize that a simple and great design/idea is not always exclusive. For example, I recently had a design idea for some tote bags and before I got around to making even one, I saw a near exact replica not only at a major retailer but also on – you guessed it – Etsy.
    These necklace designs have been around for decades. It’s not only incorrect and that this was an original idea, but also pretentious to think that UO was scouring handmade accessories and targeted this particular seller’s. Please quit flattering yourselves. There’s no need for a social media manhunt defending the “little guy”. This really is an utterly ridiculous reason to get your panties in a twist.
    And yes, while it wasn’t your original intention, this post does come off as very “me, me, me.”

    • Mike says

      I hate to say it, but this is my conclusion as well. When I saw the headline and started reading the article, I got my outrage all fired up as I prepared to see what unique design UO had so shamelessly ripped off … and was presented with a state outline with a heart shape cut out of it. Simple, playful, and hardly a stretch to imagine more than one person coming up with independently. Also, the “I heart ____” meme is all over the place and has been for years. It’s even more outlandish to claim ownership of that, as the artist does in stating that the title was also “stolen”.

      As a final thought, the artist did mention in the original post that some copy had been stolen as well. No details or sign of what that was — I’d find that far more damning if true.

  89. says

    I didn’t see any mention of the specific rebuttal post from Urban Outfitters, so I thought I’d post the link.

    I do find it funny that social media enables people to be able to cry wolf and get David vs Goliath sympathy when the truth might not be as clear cut. I’m all for social media, but I find it’s like getting a ball rolling down hill. Once it starts it’s hard to stop, true or not.

  90. Ciara Johnson says

    Thanks for documenting this event in such a clear way. I’ll be using this example as a case study when I look at memes with my grade 12 English class next year.

    Would you consider a Skype interview when the time comes?

    Thanks for working for us crafters and independent creativity everywhere!

  91. Angela says

    Thanks for this story. I am a social media marketer and am always looking for great real life case studies to prove these points to clients who don’t understand. :)

  92. GJR says

    I worked as a display artist for Anthropologie (under the Urban Outfitters, Inc. brand) for nearly 2 years. Not only does the company rip off others in their products, but they also do it in their displays. The official company line was that the displays were “inspired” by working artists, but making exact replicas of other peoples’ work goes beyond “inspiration” in my book. In my experience, the people behind these decisions really didn’t mean to hurt anyone, they were just ignorant of the huge impact it can have on the original artist(s) when they steal their designs. But that’s no excuse. Take it from someone who’s been inside the belly of the beast…they are aware of the original artists and willfully choosing to copy designs. I quit in protest of their business practices.

  93. says

    Awesome article — This is encouragement for me as my friends and I recently started up a label (VRNCA Label) (@_VRNCA) (

    I have hopes that this will someday happen to us. You never know what may cause a social media explosion either so this proves for you to never give up and if it is something you are passionate about, it is likely many others are as well which will lead to the retweets etc.

    I also enjoyed your 3 big Take Away’s — really hit home.

    • jayne says

      you may want to take note of your comments as your label name closely resembles that of a fairly popular label….(RVCA) hint hint…..people in glass houses

  94. Beata Wickbom says

    Sad story. Great case. I will use it in my teaching. Regards from Stockholm, Sweden.

  95. Rich Cecere says

    What a great story! I have my own plight against the BIG Real Estate Corporations (Weichert / Coldwell Banker) that infiltrated a completely separate industry that my family has been in for over 80 years; Title Insurance. Obviously I can’t plan something as spontaneous as this, but I wish I could!

    On a side note … we should all boycott self checkouts at large stores (actually we should boycott all large stores) but especially when they make us work for them to buy their stuff.

    • says

      What does trackbacks/pingbacks mean? is it a way to see who is accessing your data?

      I have a couple decades of experience working with and for companies in the furniture industry who are famous for ‘interpreting’ ‘successful’ designs. Factories around the world (not just China, but also Brazil, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, etc) are famous for having Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel,and other ‘well known’ catalogers for ‘inspiration’factory owners and agents know that buyers from the other 99.9% of furniture retailers will want to buy those designs.

      I have had similar issues with PB, CB, and other big companies ‘borrowing’ my designs, so I’m not very sympathetic to their plight.

      I have learned, however that it is very difficult and costly to enforce any kind of intellectual property rights within the US and when it goes International it is nearly impossible and definitely not affordable for the small business owners.

      I suggest to friends in the biz that they register a copyright of their designs for $35 each with the US Patent Office. It isn’t as strong as a registered design patent if the case goes to trial, but the goal is to avoid litigation by showing you have ‘paperwork’ to back up your claim of design ownership.

      Then, whenever you see or a friend sees something that infringes on your design immediately send a Cease and Desist Letter. You can find examples for free online. Follow-up and make sure you receive confirmation that they will pull the product. If they have been selling the product for a long time, then, read the brief description on the US Patent office website about the punitive damages they owe you for their commercial use of your design. In this case, I have industry friends who sometimes allow the violator to continue to sell the product with a back pay of a negotiated design royalty, and royalties on all future orders.

      It pays to take a bit of time to read about the different kinds of design protection a designer has the right to, and equally what you don’t have the right to. By being aware, and active we cannot stop this pernicious problem, but we can curb it. In addition, if you/your company becomes known to protect it’s IP rights, then many companies will move on to someone else to knock off, just to avoid the foreseeable hassle.

  96. roflcopter says

    …but it’s not exactly an original idea to begin with. As you can see on this website she wasn’t even the first person to sell this exact item: The problem here is that it’s not a very difficult idea to come up with. You weren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

  97. says

    I have been ripped off so many times, I can’t even remember. This even before Twitter of Facebook even existed.

    The worst was my stainless steel wedding ring line, which was ripped off by Stuller. Was not able to do anything about it. Nobody cared but me.

  98. says

    Ah… now I rememebr how I’ve come acquainted with this brillant twitter I know follow very closely since yesterdays “Farm-to-table dinner raids and government attacks on small farmers – AKA why we need the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund”…

    Ok, I really have a nedd for input on this may 2011 topic about getting the smackdown on intellectual property… I have at least once every two week an outcry about photographic right violations… and guess what? NOTHING. no one backs it up, no one cares and I just fall down the drain with the injustice done to me and/or others…

    Any input will be highly appreciated!
    YOU ROCK!!! xo

  99. says

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  116. Steven says

    No 1. should have been: Never underestimate the power of Patents and Copyrights. Then perhaps, people would not have had to spend five minutes reading about the mistake of omitting it from your business practice. If something’s not copyrighted – it WILL be ripped off. To that end, Urban Outfitters essentially has the right to peddle this product AND seek to copyright it themselves. A douchebag thing to do, but that’s business. If you work for yourself, protect yourself (and your product): Moral of story. Said in just a few more lines than a tweet – rather than a 6 page blog.


  1. [...] Now I have to say one thing about this – obviously we all know that large corporations constantly ripoff independents for their creativity and unique ideas.  Its part of what makes the big bucks go round.  But to be so blatant about it is simply stupid.  Maybe they could have gotten away with a stunt like this 5 years ago.  But in today’s social media-enfused world?  Check out the results of what a tweet started here. [...]

  2. [...] With everyday people taking control of the design, implementation and ultimately the marketing and distribution of products, traditional (i.e. complacent) industry should be more than a little worried about its future in a connected world. [...]

  3. [...] Anatomy of trending toppic Wat als een organisatie met jouw product of dienst er vandoor gaat? Dan kan je nu een boze tweet uitsturen en je mening laten horen. Dit deed Amber Karnes over Urban Outfitters. Met haar tweet was ze binnen 2 uur trending toppic op Twitter. Nu gaat het niet direct om wat haar is gebeurd maar beschrijft ze ook haar lessen die ze heeft geleerd door dit voorval. Een van die lessen is dat je als organisatie met klanten, social media niet meer kunt negeren. Deze klanten kunnen hun reactie kwijt online en daar moet jij wat mee. [...]

  4. [...] Hey Internet, we need to talk for a sec. First, I tweeted something that went insanely viral, trended internationally. Hundreds of thousands of retweets? Complete insanity. The day this happened, I was about to go to the gym and throw some weight around, but decided I wanted to stop by Starbucks and write a post about what happened instead. Why? I thought that maybe a few people would click from my Twitter profile to my blog, and I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t updated it in a while. Oh, and I’m totally turned on by social media and fascinated by word of mouth marketing and social justice and all that, so hey, perfect post opportunity. [...]

  5. [...] An angry complaint from a non-famous or even anonymous blog post or tweet can be just as damaging.  There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the power of online complaints, fueled by poor judgment by companies who waited too long to respond. Artists complaining that Urban Outfitters was ripping off their designs made no progress until it hit Twitter. [...]

  6. [...] esperar que las cosas pasen. El silencio sólo daña su reputación. Echa un vistazo a la reciente debacle de Urban Outfitters para ver qué tipo de daño la combinación de medios de comunicación social y el silencio pueden [...]

  7. [...] But over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a couple of incidents of a similar problem that have saddened me. What I’m talking about is the blatant theft of designs and ideas by big name high street stores. First there was the owl sweater design, used by Debenhams. This morning I read about the floral print that Marks and Spencer have stolen – it’s not even slightly similar, it’s exactly the same. These two examples came up in my Twitter feed, but a bit of googling also revealed similar stories here and here and here. [...]

  8. [...] Anatomy of a trending topic: How Twitter & the crafting community put the smackdown on Urban Out… – Great example of the power of Twitter to help the “little guy.” Possibly Related Posts:Bin Laden May Be Dead, But He Won This entry was posted in This just in… and tagged links by Maria Langer. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  9. [...] we read a 140-character headline and think we are informed. I had an interesting moment when a tweet I posted became international news. I was seriously stumped when people who retweeted me were actually angry when new information came [...]