Last week, illustrator and comic artist Geneva Bowers took to Twitter to voice frustration about recent copyright takedowns of her artwork by major companies like Nike and Lisa Frank. While Nike is certainly worth discussing, I want to focus on the Lisa Frank element, because the shoe company could try to stretch reasoning as to why a clothing logo looks like theirs. However, Lisa Frank appears to have absolutely nothing to back up their claims because they don’t own the rainbow color palette.
Additionally, Bowers tweeted that these companies could bring on more Black artists like herself instead of trying to claim her work as copyright infringement. She continued, “[I] filed an appeal like always. Stuff like this happens a few times a year but these in particular just made me mad lol. Artists as a whole should probably speak up more when these takedowns happen.”
Watching how auto-detection copyright violations work (and don’t work) across social media and online storefronts, I’m sure some copyright flags experienced by artists are automatic and driven by the whims of a computer, rather than a person or company choosing to target them. (Some of the appeals aren’t even processed by real people, either.) However, if these flags happen every so often and feature multiple images stretching months back, it’s likely a person manually flagging artwork. Artists will often keep the issues to themselves out of fear of backlash from followers or significant consequences like account deletion.
Others follow Bowers’ lead
Some other artists followed Bowers’ call to action and spoke out about times companies took down their work—especially Lisa Frank.
Someone shared this Ursula Goff tweet in which she shares a screencap of Lisa Frank, Inc. taking down her work around the same few days. The artwork, Neon Drip, is a high-resolution photograph of her rainbow raindrops on a reflective surface. While the situation was resolved and Groff can sell again, she could lose sales or positive standing with Redbubble because of this dispute, and others in similarly situations may not get as favorable resolutions.
Lisa Frank in 2010s and 2020
In addition to continued 2D art takedowns, designer and artist Amina Mucciolo accused the company of stealing her interior designs and getting her evicted back in 2019. As she blew up online for her unique style and bubble gum aesthetic, she gained a massive Instagram following and interior design business. If no one else, Lisa Frank’s marketing team knew of her account because they commented on her posts, reshared her posts, and messaged her for at least the year before the incident she describes (across different platforms). In 2019, Mucciolo was invited to a first look at the sold-out-in-under-an-hour Hotels.com, Barsala, and Lisa Frank pop-up flat for that October.
That August, Mucciolo and her partner tried to pay a late rent payment. The property management said they would not accept it, and her family needed to move. Insider confirmed the location of the pop-up was the apartment complex across the street and owned by the same management company (Cannon Management). Lisa Frank remained silent about the matter until July 2020, addressing it in a now-deleted post. When they participated in Blackout Tuesday, Mucciolo called them out again for ripping off Black artists. Tea Daily Dot and House Beautiful reported that the company called her “an opportunistic individual” and said that they “owe it to our fans to speak out this one time to address these lies.” Again, Lisa Frank later deleted the post.
I bring up Mucciolo’s story alongside Bowers and others, not just to show how the issues people have raised with Lisa Frank, but also to show how this looks like something in stark contrast to their childlike aesthetic. We understand this with Disney and brands that are powerful today, but not companies that appear frozen in time, like Lisa Frank. Even as they go after artists, and their workspace is described by their employees (in a 2013 interview with Jezebel) as the “rainbow gulag,” controversy appears to wipe easily off their lacquered finish.
(via Twitter, featured image: enjoynz)
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