A freelance artist seeking revenge for plagiarism claims that Shein's e-trailer copied her work. Shein must pay off more than $100 million.
Magella Stephenson, an artist in Jacksonville, Fla., filed a copyright infringement lawsuit with similar lawsuits filed by fashion brands like Stussy and Dr. Martens, both of which have accused the Chinese artist of selling "copies" of their trademarked products.
Shein Distribution Corp., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California and Zoetop Business Co., Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company, were named defendants in her complaint; she claimed copyright infringement, vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement, and false representation of copyright management data.
"One is good, more is better" is a complaint that claims Stephenson registered the artwork with the United States Copyright Office in 2021, but the composition's derivatives have been displayed and "widely disseminated" since April 2019, the complaint states. A piece that is advertised at prices ranging from $19 to $300, including through third parties like Urban Outfitters, is described in the lawsuit as one of Plaintiff's most popular and best-selling original creative works. Several forms of copyright management information (CMI) were incorporated onto all authorized copies, prints and derivative works as well as packaging dating back to the original creation date, the affixing of her name and signature, the date of creation, the brand name, the logo, and her social media handle.
The complaint claims Shein has been selling "copies" of this artwork "within the past three years" under the title "Abstract Pattern Wall Painting Without Frame."
The complaint also stated that defendants had never attempted to contact Plaintiff to determine whether her work had been properly licensed. As a result of Plaintiff's understanding, belief, and assertion, Plaintiff alleges Defendants simply copied the Original Art Work, created the Infringing Work, and purchased copies of it at a fraction of its value without considering Plaintiff's creative rights and financial interests.
It was alleged that Shein "intentionally" removed Stephenson's CMI "in order to induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal their infringement." It appears that the image online for Shein lacks a signature that appears on Stephenson's prints and licensed reproductions. In addition, the complaint argued that the e-trailer had introduced "false" copyright management information by attaching Shein's name and logo to the allegedly infringing work's packaging. According to the document, defendants falsely indicate that SHEIN is ineligible and owned by SHEIN, and there is also a false implication that they are responsible for the original art work.
It is interesting to note that despite the fact that many major brands have sued Shein for infringement, Stephenson claims its "notorious" business practices are based "on the wilful violation of the rights and interests of independent artists and designers who create original works who receive protection under federal copyright law."
The complaint describes four different artists whose artworks were reproduced on Shein in a section named "Defendants' Modus Operandi." According to Stephenson's counsel, three third-party vendors were blamed. A pair of copied artworks of the artist still displaying her name were allegedly sold by Shein in order to violate the artist's license.
More than 30 separate lawsuits have been filed in the Central District of California against Shein and Shein Distribution Corp., according to Stephenson's complaint.