Vancouver Artist’s Copyright Stolen – Again

January 31, 2014

My friend Lilian Broca is an artist living here, where I do, in Vancouver. She is being horribly “ripped off” right now and you will be amazed at who is doing the stealing — a very high-end fashion house.

Over a period of five years, Lilian created a series of ten large mosaics that depict aspects of the biblical story of Queen Esther. One of her works won a major award at the Florence Biennale and many other prestigious commendations so, of course, she featured images of her work on her own website.

In their winter 2014 collection, Dolce & Gabanna featured clothing made from cloth bearing imagery inspired by the Byzantine mosaics of the Monreale Cathedral in Sicily. The D&G line gained a lot of visibility due to the wide circulation of photographs of popstars Katy Perry and Vanessa Hudgens wearing clothing from the line. Perhaps it was this line that inspired the theft from Lilian.

Thanks to a shrinking world wherein everyone is travelling and has a camera on their cell phone, Lilian recently received some images of clothing also inspired by Byzantine-style mosaics in a high-end fashion store in Istanbul. But these clothes were made of fabric bearing imagery stolen from Lilian’s Queen Esther mosaics. (You can see images of Lilian’s work and the dresses made from imagery stolen from her Queen Esther series by visiting the website Mosaic Art Now).

This isn’t the first time Lilian’s copyrights have been violated. A few years ago, she discovered stolen images of her works were being sold worldwide on a website in Asia. Now a high-end fashion store is selling a line of expensive clothing featuring imagery stolen from Lilian’s work.

The web can be an effective tool for increasing awareness of your work. It can also facilitate theft of your copyrights, and yet makes it easier to discover that theft. It is a complex tool that, like many tools, involves risk to those who use it.

Should Lilian pursue the defence of her copyrights? Sadly, I don’t think so. Even though the thieves may have deep pockets to sue, those deep pockets can facilitate a long and drawn out defence. Defending your rights across international jurisdictions is hugely expensive and the process can be very complex.

Could Lilian have protected herself from her two copyright thefts? I don’t know. I don’t know how an artist can provide images of their work on a website without taking the risk of theft. If you know how it can be done, I’d love to hear from you and what you would do to prevent this from happening to you.

If it does happen to you and you have questions or need advice, the best resource for artists in Canada about copyright law is the CARFAC Copyright Collective.