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Sunday, January 13, 2013

"You can conquer anything"

Dear FOREVER 21,

I am a U. S. author of 11 books, and I am here to tell you that it is wrong to "borrow" work from independent artists. You have taken art work from a young artist, "moosekleenex" a.k.a. Kelly Bastow, without permission and without payment. I was brought up to call such things stealing, and I just imagine you were too.

You do her and all independent artists a great disservice when you commit such acts (from what I see on the internet, this is not your first bout of pilferage) and thus encourage others to do likewise. I imagine that this sort of behavior will come back to harm your company if you continue such practices.
Artists of all sorts depend on income from their work, which is protected by a little entity called copyright. You have broken and danced upon fair use and copyright in this case, which makes me wonder if it is a favorite mode of your company. I hope not.

I wish you well--that is, I wish you honest, and I wish you fair. I look forward to your reply and your assurance that you will make amends to Ms. Bastow.

But is this your best possible, most productive business practice? I have a small suggestion.

You know, I'd be happy to buy my daughter--a fan of Ms. Bastow and likewise a young artist--such a tee if Kelly Bastow received a part of the proceeds. Wouldn't it be interesting if you actually paid people for their work and also linked to their Tumblr logs, Etsy shops, and so forth? I think that could only make the tee more desirable, interesting, and collectible because it would then have a human connection and a story that mattered.

Marly Youmans

Here is yet another example of a business abusing the freedom of the internet to take from independent artists. If you would like to write a letter to Forever 21, you may write them at their customer service page here, as well as on social media. I hope that soon we may write to congratulate them on their good business practices. Unfortunately, you may find more than one complaint against them on the internet. Their designer knockoffs 
have been discussed at length. For a similar case, look at the design pilfered from Jon Contino.

Only yesterday a British poet was in the news for plagiarizing an award-winning poem; he won another award for it! M. B. Whitaker had reams of poems lifted to fill another person's blog. Etcetera. We must not strip independent artists of their work, disheartening and abusing them. Unless an artist chooses to give up copyright for a work and place it in the public domain, such use is wrong.

If you would like to support and encourage illustrator Kelly Bastow, you may visit her Tumblr log, her Etsy shop, her website, or her DeviantArt site.


  1. Looks like you'll have to go to facebook for conversation on this one... Ideally conversations on blog posts that occur in other places should be linked more easily with the post somehow. Perhaps that will happen some day.

    Have been interested in various people admitting that their work has been stolen. I've realized that I know composers, a novelist, and poets whose work have been stolen--I'm not talking about work influencing work but about direct lifting of work used in other public art like movies, or in public places like websites.

    Thanks to Dave Bonta for correcting my public domain business. Also, for sending a link to that ingenious plagiarist Quentin Rowan and his mashup sort of writing--only Quentin Rowan didn't see it that way at all:

  2. Terrible. Why do we begrudge artists even the pittance they might earn from their work? It is hard enough already to live doing one's work or anything related to it.
    The world keeps coming up with inequities I had not even imagined lately.
    It makes me sad.

  3. Yes, it's sad.

    The triumph of entertainment over art means less respect for the artist's single ownership of the work, I suspect...

  4. I'm appalled by this. Stealing is stealing, and this is such a mean-spirited theft, because here is a young artist at the beginning of her career who from now on is going to be left with the nasty feeling that the world is not a trustworthy place.

    I've frequently had people contact me asking for permission to use images found on the internet... there have been a lot recently re. my maquettes for The Soldier's Tale... and I always try to oblige, even when there is no exchange of money involved. I'm sure Kelly Barstow would have entered into reasonable discussion about the sale of her image had Forever 21 had the courtesy to open negotiations.

    Well done, Marly, for drawing attention to this.

  5. And I just don't believe rewarding and helping young artists wouldn't be good for business--and interest other young people. So why do it and gain ill will for a few dollars?


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.