Mister Jalopy: "$upport Independent Business and Reject the Fakers"


101 Responses to “Mister Jalopy: "$upport Independent Business and Reject the Fakers"”

  1. dculberson says:

    I think the difference between this and a downloader are pretty clear: one is charging money for a copy of someone else’s work whereas the other is doing something for personal enjoyment. If someone made a knockoff of Jenny’s designs for their own fun, that’s one thing. But copying it and then selling it is something entirely different.

    The other big difference is that of reactions. The RIAA method of suing the customer is a bad reaction. The method covered here, that of supporting the originator and shaming the duplicator, is a good reaction. You both raise up the creative person and smack down the plagiarist.

    If Jenny had filed DMCA take down notices and sued the people that bought from Urban Threads, we would be reading a very different post.

  2. dculberson says:

    I forgot to mention something funny to me about the designs: Sublime Stitching’s women are normal sized and attractive shapes whereas the Urban Threads designs feature skeletons in need of a sandwich. Sigh.

  3. Cowicide says:

    Am I the only dumb cow here who gets that this post is more about supporting small businesses and less about copyright issues?

  4. Rindan says:

    Wow, it is like Urban Threads is taking the concepts done by Sublime Stitching and… remixing them… as if they were doing some sort of… “cultural remix”.

    Eh, personally I don’t have an issue with it. The “copies” are generic enough. The line between inspiration and copy is blurry. I error on the side of inspiration. If someone is taking every design you make, re-visioning it, and trying to sell it, you are probably onto something and have the advantage of being first. Hell, it is probably a marketing point. Nothing like pointing out that you are the original and everyone else are just posers to score a few hipster points.

  5. mcgringostarr says:

    #24 wot’ a fookin’ rotter!

  6. Marcel says:

    So waitaminit. This is somekind of rekindled punk-era rebeliousness against corporate establishment taking the form of harassing a medium sized company which might or might not have stolen some embroidary patterns?!

    Shit! I suppose punk’s really dead now.

    P.S.: As for punk roots, I will submit Stiff Little Fingers.

  7. Piers W says:

    #80 underdesign

    Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster vs. the AP’s reference photo.

    The reference photo is a photo. The poster isn’t a photo. The things above are all embroidery designs.

    #82 Tdawwg

    McClaren definitely wasn’t a ‘founder’ of British punk.

    Sniffin’ Glue magazine was central to it from early on, but it basically just happened in a small way in London, then went off the Richter scale after the famous Bill Grundy tv interview.

  8. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    You’re cute when you show utter contempt, Orangebag!

  9. fnc says:

    Wasn’t some t-shirt creator suffering this a while back too? When this happens, wouldn’t the best thing to do be to make all your designs insulting to the company doing the copying?

    Would it be punk to have an embroidery design that just said “Urban thread are no talent hax”?

  10. Anonymous says:

    These images are all archetypes. Sorry, Sublime Stitching. You are not the first person ever to draw a stylized image of a society woman walking a dog. Nor retro Christmas ornaments. I’ve seen all of these in various forms in design stores, catalogs, and illustrations for YEARS now.

  11. orangebag says:

    @34 DCulberson
    Another problem here is that we are somewhere in the overlap between art and commerce. Perhaps the latter designs were “inspired by” the former ones.
    I wonder what the difference is, legally speaking.

    I have to say I don’t agree that suing would be the wrong thing. If it is true the 2nd company really did take copyrighted designs, tweak them a tiny bit and sell them at a profit; then I’d say they should have to compensate the original designer.

  12. orangebag says:


    It’s DIY and crafts.

    Actually, I bet “DIY” is a relatively new term too. You probably sold a book or TV show more easily in the 80s if you called it DIY instead of woodwork. Presumably it was wood(and metal)work before “DIY”. Or carpentry?

    So maybe I should stop complaining about the normal process of change in language.

  13. inkgrrl says:

    I am all for supporting independent creatives (being one myself), but I honestly don’t see any copyright violation/intellectual property infringement vis a vis Urban Threads’ and Sublime Stitching’s renditions of the same concepts.

    The spacegirl, X-Mas ornaments and woman/dog are riffs on 1940-50′s era advertising – I hand-drew something very similar to the spacegirl about 9 years ago for a website I was designing at the time, specifically going for a retro-future look/feel. That said, I have no idea if the original images from print material are in public domain by now, or if copyright even applies to ads; I was comfortable that I was creating original work inspired by retro advertising rather than infringing somebody else’s copyright. As for the heart, Urban Thread’s version looks just like study/test materials commonly handed out in Anatomy & Physiology classes – label the different wobbly bits of the human heart, etc. Not sure if that specific version of the illustration is under copyright, but if so and Urban Threads didn’t pay for use of same, then any violation on their part would be against the actual owner of the illustration, not against the substantially different rendition of the human heart as produced by Sublime Stitching.

    I don’t know if there are other issues indie crafters have with Urban Threads, but these examples don’t do much bolster the argument for copyright violation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The thing is Urban Threads has shown a pattern from the examples shown. If only one was brought in to court (say the heart) it would be a poor case. However, when you show earlier designs then later “copies” (whether they are or not) it looks like Urban Threads has been trolling Sublime’s ideas.

    Also, while I agree that a woman and a dog, and the ornaments all look Kitschy 1950′s, I think the angles, spacial placing, the stance of the characters (poses and positions)are too close to be just artistic coincidence. When these similarities show up in group after group of designs: hello copyright troll.

  15. johnocomedy says:

    at the risk of the wrath begat by appearing to support Urban Threads… is it possible that this “Niamh” is real and founded her company and was subsequently bought by Embroidery Library, ybut is still run by this person?

    if so, it would explain off a lot of the seemingly seedy practices, but not excuse purported plagiarism.

  16. Brainspore says:

    Pandering plagiarizers pilfer punk poke patterns!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but recall the shocking resemblence between the work of Natalie Dee and Sam Brown of ExplodingDog.com.



    The ExDog work predates miss Dee’s by several years and the actual character expressions and color palette seem beyond coincidence.

    Ideally, art and style should enjoy an open arena. But emulating another individuals product so closely is another subject altogether. Attempting to horn in on an independent artist’s sales in such a way is downright rude and should be considered a shameful act.

  18. Steve Schnier says:

    RE: @#42 GRIMC

    Swipin’ is swipin’.
    You can gussy it up all ya want, but if you don’t clear the rights, you know, I know and everyone else knows its swipin’.

    Ooh. A run-on sentence. Awkward, but suits the form.

  19. jccalhoun says:

    I’m kind of surprised that so many commenters don’t seem to draw a distinction between plagiarism and copyright infringement. I am not sold that this is a case of plagiarism here but regardless, plagiarism is taking credit for someone else’s work. This is what is being alleged here. Copyright infringement is taking someone else’s work without permission but there is no attempt to pass it off as your own original work. The guy who made the Obama poster doesn’t pretend he didn’t use someone else’s photograph.

  20. arlopickens says:

    “Everything you love, everything meaningful with depth and history, all passionate authentic experiences will be appropriated, mishandled, watered down, cheapened, repackaged, marketed and sold to the people you hate.”

    Great quote. Mind if I use it?

  21. Tdawwg says:

    Everything you love, everything meaningful with depth and history, all passionate authentic experiences will be appropriated, mishandled, watered down, cheapened, repackaged, marketed and sold to the people you hate.

    Hmmm, think I saw that on a Shepherd Fairey poster somewhere!

  22. underdesign says:

    First, I love your quote, Mr. Jalopy. I’d already swiped it for a favorite quotes file, and here it is again. I swear I’m putting it on a t-shirt! (And then I’ll sell your mortal enemy a copy)

    Second, As a designer, I’m often handed other peoples work and I’m asked to make it ‘the same but different’ all the time. (Urban Outfitters is a major guilty party, and ex-client of mine)

    Inspiration is a hard target to nail. The designs are similar, and obviously inspired, but outright theft? I think not. For recent reference, check Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster vs. the AP’s reference photo.

    It’s up to the consumer to know the difference from the true underground vs. the corporate copy. Most consumers don’t care, and buy whatever they find first at the Gap.

  23. moioci says:

    The heart designs are actually a counterexample, in that the one shown on the right is much more anatomically correct then it’s supposed inspiration on the left. For instance, it shows the coronaries arising from the base of the heart, not the apex. Clearly drawn from a more accurate source. Only the orientation is similar.

  24. daneyul says:

    The Sublime Stitching girls are -way- hotter, by the way.

  25. License Farm says:

    Relatedly, DIESEL SWEETIES’ R. Stevens’ well-known “Bacon Is A Vegetable” t-shirt slogan was recently ripped off by a CafePresser. To the credit of both CafePress and his fans, once the latter informed the former the ripoffs were wished into the cornfield.

  26. Tdawwg says:

    I’m sort of wondering how “authentic” punk is, having as one of its founders Malcolm McLaren, a sex shop owner who thought it would be a lark to dress up illiterate street trash in arty clothes and bad haircuts, and give them instruments they couldn’t play. The result was a glorious noise of historical importance, to be sure, but authentic–in the sense of, say, early recordings of Appalachian fiddlers–it’s not. Ditto for The Clash, whose label, CBS, dubbed them “the only band that matters.” Authenticity is a chimera of the globalized marketplace: awesome music, fortunately, isn’t, regardless of its maculate,commercialized provenance.

    Maybe American punk would work better, as it came first, but they all wanted to be Elvis, anyway. The New York Dolls were super hot, but about as authentic as any of us wearing Maoist costumes and screaming atonally.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I’m sort of wondering how “authentic” punk is

      The first punk that I ever met was in 1976. He lived in a free-box and had a zipper stitched into his scalp. That seemed like adequate proof of authenticity.

  27. Moriarty says:

    All you guys defending them are obviously paid shills of Big Embroidery. Go back to your corporate masters and tell them you’ve failed!

  28. jennyhart says:

    (why thank you, Daneyul -I try)

    I am not going to participate in the numerous online discussions about this issue, but I wanted to make one comment here as boingboing readers may be less familiar with my company than those in the DIY community.

    Sublime Stitching is not a big company going after a smaller company. Embroidery Library Inc. dba Urban Threads is an established, digital stock-art company. We feel Sublime Stitching is being unfairly targeted by Embroidery Library Inc using willfully deceptive marketing and unfair competition in numerous ways that go far beyond just a few, poorly copied designs being shown as an example. Each one taken out of context, sure, they don’t seem so bad. But the hairs that are being split come from a full head of hairs that are not being considered in this discussion.

    I also want to be sure people understand that there is extensive material, not being revealed publicly, that we feel shows a consistent, calculated pattern of actions by Embroidery Library Inc dba Urban Threads of deliberately targeting my business, creating confusion in the marketplace, repeating my quotes made in the press, instructions from my books, blog content, web functionality, and going after our customers with a deceptive front as an indie business run by “one gal” which is instead owned and fully funded, quietly, by a larger, stock art company.

    Sublime Stitching was begun in 2001 on a loan of $1,000. from my late father, and has never been backed by another company. It has taken me eight years to build my catalog of embroidery designs, and every other aspect of my company: the mission, the logo, the website, the designs, the products, the content, advertisements, packaging -myself. Not with a company and team of people funding and helping. Alone. I freaking hand-coded my entire site in html for the first five years with no guis.

    The whole picture is not easily consumed with a quick glance at their website.

    I am very happy that this inspires so much discussion about copyright, but dismayed when there is misinformation forming the basis of the discussion.

    This is the only comment I will be making online about this matter until it is appropriate to do so.

    And THANK YOU for the support!

  29. nosehat says:

    The original patterns look so much like generic ’50s advertising clip art, it wouldn’t surprise me if both parties here were working from the same source. It’s hard to get worked up about “authenticity” here when the original patterns are so … unoriginal.

    If I were Sublime Stitching, I’d say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” here and move on. Anyone that is in the business of selling clip art or recipes or foley or stock footage or loop libraries would drive themselves crazy if they got riled up about every competitor’s small clip that looked/sounded/tasted a little like theirs. Every moment spent fuming about this is a moment that could have been designing the next great embroidery pattern that will leave your competitors struggling to catch up.

    Couching this in an extended metaphor about punk authenticity is just bizarre. I can’t imagine too many punk bands got mad because another band’s 3 chords sounded rather similar to their 3 chords. Whatever “Real Punk” may have been about, it wasn’t about that kind of squabble.

  30. orangebag says:


    The Sublime Stitching girls are -way- hotter, by the way.

    They certainly seem to be less wasp-waisted, and have bigger ladybumps.

  31. grimc says:

    @steve schnier

    Well, still not swallowin’ what you’re servin’.

    Paley thought there were no rights issues. She was wrong. She paid $50k to the composition owners. And she never tried to pass the music off as her own.

  32. RumorsofmyDemise says:

    Still not sure how I feel about the plagiarism vs. copyright issue; but as a member of an online DIY community of which the “girl” Urban Threads is a contributor, I feel a little bit sickened by this company’s misrepresentation of themselves and their product. It all seems very “cloak and dagger” and to tell the truth, a bit silly and unnecessary. The design industry is largely based on the production and distribution of knock offs. Why lie about it?

  33. Praxis says:

    Actually, I just bought something from Urban Threads, after looking at designs there and also at Sublime Stitching.

    Thing is, I was looking for *machine* embroidery. Not patterns for hand embroidery. SS does the latter, UT the former. At least, I couldn’t find machine embroidery patterns on the Sublime Stitching site. So, for what it’s worth, they’re different markets that occasionally overlap.

    I generally like handmade items, but for whatever reason I tend to prefer the styles at UT–the sparse, “country” look doesn’t do it for me but I can see where it would for many, especially given the modern themes.

    There’s a very clear pattern there to be sure. I’m certain that someone’s looking at SS as examples of what people like, and then commissioning/designing their own version, perhaps somewhat stylistically altered.

    Honestly, I feel rather conflicted about it. There’s clear influence, but they’re not strict copies. But the same elements are in each one, just somewhat altered.

    I guess I think they’re unoriginal, but not actual copies. Maybe “Thematic copies”? I bet machine embroidery sells much better than hand patterns so I could see some amount of bitterness there.

    I would suggest Sublime Stitching learn to develop machine embroidery patterns; I know I’d buy them. There’s a lot of subpar stuff our there.

  34. magdelane says:

    I’m seeing shades of Exploding Dog, too.
    Anyone know which this is? Explodingdog.com , alas, has no search function.

  35. Anonymous says:

    There are two different issues at hand here. The first, is copying designs, which I don’t know enough about to be a judge on. The second, is Urban Threads portraying themselves as a one woman operation. As a crafter and a supporter of such small businesses it turns my stomach to think that a company is positioning itself this way. Even if Embroidery Library is a bigger company (bigger than one person, I mean), why wouldn’t they just say so? There are plenty of people who would happily support them! The fact that they feel they can and should betray people’s trusts is what bothers me most.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I do think the manipulation of the space girl patterns is a bit sketchy. Also, I think the letter on the UrbanThreads site offers a decent explanation of their business model.

    I hadn’t heard of Urban Threads before, and after looking at their site, I think I’d be more convinced that they’re outright copying SS if they didn’t have so many other patterns as well – and there weren’t so many other examples of retro rocket girls, xmas ornaments, etc to be found everywhere.

    I guess we’ll see how this pans out….

  37. Apreche says:

    Now, I hear The Clash or The Stranglers or The Undertones and I am still amazed. The corporate fakers faded away and the real deal survives.

    If this is the case, why do you need to even bother fighting these Urban Threads fakers? Their corporate fakery will fade away and the real deal will survive. You don’t need to fight it. Nature will take its course.

  38. Tdawwg says:

    Well, sure, Antinous, but maybe it was also adequate proof of his need to conform to the “rules” of a social group with which he identified? As Robert Frank said when seeing Max’s Kansas City: “The way people dress seems very important here.” Authenticity’s a bogeyman, man: given the complexity of the twentieth century and its media, you’re simply not going to find an ab origino point from which some culture magically, “authentically” flows. It’s all copying, appropriation, re-appropriation, travesty, gloss.

  39. sanity says:

    I think the heart and ornament pieces are pretty bad examples and hurt the argument. If you want to claim the heart drawing as a copy, then you’ve gotta jump on Sublime Stitching for copying every inaccurate heart drawn by anatomy students since somebody decided to draw a heart.

    The ornament one is weak too, those shapes have been around for years, they scream 1950s to me, and who can claim to be the first person to put two interestingly and differently shaped ornaments together. They look nice, it’s natural.

    The other pieces, much stronger argument.

  40. Moriarty says:

    Let’s have an argument about what is and is not Punk Rock(tm)!

  41. Jason Rizos says:


    Nature will take its course.

    I disagree. We’ve reached critical mass as a society with no interest in preserving original artwork and no consequences for deep-pockets and lawyers when it comes to infringing on copyright. It’s so rampant that there is hardly any room in the “authent-o-sphere” for artists any longer. I have a friend who submitted a screenplay to the hack Gus Van Sant, only to see it rejected and later become a “tweaked” Oscar-winning screenplay. Flagrant plagiarism, but the judge sided with the production company.

    It’s sickening, it really is.

  42. Ursus says:

    Apreche, the corporate fakers in that example were trying to cash in on the movement, and as such did not have the passion or authenticity that make The Clash and The Stranglers and The Undertones still resonate today. They aped the style, but that is all.

    Urban Threads, on the other hand, is ripping off Sublime Stitching’s designs and work nearly stitch for stitch and word for word; they aren’t doing something in the same style, they are stealing someone else’s work outright.

  43. jennyhart says:

    Oh, and the next Sublime Stitching Artist Series embroidery patterns will be Jim Woodring, so maybe that will get some of you boing’ers stitching!

  44. 13strong says:

    Ah, the righteous indignation dollar. That’s a big dollar.


    Oh, and Jason Rizos – why did your friend send Gus van Sant his screenplay?

  45. Anonymous says:

    LOL at #32 Machineintheghost.

    Green Day didn’t invent punk rock, Blink-182 did.

  46. NE2d says:

    Let’s have an argument about what is and is not Punk Rock(tm)!

    Do punk rockers do anything other than that?

  47. Miss Jess says:

    In regards to the commenter who said that the company in question masquerades as a “member” of a certain DIY site – YES. It is in fact very creepy. I’m not going to jump into this copyright discussion, but I will say that all of you should go read the singular tone of “Urban Threads” posts on Craftster (Craftster being that “certain” community alluded to earlier which I am a member of too):


    Reading “her” posts is kinda hilarious, especially because EVERY SINGLE ONE ends in a marketing ploy to send people over to their site for the full tutorial. I know Craftster has rules about this. It’s interesting.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Not saying that Urban Threads isn’t ripping off the designs, but I can confirm that Embroidery Library isn’t a giant, faceless company.

    I have actually worked with them (not on designs or anything on the creative side) and they are owned/run by really nice, well-meaning people. I have no idea how the designs and copy entered into their catalog, but my hunch would be that management didn’t know the connection…

  49. usonia says:

    Ms. Hart appears to do a relatively good volume of business with her patterns – within our DIY world, she has a certain well-knownedness. I’d be curious if she is feeling any significant pinch from this.

  50. zuzu says:

    If this is the case, why do you need to even bother fighting these Urban Threads fakers? Their corporate fakery will fade away and the real deal will survive. You don’t need to fight it. Nature will take its course.

    We’ve reached critical mass as a society with no interest in preserving original artwork and no consequences for … infringing on copyright. It’s so rampant that there is hardly any room in the “authent-o-sphere” for artists any longer.

    I see this as actually an excellent example of how a brand is defended against knock-offs without relying on government-granted monopolies of trademark and copyright.

    This is the self-correcting nature of the market in action. “Who makes the real thing and where can I get it?” emerges as a complimentary market.

    Just as Consumer Reports or Underwriters Laboratory (UL) emerges privately to inform people what products are low-quality or dangerous, and which are well-made.

    Vote with your money and your feet.

    Urban Threads, on the other hand, is ripping off Sublime Stitching’s designs and work nearly stitch for stitch and word for word; they aren’t doing something in the same style, they are stealing someone else’s work outright.

    But it’s not stealing. Perhaps “plagiarism” is the word you’re looking for?

  51. Anonymous says:

    The basics is: Yes, nothing is original. But this is not just about coping a few designs. This is about plagiarizing someone’s idea, assuming a personality that isn’t yours… lying to your customers about your identity as a small, one woman-start-up business… this is about a lack of integrity and honesty. This is about shitting on the very community you claim to be a part of.
    Diem Chau

  52. Jeff9821 says:

    I have noticed that a lot of the posts on Boing Boing take a very anti-copyright p.o.v., and applaud when something is created without copyright (presumably to be used by others). I would like to read some of the people who regularly rail against clumsy enforcement of copyright law explain how this situation is any different?

    I’m not trolling, I really would like to understand how this is different than a record company suing a college student for distributing copies of their intellectual property.

  53. geetus says:

    Punk Rock authentic? Malcom McLaren anyone? I can’t imagine a mode of dress, a style of music more pathologically self-conscious — punk started as, and will always be, a product.

  54. Diem Chau says:

    The basics is: Yes, nothing is original. But this is not just about coping a few designs. This is about plagiarizing someone’s idea, assuming a personality that isn’t yours… lying to your customers about your identity as a small, one-woman-start-up business… this is about a lack of integrity and honesty. This is about shitting on the very community you claim to be a part of.
    That’s why I’m MAD!
    Diem Chau

  55. johnocomedy says:

    I think the smoking gun here is that both entities are fashioning themselves as sole proprietors (although Urban Threads is anything but) and both sell embroidery patterns.

    A lot of the defense of Urban Threads in these comments refers to the similarity in style to 50′s clip art. That phenomenon is commonly called “influence”, but when you have instances of identical composition, layout and application, it is at the very least, plagiarism.

  56. Ursus says:

    @ zuzu

    You are correct. That is the word I was looking for.

  57. Takuan says:


    They cried the tears, they shed their fears,
    Up and down the land,
    They stole guitars or used guitars
    So the tape would understand

    Without even the slightest hope of a 1000 sales
    Just as if, as if there was, a Hitsville in U.K.
    I know the boy was all alone, til the Hitsville hit U.K.


    They say true talent will allways emerge in time,
    When lightening hits small wonder
    Its fast rough factory trade
    No expense accounts, or lunch discounts
    Or hypeing up the charts,
    The band went in, ‘n’ knocked ‘em dead, in 2 min. 59
    I know the boy was all alone, till the Hitsville hit U.K.

    So hit it

    No slimy deals, with smarmy eels in Hitsville U.K.
    Lets shake and say, we’ll operate in Hitsville U.K.
    I know the girl felt all alone, till the Hitsville hit U.K.

    The mutants, creeps, and musclemen,
    Are shaking like a leaf,
    It blows a hole in the radio,
    When it hasn’t sounded good all week,
    A mike ‘n’ boom, in your living room, in Hitsville U.K.
    No consumer trials, nor A.O.R., in Hitsville U.K.,

    I know the boy felt all alone,
    Till the Hitsville hit U.K.

    Now the boys and girls are not alone,
    Now that Hitsville’s hit U.K.

    I know the boys and girls are not alone,
    Now that Hitsville’s hit U.K.

    I know the boys and girls are not alone,
    Now that Hitsville’s hit U.K.

    I know the boys and girls are not alone,
    Now that Hitsville’s hit U.K.

  58. Urban Threads says:

    I’ve got something to say on this matter, addressing all the issues raised… want to hear what we have to say about this? Read the public response on the blog http://www.urbanthreads.com/content/view/326/

  59. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the writer of the article should contact the owner of this site for their commentary on the issue. I forwarded them the link to the boingboing article about it advising them to check it out. Sending them nasty emails won’t accomplish anything, but opening a dialog might.

  60. 13strong says:

    GEETUS – Punk didn’t start with Malcolm McLaren.

    And in fact, McLaren was capitalising on an image and culture and sound that already existed.

    I agree that the Sex Pistols were manufactured and marketed very deliberately, but they didn’t come first.

    And a DIY / Punk culture has for a long time existed outside of the mainstream marketed “Punk” music produced by the likes of the Pistols.

  61. Ultan says:

    Urban Threads’ designs seem to me substantially different and somewhat better executed than the Sublime Stitching designs. (Are those supposed to be fins on the rocket? Who would wear shorts with a spacesuit? What is that thing on her head supposed to be – a crown? a collar?) If I were S.S. I’d copy them back with additional improvements. It’s not as if these drawings take vast effort to redo. Keep remixing and improving.

  62. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of the “yes we can” Obama poster. I know Im going to get a lot of heat for saying this, but it looks like urban threads created their own interpretation of the Sublime Stitching designs.

    Do they lack any originalty? Absolutely.

    Have they broken any laws by creating similar desings? Im not really sure, but I know that I will get flamed for even suggesting this.

    Just like with the Obama Poster, in which Fairey took someone else’s original and used it as a launching point, he created soemthing new from it.

    So my quesiton to everyone is whether this falls into the same category or not. Im not really sure.

  63. lava says:

    Go git’em Jenny.

    If leaches like this never got push back all of the original ideas would be put out of business, and we’d be left with something that looks like housing in america – a land of McMansiony ideas.

  64. annoyingmouse says:

    The Undertones? Really? This would be the same band whose lead singer is now shilling for every music corporation as head of “UK Music”. The same man who accused Google recently of being “offensive” because they were being honest whilst he and his buddies were making up imaginary figures about how much they claim they could be making from YouTube. The same man who described people on the internet who talk about fair copyright (as mentioned daily on BoingBoing) as “pseudo-intellectual cyber-professors”. Feargal Sharkey is a man who is so far from authenticity in terms of music that he now cannot see that the value of music has nothing to do with money.

    (Not that my comment really has any relevance to the topic. I just like complaining about Sharkey. Teenage Kicks was and is still one of the greatest songs ever written and now he is one of the greatest twats music has ever seen.)

  65. Anonymous says:


    That is not a very punk rock thing to do.

    My experience with punk rockers was that their “thing to do” was whatever would offend the squares. Not a lot of true idealism in that there rage machine… the idealism was in, and remains in, Mr. Jalopy’s head. Where it belongs, incidentally – Mr. Jalopy is ten times the man that Johnny Rotten ever was.

  66. mcgringostarr says:

    “And in fact, McLaren was capitalising on an image and culture and sound that already existed.”

    I wonder if the Situationists have legal representation?

  67. daneyul says:

    #67: “…That phenomenon is commonly called “influence”, but when you have instances of identical composition, layout and application, it is at the very least, plagiarism.”


    And its silly to expect her to blow it off as if someone was simply borrowing a guitar riff, or just using her designs for personal use. When another, competing company systematically appropriates your work and sells it in the same market as you are, directly competing with you with your own stuff, you’d be an absolute idiot not to call ‘em on it.

  68. sworm says:

    Oh no, now the proletariat will have same clothes as I do!

  69. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone else having Todd Goldman flashbacks?

  70. Kurt says:

    Personally, based on the above illustrations, I don’t have a problem with what Urban Threads is doing. They are making their own artistic interpretations of the same concept as Sublime Stitching, and you can’t copyright a concept. If you make a drawing of a woman walking a dog, and I say “hey, I should make a drawing like that” and make my own drawing, you have no legal leg to stand on, even if some third party comes along and decides to purchase my drawing.

    Now if I were photocopying or tracing your drawing and selling it as my own, that would be wrong. But my own drawing? No one owns a monopoly right on the “woman walking dog drawing” concept.

  71. yannish says:

    say it ain’t so! boingboing for copyright protections? I think I woke up in an alternate universe!

  72. Anonymous says:

    #10, I also see an interesting parallel with the Shephard Fairey case. Why is his derivative work celebrated when this case is seen as wrong by the BB editors? To me the two cases are remarkably similar: using stock art work, creatively re-drawing it, and calling it your own product. Either this is right or wrong; you can’t have it both ways.

  73. Takuan says:

    (*hmm this zydeco just me realize I can use my keyboard as a washboard….)

  74. Piers W says:

    #34 posted by Gunnar, April 29, 2009 10:48 AM

    The problem here is co-opting work without any kind of attribution.

    That sums up why this isn’t a ‘remix’ or even a wholesale one off artistic appropriation.

    No transformative step is involved.

    If an artist includes Mickey Mouse in a painting, she doesnt’ have to ‘credit’ Disney, there’s no point, if someone adds to or remixes an obscure open source entity they do, that’s the point of the exercise, the next step down the line they get credited too.

    It’s pretty clear here the intent is to ‘embrace and extend’ without getting successfully sued.

    What’s being lifted is what intellectual property lawyers call ‘look and feel’, each design has been faithfully redrawn to preempt any basic charge of plagiarism sticking.

    What stinks here is that if they’d done this to Mattel they’d be in serious trouble, and they know that, so they picked on someone a lot smaller.

  75. Anonymous says:

    Urban Threads has a much wider selection of patterns to choose from, and “quantity has a quality all its own”, as someone said (google for that :-). The problem is, that small business if it sticks to being small, will never enjoy economy of scale. A friend of mine runs a small company selling hand made t-shirts (http://www.agrafka.art.pl/, support small business from other parts of the world, if you like patterns send them an email oficyna-agrafka@o2.pl !) which he usually sells during summer music festivals and the like. He cannot compete with professionals selling thousands of patterns, and finds himself in more and more difficult position.

  76. Clif Marsiglio says:

    BoingBoing is ALWAYS for copyright and begging for protection when it is someone they like being screwed over by the man…but against it when it is perceived that THEY might have to pay something to the man.

    It is a simple rule to understand here :-)

    If it were a small company doing this to a bigger one, we’d have a Cory rant about Fair Use (and then never hear about it again once the small company turns out to be douchebags).

  77. Cinnamon says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of watching Jenny Hart grow her business over the last 8 years and she’s been very influential and very helpful to other small indie business owner, including myself. Since I’ve watched her website morph over 8 years and become what it is, I can read the Urban Threads website and see so many things that sound like they came out of Jenny Hart’s archives. And it isn’t just these few designs that are similar, if you look at what is offered on Sublime Stitching’s website you’ll see that all of the categories and very similar designs are offered by Urban Threads. Jenny has worked with many small business who want to use her designs on their work and she’s created a program to permit that collaboration. Urban Threads doesn’t have that collaborative history, but they do have deceptive business practices that seem to have taken a lot of time and money on Jenny’s part to prove as such. It’s not just a few copyright infrigements, it looks to me like a complete rip-off of her entire business.

  78. sanity says:

    @ 86 I know Craftster has rules about this.

    Since we’re all not members of Craftster, please link to these rules.

    Or even better the original author should since it was the original post that brought the site up.

  79. daneyul says:

    (Sorry if this is off topic for this Punk Music Thread)

    #10 – “I really would like to understand how this is different than a record company suing a college student for distributing copies of their intellectual property.”

    One thing that may make this worse is that the college student isn’t claiming to have created the material, where as Urban Threads seems to be.

    I guess another would be that, in the case of media downloading, you often hear the rationalization that piracy leads to increased interest and buying of more from the artist in the future–that won’t apply in this case, as buyers have no idea who the real artist is. Nor would the “I wouldn’t have bought anything anyway, so no loss for the artist” argument fly in this case, as the design is being purchased, just not from the maker.

    Finally, I guess one could rationalize that in the record company case, the artist sees very little of the money and is removed from the process, whereas here the artist is the one doing the selling.

    Not that I agree with any of the above, just considering some differences that might be thrown out.

  80. Steve Schnier says:

    So lemme get this straight:

    Its wrong for Urban Threads to swipe Sublime Switching’s designs for their catalogue. But its open season for Nina Paley to swipe other people’s music for her films?

    I’m just sayin’…

  81. hershmire says:

    Actually, counter-culture, not corporations, drives consumerism. In your quest to adopt something “unique,” you actually dilute it yourself. As more people take on “punk,” the more popular it becomes and the more profitable it is to market.

    This book does a good deal to explain this counter-intuitive process.

  82. daneyul says:

    I definitely favor the originals, with the exception of the heart–the lines are a nice touch.

    The space girl in particular is much better in the SS version. I love the pin-up girl/Jetson’s feel to it–awesome boots, too, and the antenna are a nice touch. Simple lines but a feeling of depth to it. The rip-off by comparison seems two dimensional and bland, with lines for the sake of lines in the clothing and a generic face my kid could have drawn. No contest.

  83. Anonymous says:

    I agree, Urban Threads is doing their own implementation of a Sublime Stitching concept. It’s neither theft nor plagiarism as concepts don’t have copyright protection.

    But it is classless and stupid. What, they can’t think of their own damn ideas for these simplistic patterns? How lame.

    But what I really don’t get is why either of these businesses exists at all. I admit I don’t do embroidery, but I’d think you could find an infinite range of simple drawings to trace out on Google images without having to subscribe to these services, which really appear to provide rather crude line drawings. That christmas ornament image pair is particularly embarrassing — can’t imagine why anyone would buy either implementation, both are ugly and crude.

  84. Machineintheghost says:

    People have been talking about how punk is being compromised or threatened by corporate culture ever since Green Day founded the movement. As long as there is a Hot Topic in this world, punk will never die.

  85. Bloodboiler says:

    Only the first one is an obvious ripoff. The last two are probably copies, but far too generic to have any merit that would make them someone’s intellectual property worthy of fussing over.

    The heart example is just reaching. It’s a freaking anatomical doodle of a heart. Anyone can get the idea to put that to any product and all heart line drawings will end up looking similar.

  86. Gunnar says:

    The problem here is co-opting work without any kind of attribution.

    But I agree with #3. The heart isn’t even close and the ornaments are a stretch. Also, I much prefer the style of Urban Threads to Sublime Stitchings.

  87. Lupin Yonsei says:


    I think that’s a fair question. I read BB a lot but don’t comment much. I think that in general they’re supportive of the “little guy” in copyright/IP issues, but I look forward to hearing from people who know more than me.

  88. ssll says:

    I work in a creative field and I am constantly encouraged to rip off other artists by my boss, so I know where those pressures come from. If you want to encourage creative talent to give you fresh ideas I think a good way to do that would be to share a percentage of the profits their artwork bring in… forever. You can pay them an advance up front in addition, of course. You’ll probably end up with way less rip-offs if artists don’t feel like hired hands. I’m sure the people who designed that art were paid hourly or a few hundred bucks at most.

  89. abusingtime says:

    I dunno, I don’t see a contradiction here. This is a call for a community to recognize uninspired plagiarism, not for legislative action against Urban Threads for infringing upon Sublime Stiching’s intellectual “property”.

    The tone of the post was a bit hokey for my taste, but I support the general ideal. To me, it’s about building a community that rewards innovation — by being aware of dull copycatting while rewarding legitimate cultural additions that respect the original author.

    What Urban Threads did with these shirts seems pretty tacky.

  90. RumorsofmyDemise says:

    @ 86 I know Craftster has rules about this.

    Since we’re all not members of Craftster, please link to these rules.

    Or even better the original author should since it was the original post that brought the site up.

    Craftster.orgs policy on users advertising their wares.

    Basically Craftster doesn’t want members using their site for free advertising since the whole thing is supposed to be “open source.” I have since sent the site mods an email asking them what they think of this whole thing. We’ll see what they say.

    As for the user account itself, it seems to be split between pretty blatant advertising and a few legitimate projects. There is no doubt that there is a real person behind the posts, their motivations for opening an account in the first place just seem a bit suspect. There’s always bound to be a bit of self promotion on sites like this but Urban Threads takes it a pretty damn far.

  91. A former race mechanic says:

    I’d be careful going up against Big Embroidery.

    If they poke you, you stay poked.

  92. Anonymous says:

    this is a really silly argument – you are an artist and I am an artist and I can see the differences. the images from both companies reference art from other eras, disciplines, and countries. I can see where you would misconstrue either as copying the other.

    as an embroiderer and crafter – I do not like either company’s designs.

  93. jahknow says:

    Punk and design-theft? Reminds me of when Nike flat-out stole the design of Minor Threat’s album cover. It was a memorable event for this harDCore alum… and not too surprising to see the top Google hit on this leads me to a BB article on the incident.

  94. Jason Rizos says:

    @7 13STRONG

    I think they went to the same graduate school together and/or had collaborated on other, smaller film projects together back in the 80′s.

  95. orangebag says:

    “authenticity” is one of the most tiresome words I can think of. Those who constantly strive for it are rightly derided as hipster douchebags.

    I have to say it’s pretty rich to hear about “authenticity” from someone who talks about The Maker Movement.
    That pathetic, utterly contemptible term could be the best example of repackaging and renaming I can think of.

    It’s DIY and crafts. It’s being thrifty. But you know what that sounds too middle aged and too much like my dad to sell. Undergraduates who think that disliking Walmart makes you Abbie Hoffman need something edgier.

  96. redstarr says:

    With punk rock and a lot of other things, the watered-down corporate imitators, while they make their money from a dumbed down version of the original authentic version, actually help turn a lot of people on to the real thing that would have never been exposed to it at all. Maybe Green Day is a pop-punk abomination to the genuine punk, but there’s a lot of fans (and a lot more than would openly admit it)of real punk that first found their way to the real punk through being introduced with that first taste of the knock-offs. For lots of folks,especially younger folks that weren’t around in New York or London in the heydey of early punk, hearing radio friendly Green-Day on the radio and liking them and hearing them call themselves punk, was the spark that set them looking into punk and finding the real deal. The bland knock offs are sometimes a mass-market friendly entry to the real hard-core thing. Yes, the folks that are fortunate enough to be aquainted with the Real McCoy already laugh at and look down on the knock offs and see them as derivative and nowhere near as awesome as the real thing. But for the unititiated mainstream, they’re a valuable entry point to the set them on the road to finding the real thing.

    Sadly, this phenomenon isn’t what’s happening in the case of the two embroidery pattern companies. It’s not that Urban Threads is offering sort of mass-appeal watered down ideas influenced by and derived from with pieces sort of ripped off from the original and modified to be more appealing to the newbies and the mainstream. Their designs are pretty much straight adaptations of the Sublime Stitching designs.

    Urban Threads isn’t being the Green Day that leads the modern suburban kid to discover the Ramones or The Clash. They’re being the big label new artist doing a luke-warm covers of the Ramones’s or The Clash’s songs and claiming them as their own.

  97. orangebag says:

    thanks to 13Strong (#7) for the link to Bill Hicks, very appropriate indeed.

  98. grimc says:

    Its wrong for Urban Threads to swipe Sublime Switching’s designs for their catalogue. But its open season for Nina Paley to swipe other people’s music for her films?

    Nina Paley used recordings that are in the public domain. She did not find out until later that the actual compositions were still under copyright. Still want to characterize it as her ‘swiping’ other people’s music?

  99. Anonymous says:

    i actually just got a huge tattoo of a similar concept on my side without seeing either of these. is it possible they both had the idea for a space babe?

  100. Pantograph says:

    While staying out of the politics of it and not being familiar with either company, I actually prefer the style of the “ripoffs” to that of the “originals”. Does this make me a horribly horribly bad person?