Fans of the fashion and law connection may remember that, in January 2012, Disney "designed" a Mickey Mouse shirt that seemed to have an uncanny resemblance with the cover artwork of Joy Division's 1979 album "Unknown Pleasures".
The shirt was sold at Disneyland, Disney World, and online with the following description: "Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey's image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That's appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!"
As you may remember from a previous post, the postmodernist "Unknown Pleasures" album cover was designed by Peter Saville and was indeed based on a 1967 image of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919, taken from The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy. Saville reversed the image from black-on-white to white-on-black.
No matter how well-meaning Disney's intention was, the design seemed inappropriate for the family friendly company considering the fact that the band took its name from Nazi concentration camps brothels and that lead singer Ian Curtis tragically and sadly committed suicide at a young age.
Previous members of Joy Division didn't know anything about the T-shirt, but former bassist Peter Hook spoke to NME at the time confirming that he had not given permission for Disney to use the image, but also explaining "From a legal point of view, the image is in the public domain, as Disney know." At the time Hook also stated that it was "quite a compliment for a huge conglomerate like Disney to pick up on a poor little Manchester band that only existed for a couple of years." Fans complained, though, and, shortly afterwards, the infamous T-shirt was pulled from the shelves.
Yet, the T-shirt that turned into a PR nightmare for Disney, is now back but it's not sold by Disney. It is indeed "designed" by Versace and fuses the fashion house Medusa logo with the trademark waveform of the Joy Division cover.
Technically there is no copyright infringement here if we consider what Hook stated about the image they used being in public domain, and some may argue that, being this product aimed at grown-ups, what applied to Disney doesn't apply to Versace (or does it?).
Yet again the more you look at it, the more you think about Joy Division and the more you think about what happened to Disney, the more you wonder why the same doesn't happen to Versace. Consider also that Disney's product retailed at $24.95, Versace's T-shirt costs Euro 275,40 on Farfetch, and Euro 290 on Lyst.
Great to hear that Donatella is a fan, but are the remaining members of Joy Division or Peter Saville aware of this new "tribute"? You say that it is only mildly "inspired" by Joy Division? Then why is it that the links to the product on Farfetch and on Lyst both contain the words "Joy Division" in the URL as you can see from the screen capture? (proving in this way that the house wasn't actually taking the inspiration from The Campbridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy...).
It looks like fashion brands are definitely running out of ideas if they have to sell plagiarised T-shirts at immoral prices (and no, Donatella, blaming your intern or your research team as most designers do nowadays when they are accused of stealing and copying, won't excuse you...). As Hook told NME when the Disney T-shirt was released "I'm amazed they're that hard up that they need to prey on little indie bands." So, Donatella, take responsibility, and, like all respectable Joy Division bootleggers, make at least a contribution to an epilepsy charity in memory of Ian Curtis.
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