We had to choose a study case for this module so we could see how intelectual property affects other artists or brands in the real world. We were divided in two teams. My team were: Sara, Iona, Rowan, Rob, Derek and myself.
We chose this case to study the copyright, plagiarism and fair use for the lecture as we thought that it was a very interesting case because of how everything started and the way it developed.
This case started in 2004 when McSweeny design a T-Shirt for her brand Marry to the Mob where you could read "Supreme Bitch" with the same colours and font as the one used by the brand Supreme.
Supreme's logo is directly inspired by Barbara Kruger, an American conceptual artist that in the 80's she produced a series of collages with a feminist, anticapitalist, cultural construction of power and identity background. The pieces where texts written on Futura Oblique and Helvetica Ultra over black and white images.
McSweeny asked for permission to Supreme who signed a contract where she could produce the product in small butch(?). However, this product got so popular that became the main product of Married to the Mob and celebrities started wearing it.
In 2013, Supreme sued McSweeny because of this. They plead that they way she was using the design was damaging Supreme's brand image as it was making customers confused and the situation was violating the fair use laws.
McSweeny argued that she had permission from Supreme to do it and that everything started as a critique to Supreme because of his Male-Skateboard background.
They had to resolve the issue outside court because the case was so delicate that non of them had enough probes to win the case and going further with the case was getting too expensive for both parties. So they agreed that Married to the Mob could not keep using the word Supreme in Futura Oblique on white over a red rectangle but she could still use bitch.
Now where are the issues with this situation?
Supreme's logo was created after Barbara's Kruger work. In the States, the trademark law specifies that such a simple logo (a white public font over a red rectangle) was son unique enough to be trademarked globally, so it could just be trademarked regionally. However, the logo is copyrighted.
Legally, Married to the Mob logo was much more unique because of the concept behind the convention of Supreme + Bitch than Supreme's original logo so that was not a road to continue for Supreme's case.
However, it is true that Supreme sign their consent for Married to the Mob to produce that merch and therefore it is not illegal for her to sell that product and the copyright was not infringed as she had authorisation and the initial idea of the creation was to critique the brand.
This being said, you would assume that this logo would be just one more of a collection in Married to the Mob, right? If you go to their website (insertar link) you can see how this product has became the main item and McSweeny's first good intention to criticise the brand has lead to a "this product sells good so I'm going to keep producing it an selling it so I get more economic benefit" situation.
While doing the research, some of the team members found ourselves surprised as we actually thought that McSweeny's design belonged to Supreme as they were sold for a period of time in their stores as well an the aesthetic of the product is so similar that it is understandable to see why Supreme where saying that the fair use was been infringed.
My opinion about this situation is that Supreme has enough money to not consider Married to the Mob a threat to their brand as they were claiming on court but she was getting so popular by "taking advantage" of their logo and the critique that they decided to make it stop.
McSweeny got lured by money as, yes, critique a big brand and all the injustice that those companies tend to carry with themselves and lucrative yourself with it. but from this revelrous act, I think that is very sad that she actually stopped producing new merch with new messages and kept playing save and keep using it.
At the end of the day I totally agree with what Barbara Kruger said about this whole situation:
And is that if you want to have a voice and a message you have to push and make people uncomfortable but when it works, do not get stuck in there as then you are becoming what you were condemning in first place.
Woking on a team was a nice experience to go back to.
I ended up getting the leader position although I feel uncomfortable with that term as generally that means that I am above the rest of the group and that is not how I am. I am aware that I am organised and that I can benefit everyone with those skills as I am good at setting times for each section of work that needs to be done and I know how to speak to people so they feel comfortable and encouraged to work.
This was obviously not as easy and smooth as it might sound of first instant as we all have our own life outside uni and I still do know properly all my teammates. However, with the two days that we spend talking I could start seeing everyone's strengths:
Sara's visual skills are on point and she has lots of contagious energy.
Cara is very organised and she also has strong leathership skills.
Rob is serene and really good at researching which gives a sense of stability that we really needed having so little time to work on this project while doing everything else.
I was surprised about Iona's reaching skills as by herself she found most of the information that we needed for Supreme and from that we just had to investigate a bit more on those lines.
Derek is also very strong on research and very helpful as both of us finished the presentation and gave it the final touches. He is also very confident while speaking in public.
Rowan is very positive and brings fun and joy to the group as well as research.
I am very happy with how everything turned out and I could not be more thankful to all the group for their hard work.
Cardiner, B. (2013). Supreme sues married to the mob over "supreme bitch" t-shirts. [online] Available from <https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/supreme-sues-married-to-the-mob-over-supreme-bitch-t-shirt/>