It’s a rare occasion that David defeats Goliath. But sometimes it actually happens.
This is my story how I, an unknown small-town artist from Sweden recently battled against a Chinese billion dollar company over copyright infringement… and won. I hope it can work as an inspiration for you, to keep trying new things even when it feels like all the odds truly are against you.
As most of you know, I create my own environmental art under the name ”Andy okay”. Some of my recent collaborations includes WWF, PETA, SeaLegacy, United Nations, PangeaSeed, Plastic Bank and many more. I guess one of these collaboration got under the radar from a pretty big company. But not in a good way.
Last Tuesday I discovered that my art was sold on Shein.com, one of the larger fashion retailers in the world with over 40 million followers on social media. The only problem, Shein.com was doing this without asking me first.
Sadly, a situation many artists find themself facing during some point during their career.
Since I made it my business of selling art to raise money for charity, it hurt even more. In this particular situation, Shein.com was not only stealing from me personally, every artwork they sold took potential money that otherwise was going to important nonprofits struggling to make this world a better place.
Upset, my first action was of course to reach out to the company, making them aware of the situation and kindly asking them to take my artwork down. I know these companies can get their products from suppliers that straight up lies about legit licensing agreements. Maybe this was all just an misunderstanding? At least I rather give them the opportunity to explain their side first.
So I started to google Shein. Turns out, I was hardly the first artist gotten their art stolen by Shein for them to profit from. Post after post told the same tale of artists having their art end up on Shein.com, without any luck in getting it taken down.
My research also made me aware of the fact that Shein is actually a very mysterious Chinese company, a billion dollar business nobody really knows who owns. Hmmm... ”secret” owners. Not a good sign.
Of course, at this point it was pretty obvious I was never going to reach these people. These companies just don’t care. They are too big. Too far away. Untouchable under their own vague laws and rules.
So. New plan. A public PR-campaign on social media as an effort to try and get their attention that way. A post showing my stolen art on their site, with the words ”Double tap to bust an art-thief” written all over it.
It blew up.
1000s of comments tagging Shein and even more effective; thousands of re-shares reaching million of people in total. Everyone adressing Shein to do right by their actions. It also resulting in me getting in contact with countless of other artists who experienced this same situation with this company for years.
Two days later, I got a message from Shein on Instagram.
Finally. A response. I wasn’t super happy with their answer, but at least I got their attention. Lets talk!
So I wrote back:
I was starting to get really upset now. Finding out you are communicating with a bot, at this point? I immediately wrote back to Shein.com:
The exact same phrasing as last time.
Obviously Shein been stealing artworks for so long, that they even got automatic replies going out to anyone addressing them regarding this matter. This was pretty much unheard of, and this is where I know I had to put my foot down. To do what I can to make an effort in ending this. It wasn’t about my own art anymore. This had now become standing up against a big corporation that made it a business of stealing art from artists just like me, and gotten away with it for years.
Having a background in marketing, I knew a company doesn’t gain 40 million followers without a lot of influencers helping them with their reach. Looking at their feed, this confirmed my suspicion. Influencer after influencer, proudly representing and promoting a company that made it their business stealing designs.
I wrote down the name of every influencer I could find on their feed, and wrote one final message to Shein:
Immediately after, this happened:
After almost a week of not getting any kind of respons at all from Shein.com besides from bots... no matter what I tried.
Apparently they actually were listening this whole time. They just didn´t bother to respond. But I finally got their attention.
Obviously, Shein.com couldn’t care less about any threats, lawyers or copyright infringements. But the same second I thought of using their own influencers against them, the very same group of individuals that made Shein huge in the first place, they ran to take action.
The next morning (Sunday morning I might add) I had a very fair contract in my inbox from Shein’s lawyers. I can't discuss the details, but what I can say is that a certain charity got a big win in this.
I did it.
I had actually won. A small town artist from Sweden against a Chinese billion dollar company that has been doing this for years.
So there you have it.
I chose to write this story down as a way to inspire not only other artist out there, but pretty much all of you. To stand up for yourself, and be creative, even when everything and everyone is telling you the path you are about to walk will lead to a dead end. To just drop it, and move on.
Don't give up. Try something new, with a different approach. I was able to turn things around. Against all odds. And whatever challenges you might face, I'm confident that you can as well.