Niki Groom has suffered a copyright infringement after an events company plagiarised her work and refused to acknowledge it.
Following a recent tip off from a fan, the fashion illustrator discovered the company had taken her licensed work, originally created for an international brand in 2016.
The events company, which cannot be named for legal reasons, digitally altered it and claimed the work as their own, without Niki’s permission or obtaining a license to use the work.
Running her illustration business under the name Miss Magpie Spy, Niki has over 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry, previously working as a fashion designer for Monsoon and the Nomads Clothing.
“Illustration was a hobby alongside my design work,” explains Niki. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to support myself as an illustrator, but I’m spontaneous and I’m determined and so I went for it!”
Niki has since created impressive commissions for big cosmetic and fashion brands including Australian Vogue, Molton Brown, Clinique and Accessorize. She has also created live artworks at Liberty of London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Harrods and Selfridges.
As a freelance illustrator, Niki owns all the copyright of her work unless she sells it. Alternatively, licensed work will only be available to use for a certain amount of time, usually under contract. The events company, however, ignored these legal bindings.
Niki’s plagiarised work was used to promote a series of large event campaigns and appears on the company website, adverts, posters and their social media platforms.
“I contacted the company but didn’t get anywhere,” explains Niki, who involved an intellectual property lawyer with no success. “My only option was taking them to court”.
The same issue is faced by many artists, illustrators and photographers. Often copyright laws are ignored and companies continue to make money from stolen designs and images.
Niki has lost money and work while dealing with the stresses of the copyright infringement and has chosen to end the fight against the events company.
“My skill is my work and I don’t know much about the legal system. I decided it was better to focus on my business and use my time and resources to attract new clients and grow my brand,” she says. “I’ve worked at Max Mara, Kate Spade and Cartier and over the last year I’ve moved into buildings and travel illustrations, recently working with both Kimpton and Hilton Hotels”.
Shining a positive light on a bad experience, Niki has written an article on her website, David doesn’t always beat Goliath, raising awareness of corporate exploitation.
“My experience has left me feeling pretty powerless,” she says. “However, the reaction to the article on my blog was amazing and there are lots of conversations happening as a result.”
To help cover financial losses from the incident, Niki has released new artworks and prints on her website, with options to buy commissioned pieces of bespoke artwork and an added promise to
Support Niki at www.missmagpiefashionspy.com. She is donating a percentage of sales to Great Ormond Street Hospital until Christmas 2019.
Main image photography by Amber-Rose Smith
Read our fashion editor Emma’s blog No Debutante
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