Zara, the international fashion giant loved by many, poised to open its first store in New Zealand later this year, has once again come into the firing line.  Tuesday Bassen, an independent artist in Los Angeles, has accused Zara of allegedly copying her designs without credit or compensation.  

Bassen is not alone in her allegations, the count of affected artists has already risen to 17 and may rise further.  Zara has previously been criticised for the similarity of its designs to other high fashion brands, and luxury shoe brand Christian Louboutin unsuccessfully sued Zara for selling red-soled shoes.

The New Zealand Copyright Act 1994, protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works.  Artistic works include any original graphic work, such as a drawing.  As an owner of the copyright, the artist has certain exclusive rights in respect of their artwork, including the right to make and issue copies of the work to the public by sale or otherwise.  So if any other person makes a copy of the drawing, including in 3 dimensions, without a licence from the owner, this will generally amount to copyright infringement.

Arguably Bassen (and the other affected artists) has a substantial legal claim against Zara.  The roadblock to pursuing the action however is resources, including time and money.  But with the right advice pursuing and protecting your intellectual property rights is worthwhile and achievable.  On the flipside, it would be sensible for Zara to consider public perception before it chooses its next step.