Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Stolen Logo That Never Was

Yesterday, Zimbabwean social media was abuzz with a blog entry about a startling discovery: Jan Jam Menswear's logo is a ripoff, stolen from American TV series Madmen, as shown above. Not only that, but this startling discovery led to an even more startling discovery: there is a "huge problem" with designers in Zimbabwe. The problem being that they like to steal images from the internet, and sell them off as their work to their client.

How easy to assume that the designer has no regard for their own reputation, and would pick an item of popular media that would be easily discovered. How easy it is to assume that the client had never heard of Mad Men (just the discoverer of the rip off, out of everyone in Zimbabwe, has seen this show) and so would have never made the connection. This is the sum of the startling discovery

As the panties dry from the excitement generated by this startling discovery, I think Zimbabweans are sober enough now to look at the story again. Does it really make sense to hang the entire design industry of Zimbabwe because one logo bears a striking resemblance to that of an American TV show? Would both designer and client unleash this logo and assume no one would connect it immediately to Mad Men? This is the blogger's argument. To query it is to endorse theft of intellectual property. This is one of the directions the ad hominem responses to what was supposed to be a civilised debate on the blog went. Another was accusations by some commentators that the blogger, also a designer, was miffed that Jan Jam had given the contract to someone else. (the words "sour grapes" were thrown around a lot). In the end, a rational debate was stifled, and I walked away from it. Would a plagiarism charge stick in a court other than that of a blogger? It all seems circumstantial to me. My first thought, when I saw the discussion online, was a bit of dialogue from the movie, Coming to America.

Look... me and the McDonald's people got this little misunderstanding. See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.

I don't think many people know that the designers of the Mad Men logo have too been charged with borrowing from other sources, such as this 1967 edition of Time. As Cleo McDowell explained, "See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's....." Republican politican Rand Paul has also paid tribute to Mad Men with his campaign. Or, rather, the contracted designer borrowed liberally from Mad Men and Rand Paul approved of the designs. So, far, no one has accused the designer of plagiarism or howled that the designing fraternity was now facing a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. I think that kind of indignation is reserved for people who have the time and energy for it. The more productive sectors of society simply do not.

I can't help noticing that Jan Jam Menswear have, sensibly, declined to wade in to the social media fest. It appears to be business as usual on their own facebook page. This is how it should be. As the popular saying on facebook goes, Lions Do Not Lose Sleep Over The Opinions of Sheep.


Zim Baby said...

1) The Rand Paul example - The concept might have been INSPIRED by Mad Men (keyword - inspired) but the pose and colours are very different. That became very Rand Paul..

2) Life Magazine example - again the tweet you link to speaks of INSPIRATION because the end result was different. You might need to read this too

3) Jan Jam did comment on their twitter page to an article about the stolen logo with the following "Thank you for bringing this to our attention." So it seems they didn't know they had a stolen logo.

4) To use a movie quote which is fiction in defense of a real life issue is far fetched

5) That stolen logo can NOT be said to be inspired everything is the same, it was copied in its totality.... where is the inspiration?

6) Mad Men is not popular in Zimbabwe. That is why the story was so popular on social media. It came out on satellite television on the most expensive package. For the few who had access to it, you must admit its not really that exciting so only a few might have watched

7) Those who could have noted it did not have a voice that could be heard like the blogger's, maybe they said it to their friends or co workers and with how the author of that article was attacked in that first comment, they probably were afraid of a backlash.

8) To conclude I assume you are saying it is also ok to "write" my own novel based on a famous best seller and just change the title and the names of the characters keeping the story line exactly the same, right?
INSPIRATION and COPYING are two very different things!

Masimba Musodza said...

Hi Zim Baby and thanks for your comments. I respond:

1. Tapiwacreates does not appear to have heard of the Rand Paul campaign, so my point on that one still stands. I hope someone with a legal background can delve in to whether both Rand Paul's logo and the Jan Jam one could be considered plagiarism or inspiration.

2. I never claimed it wasn't inspiration, but the fact still remains that no one in the States is all over the creators of the Mad Men logo and declaring that the entire design industry has a "problem".

3. "Thank you for bringing this to our attention" is not the same as "We did not realise that we had a stolen logo." I am sure at this stage the sensible thing would be to remain guarded in how they respond.

4) Come now, I did not just pick a random movie quote, but one that fits the occasion.

5) It was not copied in its totality, if at all. One inspired the latter, but that is not the same thing as copying, hence the movie quote, which sums up the inspiration/plagiarism argument.

6) I do not live in Zimbabwe, so I am not aware of how popular Mad Men is over there.I will have to look in to that. But even so, I find it unlikely that anyone in Zimbabwe would assume (that word again) that no one else would find out if they took something about an American show, given the pervasiveness of American television.

7) So, you are saying everyone else in the media fraternity in Zimbabwe was afraid of being accused of "sour grapes," so they kept quiet? That is rather wild speculation, methinks.

8. If you made that assumption, then you would have flown wide off the mark. For starters, writing a novel and designing a logo, while both are examples of creative work, are different that way. Even so, there are many works that have become bestsellers that can be shown to have been influenced by earlier literally works. Sometimes that is not a bad thing at all, as it shows that popular fiction can hold its own against popular classics. Take for instance this plot summary:

A handful of people have gathered in a building in the centre of a small town. Inside, they have found safety....or at least the illusion of safety. Outside, there is only darkness, and fear, and death. Daylight is dying. With the night will come the monster. The people huddle close for warmth, for comfort. They know that by the time the sun dawns again, some, or most-or all-of them may be dead.

The writer, Michael R. Collings, suggests that this the plot of Stephen King's 'The Mist' before pointing out that when he wrote this summary, he was actually thinking of the Anglo-Saxon/Germanic epic, Beowulf.

Zim Baby said...

One important fact you are ignoring is if this was not news in Zimbabwe that article would have never gone viral. It was something they had never heard of obviously. A story about something everyone knew would have been ignored and no one would have bothered to comment or share the story a million times over..

Did the said blogger have to write everything in that one article? He/She never said the whole industry was terrible. Did you read the follow up article to the one about the stolen logo? I think they clarify issues about a new crop of google designers who are not designers but just mere copy cats.

Jan Jam's response is a classic public relations response. There is no way they are going to say, "oh we did not know about that blah blah" in public. They will re-brand and I bet my bottom dollar on it

Let us agree to disagree. When I see those two logos together all I see is plagiarism which is very wrong. Different pose, different text position and different colours then we would agree...

Zim Baby said...

& if you look at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo which was pulled over plagiarism charges you will understand why that logo is absolute plagiarism!!

Masimba Musodza said...

I haven't read the follow-up article, but I still hold that this has just been a little excitement over a nonevent. I also hold that the writer went over-the-top by seeing it as an indication of a "problem" with Zimbabwean designers. I do not endorse plagiarism, of course. However, I do recognise that the definition of it is not always set in stone, especially when it comes to digitally created material.

Like I wrote earlier, thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.

Zim Baby said...

Ok please read it and I also noted the blog is called the 10th man and there is a quote from a MOVIE (hahahaha) explaining why it is called that. You ask me the blogger is staying true to the title of their blog in their style of writing..

You're welcome mate.. Until the next nonevent becomes the event that brings us to the comments section hahaha

Masimba Musodza said...