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We Can't Have Nice Things

Cosplayers Dress Up As Carpet, Carpet Designers Are Not Pleased

At DragonCon last month, a couple of cosplayers decided to sidestep the usual fare of superheroes and cartoon characters in favor of dressing up as the carpet at the Marriott hotel where the con takes place. Yup, there was carpet-colored camo. That is a real thing that now exists. Naturally, other people wanted to emulate the design, but, alas, this psychedelic carpet army was not to be – because Courtisan Inc., the company that designed the original rug, issued a Cease and Desist soon after the design went up.

Volpin Props, the cosplay designer, posted on their facebook page about the incident and received almost 300 comments, ranging from serious discussion of copyright and intellectual property to expressions of surprise that anyone would admit to having designed such an ugly carpet. Still, Volpin Props has gracefully stated that they are “in complete agreement with [Courtisan's] decision,” so it looks like anyone looking to blend in with the carpeting in the future will have to make their own costume. Or maybe they should try the wallpaper?

Carpet controversy aside, I think that we all can rest easy knowing that this photo exists:

The moral of the story is A. Cosplayers are will always find new ways to be creative and awesome and B. You can’t sell carpets that don’t belong to you, no matter how ugly they are.

(via: Daily Dot, Facebook)

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  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    I’m glad I’m not the only one whose first thought was “Argh, why would you claim ownership of that thing?”
    Also, the cosplay is brilliant.

  • Carlos Ovalle

    I really need to write that paper about cosplay and copyright, especially with the recent Heroes of Cosplay lawsuit…

  • Michelle Skaflestad

    So I can understand why a company would attempt to stop people from infringing on their copyright of the carpet’s pattern (am I the only person who doesn’t find this completely ugly?)

    HOWEVER, wouldn’t these costumes fall under Fair Use, just like ALL of the costumes at the Con? There is no profit being made from the utilization of the costume, so if the cosplayers ignored the Cease and Desist, it’s likely the judge would throw out the case for this reason (no money is involved).

    Even if someone were making costumes and selling them, under the law it should fall under the same legality of a tattoo artist giving someone a copyrighted design – people are paying for the creation of the product, not the product itself.

    Now, of course, don’t take my word for it. I would love to hear a brilliant legal mind’s take on this subject!

  • Anonymous

    Let’s see…
    Your creation gains popularity as a result of the Internet. Do you…
    A) Find a way to use it to your advantage by publicizing it, while at the same time asking the creators to toss a copyright notice, or at least a plug, onto their photos and reports?

    B) Attempt to shut the reaction down with legal action, almost guaranteeing you will become the Internet’s Special Friend for a few days?
    Dear carpet designers – look up “The Streisand Effect”.

  • Anonymous

    It has everything to do with the fact that Volpin Props was selling the fabric on Spoonflower, which results in a commission for them on every sale. They were profiting off of someone else’s design. The C&D was ONLY for the Spoonflower fabric, not for the costume itself.

  • Nelly Dreadful

    Yeah, that’s how I read it. The company didn’t react to the costumes, they were reacting to the costume makers selling fabric with their pattern. Which is a completely legitimate response, and I get it. It IS their design, and taking it and selling it WAS crossing a line. The cosplayers were dumb, there.

  • Jessica Sadoway

    The first costume was fine. The Cease & Desist was because they put the print up on Spoonflower so other people could download it and make their own costumes. That’s where it became commercial profit and infringement.

  • Spark*Amy

    It’s not the costume itself, it was the carpet design being sold on Spoonflower (assumably with some slight profit) that Couristan had a problem with. Spoonflower has taken it down I’ve heard.

  • electrasteph

    But thanks to this, I now know about spoonflower, so, that’s a good thing, at least, out of it. *goes off to make my own TM logo into a design*

  • Lauren

    So meta.

  • Anonymous

    They actually did like, all the different carpets from the different hotels DragonCon is in.. they were all hideous yet brilliant.

  • Anonymous

    Does the carpet match the…HOLY SHIT IT DOES WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?

  • Mark Matson

    They just need to call the costumes a parody of the carpet. Instantly, it goes from copyright infringement to constitutionally protected free speech.

  • Anonymous

    I’d consider it satirical so it would fall under the “Fair Use Act”

  • JoAnna Luffman

    I saw this on Thursday night, and was squealing over how *awesome* this was. Too bad I can’t build the costume easily now. :(

  • Anonymous

    “Even if someone were making costumes and selling them, under the law it should fall under the same legality of a tattoo artist giving someone a copyrighted design – people are paying for the creation of the product, not the product itself.”

    No, that’s not how that works.
    I work in the custom printing business (except we do wallcovering, not fabric) and this is one of those things that everyone, even people who have paid good money to learn this stuff in college, cannot seem to wrap their head around.
    Think of it this way: If you made a painting, and I took that image of your painting and started selling prints of it in my store, I could not avoid copyright infringement by claiming that the customer is “only paying for material and printing service”, could I? Of course not.

    By the way, it’s actually NOT legal for a tattoo artist to tattoo a copyrighted design for profit. It’s just that no one cares because people rarely get found out and the design is (usually) only on one person, so there’s not much loss represented there.

  • Anonymous

    I get that, but really – how many people would have downloaded this and copied the idea? It only would have worked in that particular venue and in that particular setting. What did they stand to lose? 50$? And couldn’t just have demanded a portion of the profits instead? And used this as an opprtunity to highlight their design, garner some internet goodwill?

    It’s just such a boring reaction.

  • Firstname Lastname

    So now the carpet design will be cosplayed in the form of parody. Could have just asked for 25% of the sale and used the popularity as a cash cow?

  • Michael Gmirkin

    Making the costume could be considered parody / satire. The problem was simply the selling of someone else’s copyrighted design for fabric/carpet and giving no royalties to the actual “ugly design” owner for doing so. So, it was the selling of the fabric/copyrighted design that was at issue, not the subsequent making of costumes out of the already-purchased copyright-infringed design/fabric/carpet.

    See the difference?

  • Colleen O’Rourke

    That carpet really tied the con together.

  • Anonymous

    Yes I understand that forgot they were selling the fabric

  • Anonymous

    Are we all gonna ignore how jacked buttercup is?

  • Anonymous

    More than likely the carpet company has some sort of exclusive deal with Marriott that stops them from selling that particular design to anybody else. Also Internet goodwill has no value.

  • Anonymous

    I think they’re cosplaying the Fake Powerpuff Girls.

  • Carla Lewis

    You forgot, “C. An ugly carpet lasts forever.”

  • gadiv

    I don’t think they even had a case, since clothing and such isn’t in the same product category as carpet and floor coverings. Floor coverings are class 27 products, clothing is class 25.

  • Anonymous

    my Aunty Abigail got Ford by working off of
    a computer. great site w­w­w.J­A­M­20.c­o­m

  • Anonymous

    I think the real reason is because Volpin realised having that many people walking around with the pattern would be a dangerous seizure trigger.

  • Cy

    Aaand now there is root beer on my keyboard. Thanks for that.

  • Laura Truxillo

    I suppose that someone could always make the base image of the pattern available and people can just order it off Spoonflower on their own? Pretty sure Spoonflower lets your do personal custom orders too. It skirts the grey area of legality?

  • Carlos Ovalle

    Not for copyright. ^_^ You never lose copyright by not policing it. That is the situation for certain types of trademark uses, although often not to the extent normally believed. (I’m most familiar with US law, but those parts are pretty common.)

  • Anonymous

    ITYM Copyright act of 1976.

  • Joanna

    HAHAHA! Holy shit! Best Power Puff cosplay EVER!

  • Sanjay Merchant

    But in the Sissy Squad, the jacked girl was white.

  • Anonymous

    One of the muscular guys was ambiguously white (Bubbles), one was black (Buttercup). There’s a picture at the link.

  • Sanjay Merchant

    Right, the Buttercup cosplayer, who looks to me to be the physically largest of the three is (obviously) of African ancestry. I was trying (and failing) to make a bit of a joke by comparing them to a parody cartoon called “Sissy Squad”*, which featured three drag queens. The biggest and burliest was white. Anyway, Epic Humor Fail. :-P

    *I can find no proof on the internet that this ever existed, but I know I’m not making it up. Apparently, it was a much more obscure reference than I thought.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, gotcha. I tried googling Sissy Squad, but… nada, so I assumed you were talking about Powerpuff Girls.

  • Anonymous

    It wouldn’t fall under fair use if they were selling carpet. However, they were creating a parody by combining the concept of camouflage with the setting of the hotel, and the colors of the carpet. The camo outfit sufficiently transformed the original work.

    And the fact of the matter is that our copyright laws are screwed up anyway – they were originally intended to last 14 years, and be limited monopolies to protect a creator from someone selling copies of their works. The goal was to protect creativity by still allowing people to build on those works (since there are very few creative works that are produced that aren’t built on the backs of something else). These draconian restrictions do nothing but to stifle creativity and innovation.

  • Anonymous

    My bad. I thought they were selling the actual costumes, not just the fabric. In that case, that is a definite infringement.