A Jacksonville freelance artist is suing a China-based online fashion retailer for copyright infringement and is seeking more than $100 million in damages.
Magdalena Mollman, known professionally as Maggie Stephenson, is represented by the Holland & Knight law firm.
The complaint was filed June 15 in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
Mollman alleges that Zoetop Business Co. Limited., doing business as Shein and Shein Distribution Corp., obtained images of her copyright-protected artwork from her Instagram page nine times between 2019 and 2021.
Zoetop is based in Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. Shein is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in City of Industry, California.
Shein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The complaint says that after obtaining the artwork from Mollman’s Instagram account, the defendants began selling copies of the art for as little as $4 per print, well below what Mollman allows authorized retailers to sell unframed framed and framed prints of the artwork, $19 to $300.
A certificate of registration from the U.S. Copyright Office granted to Mollman for the artwork is included as an exhibit to the complaint.
“Defendants copied the original, copyright-protected elements of Plaintiff’s Original Art Work without Plaintiff’s authorization and created therefrom one or more art prints, copies of which Defendants then advertised, marketed and sold on the SHEIN Website under the description ‘Abstract Pattern Wall Painting Without Frame,’” the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint states that the defendants own and operate a “fast fashion” business e-commerce enterprise that sells apparel, accessories, jewelry, tapestries and other products under the defendants’ proprietary brand names including “Shein” and “Romwe” on websites including shein.com as well as mobile apps and social media platforms.
The defendants identify catwalk/high-fashion design trends, mass produce low-cost, inferior “replicas” of high-end, higher-quality designer goods created by others, and rush to flood the market with cheap, ersatz “designer” goods as the wave of consumer demand begins to crest, the complaint states.
Mollman asks the court to permanently prohibit the defendants from copying or using her copyright-protected artwork in any way; order destruction of all infringing products and all related marketing, advertising and promotional materials; and award $25,000 for each violation of U.S. copyright law, plus reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Mollman’s website, maggiestephenson.com, lists authorized users of her work including Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Atelier cologne, LucasFilm, Elle magazine and Harper Collins Publishing.