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Communication Design

Urban Outfitters Loses Appeal of Copyright Infringement Case, to the Tune of $530,000

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 07, 2017

Urban Outfitters lost its appeal of a district court jury decision that found the company guilty of willful infringement, and has been ordered to pay $530,000. A small Los Angeles fabric supplier to the apparel industry, Unicolors, successfully sued Urban Outfitters for copyright infringement in district court. Urban Outfitters appealed the decision, and on April 4, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The court ruled that Urban Outfitters had willfully infringed of one of Unicolors’ copyrighted fabric designs. The court published the ruling, a step the Kali Hays described in WWD as unusual and indicative of the court’s intention that lower courts look to the ruling for guidance in similar cases.

At issue is a palm frond design which was originally created by Milk Print, LLC. Unicolors bought the intellectual property rights to the pattern, which they then modified slightly for printing on bolts of cloth by changing the size and color palette. The final design was registered with the Copyright Office. (Unicolors is aggressive in protecting its copyrights, having registered thousands of patterns and designs.) In 2010, Urban Outfitters developed a dress which used a textile with a that textile design. Unicolors noticed, and sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, followed by the lawsuit.

During the original trial, Unicolors provided evidence showing that Urban Outfitters maintains a library of thousands of fabric swatches, collected from vintage goods and some purchased from design studios, including Milk Print. The samples are used by Urban’s designers for “inspiration” upon creating new fashions. Unicolors argued that Urban’s failure to check on the copyright status of the swatches used by its designers showed that the company acted with “with reckless disregard for the possibility that the fabric it sampled was protected by copyright, and such conduct is sufficient evidence of willful infringement…”.

For its part, Urban argued that they had no knowledge that they were infringing, and that it’s unreasonable to expect the company to “exhaustively investigate whether any particular fabric design is protected by a copyright registration.” The court dismissed this argument: “Regardless of how difficult it may be to determine whether particular designs have been registered with the Copyright Office, a party may act recklessly by refusing, as a matter of policy, to even investigate or attempt to determine whether particular designs are subject to copyright protections.”

Intellectual property law firm Knobbe Martens covered the case in an article on their legal blog. They caution companies using existing designs: “The best practice would be to use only those works where either the author is known and permission has been received or it is clear that the work is not protected by copyright.”

The court decision can be downloaded from the Fashion Law Institute website.

Photo: public domain.

Urban Outfitters

Fake Flash Player Targets Apple Users and WP Engine Clients

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 05, 2017

Fake Flash Player updates which mask malware have been around since MySpace was hot; Adobe was warning the public not to download the Flash Player from sources outside their download site back in 2008. But despite the publicity, the malware-installing fake downloads persist. Currently, a fake Flash Player scam is targeting visitors and users of the popular WordPress hosting platform WP Engine by taking advantage a common typo of the company URL.

If a webdesigner or WPEngine client accidentally inserts an hyphen (“wp-engine”) into the URL of their development site on WP Engine, they are immediately taken to a page with a pop-up screen warning them that their Flash Player is outdated. The screen apes legitimate warnings that appear when Flash Player truly is outdated. If the user clicks onto the update button, rather than being taken to the official Adobe Flash Player download page, they’ve initiated the installation of the malware onto their computers. To confuse users who suspect something is amiss, the installer also downloads a genuine version of the Flash installer. 

The irony is that WPEngine is rated one of the most secure web hosts for WordPress websites, and takes great pride in their robust security settings. (WP Engine customers needn't be concerned that the webhost has been compromised. The website is never accessed, since the malware redirects from the incorrect URL pulled up from the typo.)

The particular brand of malware installed is appropriately named scareware. The infected computer is overrun with pop-up ads warning of an infection and prompting the user to install malware masquerading as anti-virus software. Going into the Applications folder and deleting the fake Flash download appears to solve the problem. However, once the computer restarts, the pop-up screens appear again, and the fake Flash installer reappears in the downloads folder. Doing a reinstall of the browser prevents subsequent appearances of the pop-up windows, but the malware will reside in the system until an antivirus program such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is run.

The Intego Mac Security Blog ran a comprehensive article on fake Flash update scareware last year. According to Graham Cluley of Intego, the scareware manipulates the computer users fear of infected computers to trick them into downloading the fake Flash Player. Johannes Ullrich of SANS Institute reported that the scareware installer took advantage of a valid Apple developer certificate. That permitted the malware to bypass recent OS X defenses which permit only programs downloaded from the official App store or identified developers to be downloaded. (Ullrich pulled together an informative video which shows what happened when he downloaded the fake Flash player.)

Downloading the Flash Player from only the official Adobe website is common sense, and websites which ask users to legitimately update their version of Flash will direct users to this page. The fake Flash Player download continues to be used by scammers. This February, Intego reported that a fake Flash Player is being used to install a sloppy new malware, “MadDownloader.” MacDownloader attempts to steal the users keychain information – passwords, usernames, PINs, etc. – by tricking the user into believing adware software needs to be removed from their system. Although the malware was so poorly designed as to pose little risk, chances are the developers will release an updated version. If a user suspects their version of Flash may be updated, they should check the status via their Systems Preferences or, better yet, permit Adobe to automatically update the program.

As for WP Engine customers: just be sure to not include a hyphen in the domain when you're typing in the URL for your development platform. If you forget,and that persistent “Flash Player outdated" screen appears, simply quit out of your browser. If. you haven't downloaded anything, chances are you’re fine. (You can always run your anti-malware software just to be sure.)

If you accidentally type “wp-engine” into your address bar, you’re taken to a deceptively official-looking Flash update screen.. Note the URL is dllmacfiles, not the Adobe Flash download site. The intercept is quite aggressive; a persistent popover window prompts you to install the fake Adobe Flash Player. The fake download screen even includes reassuring verbiage telling you that dllmac is distributing an “install manager.”

fake flash screen

If you click “cancel,” a popover window asks you if you’re sure you want to leave the page. Clicking "Leave Page” averts any problems.

fake flash download are you sure screen

Doubleday Solicits Free Labor on Bestselling Author’s Book Cover

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 21, 2017

Doubleday’s current book cover contest has hit the usual nerves in the design and illustration communities. The publisher issued a design contest for the book cover design of best-selling author Dan Brown’s newest creation, Origin. Doubleday states that the winning design will only be featured on a limited edition run, which will not be sold. This may explain the limited awards offered: publicity on the Doubleday website and social media platforms for the six finalists and winner, and 24 copies of the limited edition run for the winner. Despite the limited publication of the artwork, professional designers have dismissed the contest as promoting work on speculation.

One pithy response was from designer Jessica Helfand in her article on AIGA’s DesignObserver blog, “Design as Competition as Bake-Off.” Helfand describes how, throughout her career, she has been approached by professionals from all walks of life who have asked her advice on the cover design for their books. Helfand cheerfully gives her advice gratis; no tangible work exchanges hands, the conversations are relatively short and stimulating, and she considers her guidance an “act of stewardship.” She contrasts that exchange with Doubleday’s contest, made all the more stinging by the paltry award offered (which Helfand describes as “the presumed parasitic attachment to Brown’s epic social media following”) and net worth of author Dan Brown (estimated at $140 million – surely the author could cough up some sort of prize money).

A follow-up article on Fast Company by Meg Miller reports that in an email to Helfand, Doubleday clarified that were the limited edition to be sold, the publisher agrees that the designer should be paid. That response does little to assuage concerns with the crowdsourced contest model. For one thing, it normalizes the concept of work on speculation for young designers and illustrators. (Miller points out that the contest news release, published exclusively on Entertainment Weekly, seems to be targeted to students and non-professionals.) Secondly, the terms of the contest include a depressingly familiar rights grab: Doubleday claims perpetual and irrevocable worldwide rights to the copyrights and moral rights for every single entry.

The Graphic Artists Guild is unequivocally opposed to contests that require the execution of newly-created speculative work, and that require entrants to transfer all rights to their work. Refer to our “Suggested Guidelines for Art Competitions and Contests” for more information on how to gauge the advisability of entering a contest.

Below: the template supplied by the publisher begs your free work.

Doubleday template for Dan Brown book jacket contest

Adobe Design Achievement Awards Student Competition is Open

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 15, 2017

The annual Adobe Design Achievement Awards global student competition is again open. Students 18 years and older, and registered (or recent graduates from) accredited institutions of higher education, are encouraged to submit their existing student work. Students can enter up to three unique projects in the broad categories of Fine Arts, Commercial, and Social Impact. The breadth of subcategories covers the range of disciplines studied by visual arts students, from photography, illustration, and package and graphic design, to animation/motion design and video editing and production, to web, app, and game design. This year, students working in virtual or augmented reality, 360-degree technology, and other new media will be considered for an “Excellence in New Media” Special Designation.

As in previous years, all entrants will receive a subscription to 99U career tips, will have their entries reviewed by the international panel of judges, and can choose to be considered for a mentorship with a creative professional, coordinated through ADAA partner ico-D. The full complement of prizes supports the ADAA’s mission of  “Launching Student Careers,” and includes participation in Adobe Bootcamps, meetings with industry leaders, creative residencies, and subscriptions to Creative Cloud.

There is no charge for entering the competition, and submissions are accepted through June 12th. Students who submit work by May 2nd will have their work considered for early bird semifinalist. Entries can be viewed in real time on the ADAA website as they are uploaded. Students who want to see what their peers are entering can visit the “Entries” page and filter by category, region, country, school, and (once judging begins) status.

 

How to Enter the ADAA from Adobe Design Achievement Awards on Vimeo.

International Women’s Day Yields Treasure Troves of Work by Women

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 13, 2017

Perhaps because of the increased coverage of women’s issues (and the political movements spearheaded by women), International Women’s Day was marked by a number of blogs and websites with comprehensive reviews of work by women  visual artists: designers, illustrators, cartoonists, and others. Three in particular stood out: the UK media platform It’s Nice That, the publication Creative Review (also out of the UK), and the Cartoonist Alliance.

It’s Nice That introduced their offering with a splash. An exuberant illustration by artist Kate Prior (upraised fists hoisting an IWD banner) festoons the top of the page. The illustration celebrates the act of protest, and references the suffragette movement. Below, It’s Nice That showcases 18 articles they solicited from women contributors: illustrators, photographers, designers, and artists. There is even an article on Deep Throat Choir, a group of 35 all-female singers that transforms the work of well-known artists such as Bjork into multi-layered, intricate interpretations. The collection of articles doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. For example, in response to the fetishization of her compatriots, Brazilian photographer June Canedo asserts, “Women of colour need to be the ones photographing other women of colour.” In another article, Muslim American artist Amna Asghar asks “What if Warhol were Pakastani?,” exploring her own identity through a series of montages of popular culture images and brightly painted panels.

Rather than soliciting articles specifically for IWD 2017, Creative Review chose to curate a collection of articles that have appeared in the publication throughout the years. Dedicated readers will recognize some past gems, such as  “Women + Laughing + Alone + With Salad,” a delicious take-down of cheesy microstock photography from 2011. The curated articles cover a range of topics, from typography (sexist emoji), to fashion (older women appearing in fashion ads) to workplace and leadership (retaining working mothers in the creative industries).  Creative Review has also curated a selection of Works, projects submitted to the publication for review. One favorite is Woman Interrupted, an app created by Brazilian firm BETC, which monitors the user’s conversation and calculates how often the she is interrupted by a man’s voice.

The Cartoonist Alliance article was originally published in 2015 and promoted for IWD2018. “What’s The Best Comic About Women By Women?” is less comprehensive than the previous posts, and covers only seven women graphic novelists selected by CA staff as their favorites. Having said that, the collection is interesting and somewhat surprising. While Marjane Sartrapi’s Persepolis has a well-deserved place on the list, Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi was unexpected. The article makes a good case for the addition though: “Sailor Moon was the game changer, the comic that effectively launched the magical girl genre. Sailor Moon isn’t just the reason why I’m here; it’s the reason why you’re here.” The only quibble with CA’s article is that it predates Errin Ferris’ tour-de-force, My Favorite Thing is Monsters (an aching story beautifully illustrated in ball-point-pen) wasn’t included.

But there’s always next year. We’ll be stalking these three websites to see what they conjure up for IWD 2018.

International Woman's Day screenshots

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