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Standing Rock a sitting duck for intellectual property thieves

News   •   Mar 03, 2017 08:30 +08

Not even noble causes like the Dakota Access Pipeline are safe from idea theft. Image source: Shailene Woodley

The defiant resistance by the Standing River Sioux Tribe to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline over the past six months has inspired millions around the world. Last week a significant chapter in that protest came to an end with the clearing of the main protest encampment.

But the spirit of the #NoDAPL protests will live on not only in the hearts of many but also – for those given to wear their hearts on their sleeves – in their wardrobes. T-shirts and other merchandise bearing designs expressing solidarity with Standing Rock and opposition to DAPL have sold like proverbial hotcakes.

Unfortunately the purchase of much of this merchandise has not delivered any actual financial support for the cause.

Instead, the money has been skimmed off by opportunists cashing in, often by ripping off the original work of Native American designers and falsely claiming proceeds aid the Standing Rock protesters.

Native American designer Erica Moore, who designed a number of T-shirt motifs to raise funds for the NoDAPL action, told Buzzfeed that imitations of her work quickly appeared on Facebook and elsewhere. “I’ve seen my designs being sold without my consent, and I’ve seen people trying to re-design my design in some way to make it their own,” she said. “It just isn’t right.”

Even the “official” Standing Rock Shirt, created by actor Shailene Woodley to raise funds for Standing Rock and sold exclusively through one online shop, has been knocked off a multitude of time. Google “I stand with Standing Rock Shirt” and you’ll find a multitude of copycat designs.

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BuzzFeed’s inquiries identified more than 60 Facebook pages with more than 6 million followers either selling counterfeit NoDAPL or Native American merchandise, or driving traffic to commercial “clickbait” websites. The Soul Style Diary blog noted rogue sellers advertising heavily on Facebook and Instagram routinely used “the generic words ‘Native American’ in their name and some stereotyped Native American imagery”.

This despite having no obvious connection to Native American culture, with those cashing being in countries including France, Ukraine, Kosovo, China and Vietnam.

It all shows just how easy it is for original work to be stolen and exploited for profit through the internet. In some cases the glare of exposure appears to have shut down some scammers. Others, however, brazenly remain open for business.

Let us know if you have any stories of such unethical business behaviour, and we’ll do what we can to shine a spotlight on it.

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