A Bengaluru artist has accused a Kolkata design label of plagiarising her work and putting it on a blazer.
Bollywood actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan sported the contentious design at the Cannes film festival last month.
On Sunday, Nidhi Mariam Jacob said on social media she had found an uncanny similarity between her botanical painting series’Fantasy Garden’ and the’Gardens of Infinite Bloom’ line, done by Bobo Calcutta, a brand with celeb clientele. The brand is led by Jeet Shahi and Ayushman Mitra.
Lotus pods, hydrangea blooms, papayas, and fantastical gardens have become Nidhi’s signature style in the last six years. Ayushman’s fashion portfolio also features flora and fauna in striking colors and forms, often.
Speaking to MetrolifeNidhi said Bobo Calcutta had “cleverly” interspersed four flowers and pods from her paintings “down to the same color and shade”, embroidering them on the blazer. The brand, she said, had neither sought permission nor given credit.
Nidhi doesn’t plan to file a legal case. She says she would rather focus on her work rather on litigation, especially since intellectual property (IP) laws in India are not robust.
The Sunday post, a video, was her way of closing the “heartbreaking” episode and emboldening other artists to speak up. It has logged over 43,000 views and 150 comments. “Many artists have messaged since, sharing how their work had been stolen, ”Nidhi shares.
Nidhi’s friends noticed the similarities between her motifs and Bobo Calcutta’s motifs and wondered if they had collaborated. She hadn’t heard of the ready-to-wear label until then.
“I scrolled through their Instagram page, zoomed in on the jacket that Aishwarya had worn, and was shocked to see my flowers on them,” Nidhi says. This was in the fourth week of May.
She communicated her disappointment to the brand. “Ayushman apologised in a private message and wrote back that he was inspired by her work and four other designers and had also incorporated his motifs (on the blazer),” Nidhi claims.
Soon, the brand accorded “inspired by” credit to Nidhi on Instagram but took it down a few days after, she claims. Metrolife could not verify this independently.
Nidhi did not seek compensation but asked the brand to donate proceeds from the work to a charity of her choice. She says the brand did not heed her request and instead sent her an email, denying plagiarism charges and accusing her of “harassing” them.
Bobo Calcutta was unreachable for comments on social media and email.
Circulating an artist’s work or reproducing it for commercial gain without the artist’s permission is illegal under the Copyright Act of 1957. Plagiarism invites penalty and imprisonment, says Sai Apabharana KM of Factum Law firm.
She urges artists to enter their work in the government’s copyright office. In case of infringement, this record can be used to establish an artist’s right, she explains.
It’s a wrong belief that copyright infringement cases in India take a long time to conclude, says Akshatha M Patel, an intellectual property rights attorney. “I have fought over 100 IP litigations. A majority conclude in a few months, in the injunction stage itself . Very few go to the trials, ”she says. The awareness about copyright laws among Indian artists is quite low, she says.
Getting inspired by others’ work or appropriating it remains a debated subject in the art world. When does it amount to copyright infringement? Akshatha says, “This is determined on a case-to-case basis. The courts compare the works in question and the degree of similarities. ”