Maria Brophy


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An Open Letter to Jeremy Scott – Did you Rip Off Artist Jim Phillips? How to make it right.

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Jeremy Scott and Jim Phillips Collab or Rip OFF

GRAPHICS CREDIT:  This photo-collage came from the WE BRING JUSTICE BLOG.  Thanks for the graphic and for bringing attention to this matter!

Santa Cruz, California has a passionate bunch of surfers and skaters in its community.  And they can get downright nasty when one of their own is disrespected.

In the last few days, an online flurry of anger erupted from passionate fans of Jim Phillips, a famous Santa Cruz artist, who was plagiarized by a well-known fashion designer named Jeremy Scott.

(See “Is Artist Jim Phillips Being Ripped off by Jeremy Scott“)

Jim Phillips created many iconic art pieces back in the eighties and nineties (and continues to this day).

Much of his art was created for skateboards and for the brand called Santa Cruz Skateboards.   Together with his very talented son, Jimbo Phillips, the two are well loved by the skate and art communities.

So you can imagine the disdain felt by fans of the Phillips when Jeremy Scott emerged with a line of clothing that is a blatant knock off of their art.

It’s so blatant, that at first I thought it was either a joke or a publicity stunt.

But according to Facebook posts, both Phillips knew nothing of this clothing line until fans brought it to their attention.

You almost feel sorry for Jeremy Scott, as angry post after angry post is placed on his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

(Update to this post on March 20, 2013:  Jeremy Scott received so much hate “mail” on his Facebook page that he deleted it and created a new one in March 2013, here: )

But, Scott should have known better.  After all, he’s a designer himself.

Artists run into this problem all the time; they create something really awesome, a lot of people like it, and then some start copying it.  Sure, all art comes from other art.  

We all get our inspiration in many places, and it shows through in our own work.

However, there’s a line that should never be crossed, and that’s when your “inspiration” is so close to the real thing that you are mistaken for the real thing!

There is a huge difference between plagiarism and inspiration!

FROM A LEGAL POINT OF VIEW:  Jim Phillips licenses his art for many products, including Stance socks, Tervis Tumblers, tees and many other things.  In a typical licensing agreement, an artist contractually agrees to protect the copyrights of their work, and to go after infringements.  So even if Jim Phillips wanted to be “cool” about this, he may have a legal obligation to his licensees to shut this thing down.

Do you think that Jeremy Scott went too far?

Without a doubt, in my opinion, he has done more than crossed the line.  And I am willing to bet that right now Jeremy Scott is drowning in his sorrows, trying to figure a way out of this mess.

This could cost him his career.  In today’s world, stealing and copying from others without giving credit is a reputation killer.  

And you can’t get far with a bad reputation.  Trust is everything.

But Jeremy Scott, all hope is not lost!  Take action quickly and you might be able to fix this big, ugly mess!

An open letter to Jeremy Scott, encouraging him to do the right thing and hopefully, to help get himself out of this mess:

Dear Jeremy Scott,

As you know, there is a firestorm of activity online and in the news about your  “use” of Jim and Jimbo Phillips copyright art on your clothing line.  Sadly for you, this is not going to go away anytime soon.

You underestimated the impact on the art and skate culture that Jim Phillips has had.  He’s been at it longer than you and I both have been alive.

As you can see, the huge fan base of Phillips will not let this go.

But, all is not lost.  You may be able to save face, and I have an idea as to how you can do that.

Your best solution is to call Jim and Jimbo Phillips and beg them to sign an after-the-fact license agreement.  Offer them a generous advance and a royalty rate.  Convince them to assure the public that you are being respectful and that you have made amends.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it just might turn this ship of hell around for you.

If they will come out publicly that you came clean, it might just un-tarnish your reputation.  And, if you care at all about money, it might even sell the hell out of your “Jim Phillips” collection.

This could be a win-win-win for everyone.

Now, how to simmer down Jim Phillips’ undying, angry fans?

Send out a public apology.  Make things right.  Be respectful.  They will eventually calm down and maybe even forgive you.

After all,  Jim’s fans just want respect to be shown for Phillips’ work as an iconic artist.

It’s the least you could do.


Maria Brophy

A concerned citizen, and a fan of Jim and Jimbo Phillips


This morning, on Jimbo Phillips Facebook Page, is the following statement from the CEO of NHS, Inc./Santa Cruz Skateboards regarding  this issue:

We know there is a lot of controversy regarding fashion designers Jeremy Scott’s new Winter collection in regards to the iconic Phillips art work similarities. We are aware and our CEO issued this statement……

“We had never heard of Jeremy Scott until it was brought to our attention,” said Robert A. Denike, CEO and President, NHS, Inc./Santa Cruz Skateboards.

“This is not a collaboration or under license, nor did we or the Phillips family approve the use of this artwork on his apparel designs in any way.

It’s obvious to us, the Phillips family, the fans of Jim Phillips Sr. and Jimbo Phillips, and fans of the brand Santa Cruz Skateboards, as well as many in the global skateboard and skate art community that there is clear and obvious infringement by Mr. Scott. We are discussing this with our legal team to determine our next steps.

“These two artists and this brand are iconic. Any true fan of skateboarding will tell you how the Phillips artwork style, this brand and the activity of skateboarding has positively influenced their lives.

“It may just be artwork to Mr. Scott, to be used and thrown away by next season, but these artists and brand mean a lot to many people around the world. And by the looks of the outcry on social media, skateboarders and non-skater’s alike are angry to have two of their most favored artists and one of the original true skateboard brands violated in such a way.

“I hope that Mr. Scott sees that his actions have hurt and affected many people, including the Phillips family, and that he has also severely damaged his own reputation. It is not too late for him to do the right thing, as an artist and creative person, and fix his error in judgement.”

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37 Comments An Open Letter to Jeremy Scott – Did you Rip Off Artist Jim Phillips? How to make it right.

    1. Marie Kazalia

      I too thought that the open letter solution was a good one, and then the other comments here. They reminded me of something. Is it a good idea to sign a contract with someone you already know to be dishonest? Can one expect such a company to honestly pay the percentage owed to the artist? Would it be worth the headaches? Would the artist have to routinely pop in and check the books to make sure they got their cut? I’ve thought of this sort of things before. I just signed an art licensing contract with a large company that is doing well. So I trust that their success shows that they are good and honest at business. What about the fashion designer’s ethics and would it be a good idea for the artist he ripped off to be associated with that designer? Would such an association damage the artist’s rep?

      1. Maria

        Marie, that’s a great question. With fashion, it would be such a limited time (a season) that there would little to police. We had a similar situation with Drew’s art (on a smaller scale) and we did an after-the-fact license agreement. The infringer wrote us a check for the past royalties and he made a public apology. It worked out fine for all parties. Regarding Jeremy Scott’s ethics: with the right legal team, he won’t get away with not paying the proper royalties. The agreement would give full audit rights. I truly think this could be a win win for everyone.

    1. agnes

      I know you’re upset about him stealing Jim’s art and all of us are ! even other individuals in fashion industries, so please don’t generalise us in that way .

      1. Maria

        Agnes, thanks for the comment. I think you were referring to someone else’s comment where they talk about the Fashion Industry theft. I agree, it’s not everyone in that industry. This is one situation, one person, who made the mistake.

      2. Concretin Nik

        Not at all saying all fashion designers are thieves. But the practice is essentially “normal” in fashion, as the TED Talk points out. I do believe there are REAL designers out there. I just don’t see how this guys is doing ANYTHING at all that is even remotely new. Putting a skate graphic on a t-shirt, or on pants… WHOA! Innovation! Um, no. The fashion industry needs to “fire” this guy and not let hacks like this ruin your industry’s image.

  1. Disgusted

    I don’t agree with your letter, sorry. It’s always the cheap way out to ask forgiveness instead if ask permission, especially when he asked permission from Fox for the Bart Simpson design. He just thought he could get away with it. Do the crime, do the time. He’s busted and needs to pay for the crime not be redeemed by being insincerely apologetic to save his ass. An apology makes sense if you call someone a name or do something bad in the heat of the moment. The amount of premeditation and effort that Jeremy put into this crime in and of itself proved he has no respect for Phillips. He is only upset that he got caught.

    1. Maria

      Disgusted: Thanks for your thoughts on this. I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m looking at from another angle – it could benefit the Phillips in many ways if they work it out. And, I hope that this story makes other “designers” think twice before blatantly stealing art.

      1. Brian Sherwin

        Assuming that the copyrights were all registered before the infringement… I think they should take this designer down legally. That would send an even bigger message to copyright infringers. We have already seen enough of this ‘lets work something out after the fact’ attitude. Hit him in court… and hit him hard!

  2. KoolFunc'88

    Hi! concerning the photo-collage, it’s from me. it was posted on my blog originaly. The world has to know how people like J.Scott steal our culture for profits. They’re not talented. thanks for sharing.

    1. Maria

      KoolFunc’88 thanks so much for finding my blog and for the photo collage! It’s an awesome layout that shows clearly how the art was used. I have added a link to your site in my post. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to add to give proper credit/attribution.

  3. Pingback: Fashion Designer Rips-Off Artists – Artist Marketing Resources

  4. Héctor Morales

    María, this is an awesome article! I was floored when I saw the pics of the fashion show! Great open letter. I hope Jeremy is wise enough to follow your advice.

    1. Maria

      Thanks, Hector. I was floored, too! Still am. Would love to find out what Jeremy was thinking when he did this. Did he think no one would notice?!

  5. Dolores Marie

    Your article couldn’t be more timely for me. I got myself in a sticky situation where I came up with a product idea for my daughter and son’s swim team, which the team loves. The team is run by volunteers and I showed it to the person who spear heads the fundraising and organizes the volunteers. She liked it and the team liked it and because I could get the product made at a discount they told me to go ahead and get it made for the team and they agreed verbally that I could get a cut of the profit for the product from the sales and that they would pay me for the cost of making the product. However, it was late in the season so they didn’t see people wanting to buy it until next year and they also were in the red budget wise. So trying to be helpful, I got the product made and said they could pay me next summer (which is this coming summer). However, the original person I spoke with now has a helper and she contacted me recently saying that they wanted to use the image from the product on some T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps. So I said OK I’ll get a licensing agreement set up and she seemed fine with that. But when I gave it to her the original person has said she’s too scared to sign, she’s just a mom and she has never paid for the artwork before, they have always gotten it for free, which I now have learned that the new helper didn’t know. So they wanted me to think about giving it to them for free. And now they are also sounding like they aren’t going to pay me for the production costs of my product, as they say you can do what you want with the product, which is very vague and I need to approach them and get clarified but as I mentioned in my other post I am scared of calling them and I don’t know whether I should give them the art for the other stuff they want to do, without the license. I have bigger plans for the artwork and don’t know if it will hurt my ability to get it licensed elsewhere if I let them use it without a license. I know I should have approached them differently last year and came up with a written agreement but I thought I could trust them and that they are a charity. But now I don’t know what to do because I also have to face the people everyday all summer so I really want it to be a win-win situation but I also want to be respected for my developing business and not taken advantage of. I have heard that they feel they are doing me a favor in that it will get my artwork looked at by the team members, which I see value in but I also want to sell my product to other pools with other images and I wonder if the same thing will happen where they like the image and want to print it on other stuff for free. Right now I am feeling like saying no to the caps, t-shirts and sweatshirts and suggesting that they pay me for the cost of the product and that they give it to each member as a welcome to the team memento and not sell it for any profit so I can wash my hands clean of the deal but I don’t know if I’ll get the money for this. It cost me $6 per item to make and I had 160 of them made. So the sum of money is a bit much. I think some of your advice on the letter to send to charities when they ask for something is good and I plan on using it from now on, but I wonder what to do to resolve this sticky situation.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dolores, you have 2 choices here, if I understood your facts correctly:

      1 – Sell them the product, and if you do that, there’s no need for a license agreement, because you printed the products. They don’t have your high res images, right?
      2 – Get them to sign a simple license agreement and work out a deal for them to license the images for a specific use for a short term.

      There’s more to it than this, and I can help you with the agreement and details if you wish to set up a consulting hour. Read about how I work here:

  6. Dolores Marie

    I forgot to mention that the reason this article is timely is because I’m also afraid of my image being ripped off and that is one of the reasons why I wanted the license agreement.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Always make sure you copyright everything, and, don’t give anyone high res images without a license agreement in place. This will help. (Although, it didn’t help with Jeremy Scott stealing Jim Phillips work, but hey, that’s why it’s such a big deal!)

  7. Brian Sherwin

    “This could cost him his career. In today’s world, stealing and copying from others without giving credit is a reputation killer. ”

    Tell that to Shepard Fairey and all the people who buy his Obey line of clothing. You’d be surprised how easily people look away when infringement happens. A lot of people simply don’t care. It is sad.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Brian, thanks for your comment and for reading my blog. I always enjoy reading your articles on this very topic! And yes, you’re right, many people will look the other way. But I think Jim Phillips has one thing that Manny Garcia (photographer of the Obama Hope image) and the AP didn’t have in the S. Fairey infringement case: Passionate, Die-hard fans that won’t let up on this!

      1. Brian Sherwin

        I was thinking more along the lines of when he ripped off an artist from Mexico for one of the shirts he did for Urban Outfitters. Fairey gives me a headache. LOL

  8. Dolores Marie

    Maria, I really appreciate your suggestion. Yes you understand what has happened and they don’t have the image to work with. I have learned more and the problem is that the women I am dealing with went in the red last summer so now she doesn’t want to face the board who have to approve all of her purchases. So she basically said yes without getting approval first for buying the product and using it as a fund raiser. A friend of mine recently suggested that from now on I make sure I get 1/3 upfront with the yes so then they are invested in the project. So I think that’s good and to use it for next time. This way she would have gone to the board and I would have learned if I would really get paid. However, on the other side of the story the license agreement that I did was only for six months- which I thought was a good balance of getting the materials ready and then selling them over the summer. So right now it appears that I won’t be able to get an agreement signed from her. I think I should just deal with getting the money for the product that the women approved of last year and walk away. Unless you think there is a way to salvage the situation and you think I still should work with you on that by your methods you list on your web site. Otherwise any suggestions on nice ways to get the product paid for knowing that she is going to have to deal with the board?

    1. Maria Brophy

      I believe that most every situation can be salvaged.

      For now,focus on the problem at hand: getting reimbursed for the products that you paid to have made.

      Here’s the real problem: You are dealing with the wrong person. The lady you have been dealing with doesn’t have the authority to make the decision.

      Here’s what you do: Forget this lady. Go directly to the board. Tell them what happened. Ask them to pay for the products that you had made. Hand them a bill. Ask for payment immediately.

      They will review, have a meeting, and decide if they want to pay it.

      Hopefully, they will do the right thing.
      And when they do, thank them, and then move forward to form a plan for artwork for future uses.

      If they choose not to pay you, then let it go. And chalk this up to a lesson learned.

      In the future, always get 50% paid up front, not just for products, but for all commissions as well – that’s what we do for most every deal. It works beautifully.

      Let me know how it works out!

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