Over the weekend, it came to light that Billie Eilish has been using copyrighted anime artwork on her merchandise without the permission and/or support of the original artist, Makoto Kurokawa. As a result, Elish has pulled all the products from her merchandise store.
At this stage, it looks like two separate hoodies, a t-shirt, and possibly other articles of clothing used the lifted anime.
Siberia Hills, an apparel and design company, took to Instagram to apologize for the copyright infringement, going as far as naming “Mr. M Qurokawa,” the artist whose work was taken. In the same post, Siberia Hills claimed full responsibility for the mishap, writing,
“Billie and her team were not aware that we used your art.”
Anime fans quickly spotted the apparent similarities between Eilish’s design and the anime artwork, and the resulting controversy forced Siberia Hills and Eilish to act. It’s unclear why Siberia Hills lifted the artwork, and the mentioned apology provided no explanation as to how the infringement occurred.
Perhaps that part will be settled in court.
Siberia Hills has been accused of stealing artwork in the past, but this episode is their most public — and controversial — example of copyright infringement.
At the time of writing, Elish hadn’t addressed the subject publicly. Makoto Kurokawa issued a statement on Twitter that thanked fans for bringing the copyright infringement to his attention.
“I was informed that a company used one of my fan-art of an existing copyrighted character on the clothes for sale without permission,” Kurokawa stated. “I didn’t permit them to use my fan-art for their design work. I didn’t permit them to use my fan-art for merchandise.”
“My fan-art is a fan-art of an existing copyrighted character,” the artist continued. “The copyright belongs to the original holder. Unauthorized merchandise is not allowed. It seems the promo tweet was already deleted and the merchandise was removed from the online store.”
The purchased items will not be shipped, and customers will receive a full refund. That last part could prove critical if legal action arises, as Kurokawa seeks damages based on previously sold (and unreturned) items. Items already sold and retained by fans as collectors’ items could become serious liabilities — though Kurokawa could let the whole thing slide (or at least ‘amicably settle’).
Bille Eilish rose to prominence in 2016, with “Ocean Eyes” putting the singer on the map.
The 17-year-old has since enjoyed considerable commercial success, and her debut album, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, dropped earlier this year.
Eilish is set to perform more than 30 dates between now and November. August and the first half of September will see Eilish hold concerts across Europe, and after that, she’ll entertain fans in various southern U.S. states and Mexico.