Paperchase forced to deny it copied artist's work after Twitter backlash

A British artist has accused the stationery chain Paperchase of copying one of her designs and reproducing it on thousands of bags, notebooks and albums without her permission.

The artist, who calls herself Hidden Eloise, sells illustrations through the online shop Etsy, many of which feature a picture of a girl with long dark hair. On a blog post on her website, the 28-year-old, from London, claimed that her design had been redrawn and used on numerous Paperchase products.

“My lovely girl from the artwork...has been stolen, badly traced and stuck in front of a poor (and separately traced) mushroom that now decorates untold numbers of notebooks, albums and tote bags sold throughout the UK through Paperchase and Amazon.co.uk,” she wrote.

She found out about the alleged plagiarism through a friend, who had noticed the design adorning a Paperchase bag. When she contacted the company, they denied any copyright infringement and refused to stop selling the products, which include diaries and albums.

Hidden Eloise, who said she was unable to afford a lawyer to fight her case in the courts, added: “Thank you Paperchase for making a killing out of my hard work! And an especially strong, bone-crackling bear hug to the anonymous designer that badly traced my art and then denied it!”

This morning, her blog post began to generate interest on the social networking website Twitter after it was noted by the British science fiction author Neil Gaiman, who has 1.4 million followers. By lunchtime, “Paperchase” had become one of Twitter’s top 10 trending topics – a sign that lots of people were discussing it.

Hidden Eloise encouraged her online friends to express their dissatisfaction by emailing Paperchase or by posting negative comments underneath the products listed on Amazon.co.uk. Many of them obliged.

Jane Doe wrote: “Utterly despicable not only that Paperchase would steal Eloise’s work, but that when confronted about it have denied there’s any similarity and resorted to bullying, knowing they’re the big company. Will not be buying Paperchase’s products in the future and would advise anyone who cares about the rights of artists to do the same.”

David Evans wrote: “Don’t buy this product – the design is stolen from an independent artist. Shame on Paperchase for not answering her calls to stop selling this obviously plundered design! Disgraceful!”

A spokesman for Paperchase said the company had bought the design in October 2008 from a “well-known central London design studio” which had “categorically denied any plagiarism”. He refused to name the design studio in question.

He also criticised the way that the “cock-eyed” allegations had spread “like wildfire” over Twitter: “We’ve had the most unbelievable amount of emails this afternoon of extraordinary vitriol – and we haven’t actually done anything wrong. It must have damaged people’s perception of us.”

Paperchase has temporarily suspended the sale of products featuring the design while it investigates the claims for a second time.

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