I've been feeling a bit odd about the trouble HiddenEloise is having with Paperchase apparently stealing one of her characters and using it unlicensed and unpaid for on various items. It's all over Twitter, with the likes of Neil Gaiman and India Knight expressing their outrage; and several newspapers are now reporting on it, so I'm sure you know what I'm on about. See an Econsultancy article here and a Guardian article here, which also shows one of the offending items. You can also read Paperchase's statement here.
Although I think it's terrible that this kind of thing goes on, I can't help feeling that this kind of thing always goes on. I also think that Paperchase, or Gather No Moss who are reportedly the design company middle-man in all of this, can easily claim that their design is, in copyright-speak significantly different from HiddenEloise's to make her accusations baseless. Sigh. It used to be believed (and maybe still is in cases like this) that an artistic work/piece of music/book/whatever had to be at least 10% different from the material that it uses as resources or reference to be "safe", but that just isn't the case. Unfortunately, there is no definite percentage in these matters, but I can't tell if that's good for the originator or for those who they "inspire". I feel that Paperchase/Gather No Moss will simply say their version is different enough and that will be the end of it. I've been reading up on copyright law here to help refresh the lessons that were stuffed into me at uni. There are some useful links there on the left hand side, too.
On the plus side, I love how Twitter in particular can get hold of an idea and run with it, shaming big brands into some sort of action when they've slipped up. That's just great. I like that there's greater transparency now and how public opinion can sway matters. Rock on. The internet really has brought this kind of behaviour out into the open, which is great, but the flip side to that is it also means that you are more likely to be ripped off if your work is out there for all to see. It's tough. For me as an artist, I want my work to be seen by the right people so I can simply make a living, but to do that I risk being ripped off myself. I just have to chance it.