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Retailers expect illegal merch to go unnoticed

Walk into any trendy store and you’ll see it: the classic band tee.

Retailers have long partnered with musicians and pop icons in a mutually beneficial relationship. The celebrity reaches a wider audience and receives a commission on brand merchandise while the retailer makes money from frequently in-demand products. The two parties also gain brand associations that can make both seem more attractive to certain groups of consumers.

Why retailers steal intellectual property

When a retailer wants the benefits of selling a band’s merchandise, but none of the royalty fees, they may neglect copyright law. Particularly in the fast-fashion industry, several retailers are forgoing legal permissions in order to quickly create and sell band-related products.

Although this practice is illegal, bands suffer copyright infringement often. Retailers may realize that bands rarely detect stolen intellectual property among the plethora of licensed merchandise available to consumers. The prospective profit sometimes outweighs the potential legal consequences.

What artists stand to lose

For the majority of musicians and artists, band merchandise plays a vital financial role in their business. Without a fair cut of product sales, they could miss out on a major revenue stream.

In addition, the unlicensed merchandise may negatively impact the value of their brand. If the manufacturer or retailer creates the design independently, it might not align with the brand’s official values or messages. Artists do not have control over how the designer portrays their brand. Furthermore, wearable merchandise can spread inconsistent or negative messaging to the greater public.

Legal precedence for brand protection

Despite how common this type of intellectual property theft has become, courts tend to support artists, musicians and other individuals in these cases. Although retailers don’t expect musicians to fight back against stolen property, artists should contact an attorney skilled in intellectual property law. Many other victims of this situation have received compensation and the removal of unofficial products from shelves. Sometimes, all it takes is to press the issue.

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