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It’s easy for people to pass others’ artwork as their own, especially in the anime fan art world.
Billie Eilish, along with European streetwear fashion brand Siberia Hills, was accused of doing just that. Eilish and the brand dropped their new merchandise collaboration, called Love Live! Eilish shared a link to purchase the merch and people quickly took notice that the character in the art was Nozomi Tojo, and the art itself looked like it was made by popular artist Makoto Kurokawa.
On Saturday, Siberia Hills released a statement on Instagram apologizing for using the art.
“To the talented artist Mr. M_Qurokawa, we apologize for taking from your artwork for our merchandise collaboration with Billie Eilish,” the company wrote. “Billie and her team were not aware we used your art, they just believed in the product.”
The clothing company went on to explain that everyone who made a purchase would be refunded.
The use of the stolen art was first pointed out by Twitter user @nestuur.
“Billie Eilish is selling stolen Nozomi art in her merch what the fuck. This is peak 2019, in a bad way,” @nestuur wrote in a tweet that has since amassed thousands of retweets.
Billie Eilish is selling stolen Nozomi art in her merch what the fuck— Nessie (@nestuur) August 8, 2019
This is peak 2019, in a bad way pic.twitter.com/XD1VHa2siO
The collab featured two hoodies and a T-shirt, all with a graphic of anime girls in four different poses. “Billie” is written in Katakana.
i'm just looking at the billie eilish x siberia hills hoodie with the stolen art of nozomi and wondering what else of theirs is stolen too pic.twitter.com/E2b8ejKf6B— rekka 🌻 (@rekka236) August 8, 2019
I sure as fuck hope the original artist is properly compensated for this theft, and it swept under the rug with a “oopsie sorry we removed it from the store uwu” https://t.co/A3riElI3Fs— 🌸tenleid but sfw🌸🔜🇯🇵 (@yyyazy) August 8, 2019
Many were quick to point out that Siberia Hills has allegedly stolen art before.
“This ‘brand’ Siberia Hills are bootleg merch creators who steal copywritten materials and sell them at exorbitant prices which is illegal under both US and Japanese copyright laws,” Twitter user @NoiresDusk wrote.
Also wanted to add that this “brand” Siberia Hills are bootleg merch creators who steal copywritten materials and sell them at exorbitant prices which is illegal under both US and Japanese copyright laws. Billie please dont support these kinds of practices. pic.twitter.com/HBKcemRS6l— 💜💖Noire💙💜 (@NoiresDusk) August 8, 2019
Eilish hasn’t yet publicly commented on the matter, but her original tweet promoting the merch is now gone, and all the merch has been taken off the website.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Katakana is not a language.
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Elizabeth VanMetre is a reporter based in Wyoming. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared on ETOnline, the New York Daily News, Yahoo Travel, and more. She hosts a local morning show in Wyoming.