Artist sues Lego for copying Queer Eye leather jacket design

Originally published at: Artist sues Lego for copying Queer Eye leather jacket design | Boing Boing


Was LEGO licensing the Queer Eye stuff? Is anything contributed for the show (goods, ideas, designs) now owned by the show?

Also, this isn’t a copy of his work. It is an approximation printed on a plastic figure. Not jackets on hangers in a store. Shows are mostly cautious about showing artwork and other design stuff they don’t have claim to. If the original jacket wasn’t blurred out then the ‘right’ of use leans towards the producers, might have been a disclaimer signed.

Just spitting out possibilities tho.


That logo looks trademarked, and there was probably a licensing deal.


One cannot copyright clothing. Though I don’t know how a non-wearable plastic reproduction that is clearly derivative but not an actual duplicate lands.


“Lego does not give away its sets for free.”
Guess who else does not give away their work for free…


“Hey LEGO, what IP are you lifting?”



I hate this kind of copyright maximalism - they didn’t use his images (or even copy his layout of non-unique iconic images for a mass-produced piece of clothing) - this kind of expectation about copyright is really damaging to the culture. A culture needs to be able to reference things. On the other hand, it was clearly a cheeky reference to his design, and sending him a set would have been a nice thing to do. Not a legally required thing to do,and certainly not remotely worth starting a lawsuit over (which is almost certainly going to have a negative outcome - most likely Lego giving him “go away” money, which will still influence expectations in copyright cases).

Honestly, if something as simple as “put a skull here and a globe here” constitutes restricted “intellectual property,” then we’re kind of fucked as a culture.


Seriously, this is the sort of nonsense that is building horrible structures for the future, and needs to be resisted amongst the pile of other things that overshadow it.


Unfortunately we’ve seen so much expansion of copyright into the realm of “vague idea” that it makes the lawsuit seem reasonable (and legally, at this point, he might even have a chance of winning, given the precedents). The structures seem to be largely built already…


You know, I had that reaction at first glance and would probably agree if there was just a random leather jacket with typical decoration.

BUT - considering it was for the a kit featuring the show the jacket was on, it was clear this was meant to be a copy of that specific jacket.

So then the question boils down to - was the jacket design part of the rights deal to do the set, or should have been? A work for hire design made for the show? Surely the show signed off on the designs for the kit beforehand? Maybe this guy is suing the wrong people.

I mean, if an artist makes a new Thor costume, and then Lego makes a new Thor minifig with it, that artist can’t sue because it used their design. They don’t own the rights to the design.

So maybe they should have given him a kit, it would have been a nice gesture, but I bet doing so would have been seen as some sort of admission of guilt in court or something with out an explicit contract saying said kit was no acknowledgement to so-and-so owning the rights.



The story for me here is: Lego has licensed ‘Queer Eye’ sets? To me that seems both bizarre and expected all at the same time somehow.

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I can’t imagine Queer Eye doesn’t get the right to sell derivative rights of anything that appears on the show – I don’t watch that show in particular, but those fashion-y shows aren’t shy about blurring out sneaker logos, etc.

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It sounds like the jacket is just something this artist arranged with Porowski, not with the producers of the show. He says he “gifted” it to Porowski and when Porowski wore it on the show, he was expecting Netflix to send him a release form but never received one. Then someone at Lego doesn’t realize when designing this set that the rights to the jacket design were never cleared and throws it in there. I can believe all of that. It’s harder to believe this couldn’t get resolved without a lawsuit though.

Neither side can feel particular good about their position here. Lego wants to argue for an implied license, which seems like a big stretch. Canconnon’s argument isn’t perfect either. The Lego jacket isn’t identical to the real thing, and a lot of what has been copied/referenced isn’t even his original work - peace signs, globes and zippers have been showing up on leather jackets for years. Also, Canconnon has pretty much already admitted he can be bought off for cheap. Maybe on balance I’d put my money on Canconnon, but this seems like the ideal situation for a quick and cheap settlement.

I’m guessing Lego’s agreement with Netflix contains a clause that says Netflix has to protect Lego if Lego gets sued for IP infringement while making this set, and so in the background Lego is trying to push Netflix to take care of this, rather than doing it themselves.


Except it’s not a copy of that specific jacket, because it’s not a jacket at all. If someone was selling a mass-produced jacket featuring that arrangement of elements (even though none of the specific elements are original), I’d feel somewhat differently (though it’s still not much of a copyright case). But they’re not selling a jacket. It’s a toy referencing that jacket (and in a humorous way - e.g. the Lego skull image). Being able to make allusions and references to things, visually and otherwise, is a significant part of a functional creative culture.

Beyond that, knock-off toys get made all the time (i.e. similar to an existing character design but not using trademarked names). Comic book characters have designs that reference other characters (owned by different companies). Fashion designers make outfits that look like other designers’ clothes. This has, traditionally, been fine.

I don’t know that giving him the Lego set would have been an admission of guilt, because this is so far outside traditional copyright boundaries. (It’s only in the context of the corporate copyright maximalist weirdness of the last couple decades where this is in any way in doubt.)


Good point. Netflix would certainly have made a representation to a licensee that it has all necessary right, title, and interest in the images.


I feel like we’re glossing over the fact that there’s a LEGO ESPRESSO MACHINE in the set.

Screen Shot 2022-01-17 at 11.17.52 PM


Alright. Fair point. But it still doesn’t feel super right to me. It is clearly meant to be a reproduction of that thing - but in Lego form. Like they made recently an Adidas shoe in Lego form. Clearly it isn’t a shoe, but it was meant to be a model of an Adidas shoe, and thus had to licensed as such.

I don’t know if this guy has case or not. If the guy had say an artwork that he gave to someone on the show and it was featured on the show - he would still have the copyright for said work, unless it was clear that he was selling/giving that away as well. Because it is a painted on a jacket vs a canvas, doesn’t make it any less of a work of art. It doesn’t have to be an exact replica for them to have a point about it infringing rights.

Yes and no. I have seen several examples where big name brands will swipe a design or an element from some small time artist and get called out for it. It is one thing to make a shirt in a similar style, or use the same hot colors of a season, but another to have the same butterfly image that was from some indie designer.

But yes, there is a lot of borrowing and stealing in art in design in general. Sometimes it is two people getting the same idea independently, sometimes it is unconsciously borrowing, and other times outright theft. But this example is too specific.

I know that in civil cases, any little acknowledgement that they might have a point hurts your case. Sure, he says now that sending him a kit satisfies his grievance, but if he turned around and decided to sue afterwards, then he has their willingness to send him a kit as evidence that they knew they were wrong. Hence their lawyers would say not to send anything.

I actually agree with your point about corporate copyright maximalist. But I see that as the opposite here - it isn’t a corporation claiming copyright, but an independent artist.

If this case was the opposite, where someone made a one off jacket based on a Lego minifig and Lego sued, I would tell Lego to get bent. And again, if they made say a Biker Gang set and this jacket they made just happened to look similar to the jacket the guy made, I would say he doesn’t have a case - whether they intentionally borrowed the design or not. But in this case it is pretty clear they meant to replicate that specific jacket from a specific show into Lego form.

I realize this isn’t a completely consistent view.

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Well, it’s a reference to the (actual) jacket.

Yeah, I mean legally it’s been fine; morally, when there are obvious power imbalances and someone closely copying a design, not fine.

But references and copying in art is a core part of art. Putting something in a painting that’s a bit of someone else’s painting to explore the ideas the previous work raised, even photographing someone else’s photographs used to be, anyways, an acceptable part of artistic discourse. Ironically, as we live in an ever-more-media-saturated environment, the ability of artists (and groups) to reference the things they’re seeing and experiencing, even indirectly, is being taken away.

I just mean that traditionally there wouldn’t remotely be a case that Lego would hurt by doing anything.

My point was that his notion of copyright exists entirely because of corporate expansion of copyright. A few decades ago, a lawsuit wouldn’t even have been an idea he would have considered, as it would have been absurd.

I’d privilege the smaller party in these kinds of cases, too; copyright law gets used so often as a bludgeon for large corporations to control the culture and trample on smaller creative entities (and rarely does it work in favor of those smaller creatives). It’s just in this case, what it represents is so far outside of what copyright should be about, I can’t get on his team.


Yeah, I’m going to fall on the “not a violation of copyright” side of things here. The law preventing both beggars and billionaires from sleeping under the bridge is still the law sort of view, but still.

As I see it, Lego took pains to reference the design but not actually copy it. It refers to the jacket, kinda sorta has similar placement of details, but it’s about as much a copy as a drawing of the artist wearing the jacket would be.


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