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10 Sep 2018

Real Talk

SneakerToons Speaks on His 'Illegal' Nike Art

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I never set out to break the law. But on January 31, 2018, I found myself in an unexpected legal predicament. Should I have known better? Did I bring this on myself? Did my work deserve to be classified as illegal? I first dipped my toe box into the world of sneaker art back in 2013. It started simply as a creative outlet fuelled by a growing passion. I never planned to sell what I was creating – I didn’t even think it was possible. It was only after one of my designs won an Air Max Reinvented competition hosted by size? that the idea of making money from my hobby became a reality.

What allows some creatives’ work to be praised by brands, while other similar crafts are deemed copyright infringements? Talents such as Dave White and miniswoosh are embraced by the world’s biggest sportswear brand and held in high regard. But what makes them different to Sneakertoons? I have no idea. Were they, and others like them, just lucky and merely in the right place at the right time? Maybe it’s that simple, but surely there is a better, fairer way for artists and creatives to be judged.

Right now, ‘collaborate’ is every brand’s favourite word. But if you’re a relative unknown or emerging artist, then there seem to be few, if not zero, options. I’ve tried for years to get in touch with ‘the right people’ – those who could discuss licences or grant permissions. People who would listen to ideas, even if in the end the answer was ‘no.’

I think this is where a possible solution lies. We need to work together towards a platform for discussion – a two-way exchange that could foster positive, mutually beneficial relationships. One possible scenario is a registration scheme of sorts, whereby brands would have access to what artists create; an online database of art that uses logos or other trademarked material. Brands could easily work with individuals who catch their eye, and also police and guide those who may be crossing the line. The database could be used to establish whether a ‘permission’ or a deal is granted, allowing the artist to carry on without fear of retribution.

Originally published in Sneaker Freaker Issue 40

Words: Steven Piantoni

10 Sep 2018

Real Talk

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