Nobody likes a copycat—especially when you’re the underdog without a billion-dollar legal team on retainer. For makeup artist Vlada Haggerty—a pro renowned for her museum-level lip art—the David/Goliath scenario is all too familiar. In May of 2015, Haggerty posted an image of a rose gold lip with her signature drip, which would resurface on Kylie Jenner’s official Lip Kit Instagram page sans attribution. The caption on the controversial Instagram post promoting Jenner’s new Lip Kit shade was later edited to include mention of Haggerty, but ultimately taken down. After being called out, one would think that Jenner’s days of being “inspired” were over, but her new holiday campaign (which made its Twitter debut on November 19, 2016) bears a striking resemblance to yet another Haggerty creation (posted to Instagram on September 24, 2016) featuring cherry lips framed by gilded fingertips.
But, let’s get real—it’s going to take more than a little social media shaming to stop a Kardashian. (The only people who have managed to catch the klan’s attention thus far involved robbery at gun point.) While violence is never a good solution, perhaps a peaceful lawsuit would serve as a wake-up call for Jenner and her “creative” team? TMZ reported that Haggerty and Julia Kuzmenko McKim, the photographer who snapped the image in question, are threatening legal action, but FU has yet to receive confirmation from the makeup artist. In an interview with Haggerty in July, the pro noted that had she “watermarked” her “Rose Gold lip art, it would have been a lot harder to claim it as ‘Kylie Jenner’s new lip color.’” The photo at the center of the current controversy does not appear to be watermarked or stamped with the official copyright notice, but Haggerty still has a case if she acts fast. According to Carolyn E. Wright of photoattorney.com, the image could still be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive statutory damages up to $150,000 in addition to legal fees incurred. In other words, a drop in the bucket for Jenner, but a giant leap for artistkind.
But should beauty pros hoping to climb the ladder be required to register a copyright for every look they snap on social media? It seems an almost impossible task for the up-and-coming makeup artist, hairstylist, designer, or photographer looking to catch a break on Instagram. Major fashion labels armed with shrewd legal teams have long been plagued by knock offs at retailers like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21. And even smaller luxury brands like Aquazarra are wrapped up in costly court debacles—the Italian footwear company is currently at war with Ivanka Trump over its popular “Wild Thing” shoe design.
“Bottom line, it's not the makeup that should be protected, it's the original ideas,” Haggerty told FU. “Anyone can recreate them, but only a few can come up with [something] original. Big companies use artists to make millions while we're struggling to pay our rent. It's not right!” And she’s undoubtedly correct in that it’s not right, but are creatives to rely on the goodness and ethics in the hearts of Ivanka Trump and Kylie Jenner? That’s a pretty sad state of affairs—almost as sad as a reality star taking up residence in the White House. For celebrities fresh out of original ideas we have a solid piece of business advice taken straight from the President-elect’s playbook: Hire “the best people” in lieu of pulling a Melania Trump.