Melanie Armsden, who is better known by her pseudonym Diablo Rose, was stunned when she was sent a picture of the garment – for sale online -printed with a photograph she had taken of herself.
After successfully arguing that the T-shirts breached her copyright, she managed to acquire the 267 that hadn’t been sold.
And she’s now offering people the chance to buy them from her – to raise cash for a children’s charity.
Miss Armsden, 28, who runs the Le Keux vintage salon on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre, said: ”After the case was settled I decided that rather than the tees just being destroyed, which is usually the case, I could put them to much better use.”
Miss Armsden, who regularly posts pictures online of hairstyles that she has created, first found out what had happened after being sent a picture of the t-shirt by a former customer.
”She said it reminded her of me and I was looking at it thinking, ‘that is me!’,” Miss Armsden said. ”It took me totally off guard. Quite a lot of people have said that I should take it as a compliment, but when I first found out it was quite shocking.
”The idea that I could have been walking through town and seen someone wearing a t-shirt with my face on is pretty weird.”
After making enquiries with Shop Direct, the company, which was selling the T-shirts, Miss Armsden, who lives in the city centre, discovered they had been made by a manufacturer in India.
She sought advice from a legal expert and threatened to sue the overseas company for breach of copyright.
”I had all the evidence that I was the copyright owner and that they had produced the T-shirt without my authorisation,” she said.
”In the end it was a fairly simple case to prove.”
Shop Direct, which said it bought the T-shirts in good faith, removed them from sale and handed the remaining stock to Miss Armsden. She is now selling the T-shirts for Ìâ£10 each to raise cash for the Little Princess Trust, which provides real hair wigs for children who have lost hair during cancer treatment or because of a genetic condition.
She said: ”It’s a really good cause and I hope I can do some good.”
A Shop Direct spokesperson said: ”We bought the items in good faith and as soon as the issue was brought to our attention we immediately removed them from sale. The remaining stock was returned to Diablo Rose and it’s great news that she is using them to raise money for charity.”
Alan Harper, associate in the intellectual property department at Walker Morris solicitors in Leeds, advised Miss Armsden on her lega rights.
He said: ”The rise of the internet and in particular social media has allowed individuals and businesses alike to readily access a seemingly endless supply of images.
”Advances in technology mean that it has now become possible to copy and share such images globally in an instant.
”Unfortunately, however, it is often the case that such activity takes place without careful thought to the origin or author of the image.
”As a result, the copyright that protects the image and the author’s creativity and rights are undermined. This case emphasises how easy it is for a business to take an image found online for its own without appreciating the author’s right.
”However, Melanie’s story highlights the protection provided by copyright law and demonstrates that using an image taken from the internet without considering the implications of copyright law is a risk.’
To buy one of the T-shirts search for ‘Diablo Rose’ at www.ebay.co.uk
ECHOES OF POP STAR’S VICTORY
The situation Melanie Armsden found herself in had echoes of a high-profile dispute involving pop star Rihanna.
Earlier this year the singer successfully prevented Topshop selling T-shirts displaying her picture in a test case which reinforced the ability of celebrities to control their public image.
The photographer who took the picture and owned the copyright licensed the use of the image to Topshop.
But Rihanna successfully argued its use for fashion clothing was not licensed and people buying the T-shirt would wrongly think she had endorsed it.