- A Spanish-speaking Domino’s Pizza page was caught plagiarising work done by Malaysian artist Weinye.
- When confronted about it by one of their fans, Domino’s response was “a meme is a meme”.
- This is an example of a disturbing trend of corporations stealing artists’ work and using it for profit without paying a single penny to the artists.
On the 23rd of February, the official Chilean Dominos Pizza page made a post based on a popular (and slightly outdated) meme.
The problem? They took the work of Malaysian artist Weinye, slightly tweaked it, then reposted it on their page with the explicit purpose of branding.
Perhaps in other circumstances, the page might have gotten away with the act, since they’re all the way in Chile and posting in Spanish. But the plagiarism did come to Weinye’s attention thanks to her international following.
Weinye has taken to social media and attempted to expose them. It has since received a 15k likes on Instagram and is spreading on Facebook.
(UPDATE, February 28: Weinye has since removed the post, after reaching an agreement with the digital agency involved.)
After the post went up, Weinye’s fans went to the Chilean Domino’s Facebook post to express their distaste. Domino’s even replied to one of the posts, seemingly justifying their actions by saying that “memes are memes” (as translated by Weinye).
In the latest update shared by Weinye, both her comment on the post and her attempts to contact Domino’s have gone without response.
Weinye is now trying to reach them through Twitter and is asking her followers to help her retweet to get their attention. In that time, Domino’s Chile has since removed the plagiarised post from their Facebook page.
Weinye has pointed out that while the idea to the art isn’t original, the artwork that she did produce is still her own, and should be acknowledged as such. Althernatively, the brand could have easily used (and modified) the original meme instead of Weinye’s work.
Update: The case has since blown up on Reddit, and the post on it currently has upwards of 14K+ upvotes. A representative affiliated with Domino’s Pizza Chile has reached out to Weinye on Twitter and Facebook.
We contacted Weinye, and she said that “at the moment, the digital agency that is working for Domino’s Chile is investigating this issue and I should be getting a response of the full story within a day or so.”
“I’ve had my work plagiarized before, but never by a big corporation like Domino’s. It’s usually by small websites or social media accounts so this would be the biggest encounter I’ve had so far,” said Weinye.
“Although this had been frustrating and disappointing, I am going to use this as a teaching moment not only for fellow artists in the community but also to our audience and the general public online.”
But the post has been removed. Why continue talking about it?
From the start, the Chilean Domino’s page seems to have known that they could get into trouble for plagiarism.
Before reposting the artwork, the team took pains to recolour the image, and in Weinye’s opinion even “whitewashed” it to look less Asian.
“I like how they made effort to change (or whitewash) Robbie’s character’s appearance but not to my redhead character (which is obviously the most important and recognisable bit of the whole thing) lol.”
In this age where pictures can spread faster than a viral infection, photographers and artists often find their work used somewhere else without compensation, or even credit.
But a big problem here is when the image has been appropriated by a large corporation.
Domino’s is an international pizza chain. The payment required to properly compensate an artist shouldn’t be an issue for them.
This also sets a dangerous precedent everywhere. If a big-scale corporation is seen doing it without penalty, then it just continues the cycle of art-theft rampant online.
Other corporations would think that it is alright, and even those who might have otherwise paid an artist might think that reusing an artwork as acceptable.
When for-profit organisations take art online and simply tweak it for their own purposes, it devalues the efforts put in by artists and photographers. Who cares that it took up practice and time to develop the skills when equivalents of their work can be found for free?
The problem extends to more than just memes.
Many of us remember the controversy surrounding doNUT scarves.
Rather than just using a piece of artwork for a Facebook page, the brand is said to have slightly tweaked the artwork of a Japanese illustrator named Shinji Tsuchimochi and used it to sell scarves.
doNUT itself is said to copy of dUCK scarves in branding and ideas.
Shinji decided not to pursue the case, but it was a huge blow for doNUT scarves’ reputation among art enthusiasts.
In a larger context, Weinye’s post may just seem like small issue—she was inspired by a meme, and because of it, her artwork was copied.
But companies can and are using artists’ artwork to make a profit. For every case of doNUT scarves or Domino’s Chile that is getting outrage and action, there will be other artists who aren’t sure how they can seek justice.
This is why certain communities online have started to band together to help artists spread the word when a large brand or corporation does this.
Personally, I have a lot of respect for Weinye who seems determined to take action for what has happened.
Where other artists might just cut their losses due to the difficulties in reaching out to and seeking reparations from big corporations, Weinye is actually putting her foot on the ground and pushing back.
She is proving to them that there are consequences to art theft, and her one act pushing back might just be the inspiration another artist needs to take action.
Or, she might make corporations more mindful of using copyrighted materials for profit.
And that, we think, would be a small victory.
Update: Weinye has reached an agreement with the digital agency affiliated with Domino’s Chile, and will be receiving remuneration. You can read her statement in full here.
Feature Image Credit: Weinye