Louis Vuitton on Artist's Darfur Project: Bag It

Louis Vuitton claims copyright infringement over use of purse on a T-shirt.

ByABC News
May 12, 2008, 3:46 PM

May 14, 2008— -- If Paris Hilton can garner thousands of headlines and photographs with a trendy Louis Vuitton purse and a pint-size pooch, surely another newsworthy figure can do the same, right?

That's what Nadia Plesner was thinking when she designed a T-shirt featuring a "pimped-out" Darfur victim holding a Vuitton handbag and a dog bearing a striking resemblance to Hilton's beloved Tinkerbell.

"I wanted to try to portray how distorted it is, how parts of the media prioritize between small and big world news. Even with the terrible genocide going on in Darfur, Paris Hilton is getting most of the attention," she said. "If all it takes to make the front page is a designer bag and a small dog, maybe it's worth trying that for the people who really need attention.

"Everyone knows the image of starving black child, but we've seen it so many times that we don't really respond to it anymore," she said. "It was a test to see how the media reacts if you 'pimp the victim.' I think it worked."

Plesner, a 26-year-old Danish art student and member of Designers for Darfur, was planning to sell the T-shirt online to raise money for victims of the Sudanese crisis. She didn't anticipate getting involved in a crisis of her own -- a costly legal battle with the world-famous French luxury retailer.

In February, Louis Vuitton sent Plesner a cease-and-desist letter. Plesner declined to stop production of the T-shirts and posted the letter on her Web site. Last month, Louis Vuitton fought back, filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against her that gets more expensive by the day.

"Originally, they wanted $7,500," said Designers for Darfur founder Malcom Harris, who's defending Plesner's project. "After she placed the cease-and-desist letter on her Web site, that went up. Every time she uses their name on her Web site she's charged an additional $7,500 a day. So at the current rate, she's being charged $20,000 a day."