Local entrepreneur shamed online for copyright infringement, profiteering from Palestinian cause

COPYRIGHT infringement is one thing but to blatantly profit from an item designed to raise funds for Palestinians in the on-going Israel-Hamas conflict is quite frankly, shameless.

This was the sentiment among many netizens upon reading allegations that a local entrepreneur had “stolen” a kaffiyeh print design from an American designer.

The latter, using the handle @sarahmusa had designed a kaffiyeh, a traditional scarf favoured by Palestinians with a red poppy motif to raise awareness of the on-going conflict. The Ohio-resident who is of Palestinian-Korean parentage has pledged 100% of sales proceeds to be funnelled towards pro-Palestine causes and charities.

However, the local entrepreneur has brought considerable shame to her country and to local pro-Palestinian supporters with her unethical actions as shared in a post on X (formerly Twitter) by user @BMVFM.

It also underlines the distastefulness of the local entrepreneur identified as Najiha Zakaria in pocketing the profits when the original designer had intended proceeds to go towards humanitarian causes.

Najihah’s unscrupulous actions also caught the attention of international designer Hana-Tajima Simpson who called it “the worst kind of appropriation”. The Japanese-British designer called out the apology by the Lima Segi founder as “weak”, saying it was only done after being exposed.

“It is more than theft of a design; it is the worst kind of appropriation. Theft from a culture that is being decimated and profiting off it,” Simpson pointed out in a scathing statement.

“If @lima.segi didn’t know that before, I hope that they truly understand and donate the profits they made to the causes Sarah intends them to go to.”

After all, Sarah Musa’s designs are the choice of international celebrities and influencers including singer-songwriter Yuna who describes Sarah’s keffiyeh as “300x better” and often uses it as a hair wrap accessory when performing.

The local entrepreneur’s “apology” short stopped of admitting theft of intellectual property; she only stated that Lima Segi will stop selling the kaffiyeh while urging fans of the design to buy directly from Sarah Musa.

The half-hearted apology and denial of copyright infringement was mocked by the original designer but she celebrated the moral victory since Lima Segi has at least stopped selling the counterfeit item. However, the issue of channelling the profits made by Lima Segi from their sales of the kaffiyeh remains unresolved, according to Sarah Musa.

The post by @BMVFM highlighting this spat has since gone viral, amassing one million views at time of writing. Many netizens were unimpressed by the lack of moral fibre displayed by the Malaysian businesswoman. Here is a sample of the comments.

Some hinted that perhaps an expensive legal suit was required as a deterrent.

The great irony, as pointed out by some netizens, is that the founder of Lima Segi had been loudly complaining about her designs being copied without permission!

Perhaps greater action is needed to prevent more of this from happening. As suggested by one netizen, a boycott is definitely in order to teach Lima Segi and companies with similar modus operandi a harsh lesson, tagging BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Malaysia in the comment.

FocusM is in total agreement that aside from social media shaming, concrete action needs to be taken against such errant business practices.

Aside from being morally reprehensible, it really does put the nation and its citizenry who have been steadfast in its public support of Palestine in a very bad light.  – May 28, 2024

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