DAILY SUN ATE MY T-SHIRT
The popular tabloid has taken legal action against newbie fashion label Sash over a range of spoof T-shirts that the paper believes infringe its copyright. Rhodé Marshall reports
Young clothing brand Sash is literally making headlines with its Daily Sash range of T-shirts that puts a positive spin on the Daily Sun newspaper’s street posters. “Tokoloshe helped me find love!”, “My hair talks to my ancestors!”, “4-5 got me land!” read some of the hilarious tees. But Daily Sun is not at all amused and last week interdicted the sale of the T-shirts and is considering further legal action.
Sash founder, designer Sakhile Cebekhulu, isn’t sure what all the fuss is about, though. To him the posters have always been part of his cultural life growing up in Joburg. The idea for the range began back in 2016 when he was studying fashion at the University of Johannesburg. Intrigued by the Daily Sun posters, he began collecting them, he told culture website Bubblegum Club, which first reported on the T-shirts early this week.
“I worked on these templates and started writing or thinking of my own headlines and phrases. A T-shirt can act as a wearable poster and I thought about speaking of current issues facing the youth to spark conversation.”
But then a storm broke. Leading up to the release of the Daily Sash project last Sunday, Cebekhulu posted a front page and posters parodying the Daily Sun on social media as part of a marketing campaign for the T-shirts.
The day before Sash was to have a pop-up stall to sell the T-shirts, it was sent a cease-and-desist letter by lawyers representing Daily Sun and Media24 at 5pm and asked to respond by 6pm, Bubblegum Club reported. The brand was instructed to halt the pop-up store and remove the content from social media due to trademark infringement. It was also told that any sale of the shirts would lead to a high court action against it.
Cebekhulu told Bubblegum Club: “After much consideration and strategising we opted to carry on with the pop-up, but not the sale of the T-shirts. We instead decided to give them away, but customers would only be rewarded with a free T-shirt after buying a paper bag for R300. Thus we would not be gaining financially from the T-shirts. It helped create more humour around the campaign and made our customers want them even more, because they thought it was such a cool concept.”
Approached for comment this week Daily Sun editor Reggy Moalusi told City Press: “We have seen the T-shirts. No permission was asked from us. Our legal team is working on this. We do encourage creativity, but don’t take kindly to our brand being used by people for their commercial interests.”
Said Cebekhulu: “I was just trying to tell a story and create a product people could connect to.” He admitted that he didn’t ask permission because he believed Daily Sun would have tried to stop the project before it even started.
According to legal advice sought by City Press, Daily Sun will have a battle on its hands. “This is not the first time we see examples of well-known brands being used in parody and comment,” said a lawyer well versed in copyright issues.
“There is a strong argument that they are not infringing copyright or other intellectual property rights and that what they are doing constitutes freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court in the Laugh it Off matter rejected a similar claim by South African Breweries.”
The judgment was given in 2005.
In that case the T-shirts parodying Black Label beer read “White Guilt, Black Labour”.
According to the lawyer “in that matter the court held: in sum, in order to succeed the owner of the mark bears the onus to demonstrate likelihood of substantial harm or detriment which, seen within the context of the case, amounts to unfairness. On the examples of T-shirts I have seen I will be surprised if Daily Sun will be able to show such harm.”
Cebekhulu tells City Press he knew there would be questions of ownership around his project. “I prolonged the release of the project because of those concerns.
“I am part of a new generation that was fortunate to be born in the late 90s and live in the 2000s. We have new stories we want to tell. We are tired of selling black poverty. We want to give a new identity to what it is to be black youth living in South Africa.”
The designer has had his work shown at the Turbine Art Fair and the Art Africa Fair, and was part of an RMB art collection.
GOOD HAIR DAY This tee centres the politics of black hair as a symbol of power and heritage
EXPROPRIATE THIS The land issue gets a humorous spin with this T-shirt parody of a street poster
HAPPY HEARTS CLUB The T-shirts depict the Daily Sun’s iconic tokoloshe as a force for good