David vs. Goliath: Social media as a marketplace
January 26, 2022
by Nike Lorenz

In an article [18] from 2009, I read that Social Media re-emphasized „what the World Wide Web was initially created for: a platform to facilitate information exchange between users.“ 

Now, 2021 and 18 days to Christmas, as I am on the hunt for presents, Social Media seem to be a place to make business more than anything else. It seems inevitable not to engage on Instagram as a business of all sizes, in order to be successful. I am wondering, what are the downsides of a social- marketplace for all? 

The Digital Transformation enabled a wider access to information, removed its guards and planted the seeds for the Sharing Economy. The latter, is defined by „peer-to-peer- based activity of obtaining, giving or sharing the access to goods and services, coordinated through community based online services“ [19]. With that, it has fundamentally changed how we sell and promote products and interact with customers. Today, with around 2 billion people active on social media, it has become one of the most accessible marketplaces and a key element of almost any business plan. 

Among high fashion brands and fast fashion chains, emerging designers also make use of this access to self-promote their work. With uploading their creations to the different digital platforms they naturally expose their designs to customers, but also to the competition. 

In the last couple of years, this has led to numerous cases where emerging designers have been copied by fast fashion chains without given any credit. In this case the wide access to information means that „Fast fashion retailers, such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, can quickly and cheaply reproduce the latest designs’ trends easily found online, and ship the items out to stores almost immediately—often before the original designers can even start to produce the collection“ [20].

The balance of power is unmistakable in favor of the fast fashion giants. On the one hand, the brand of an emerging designer is often not known enough yet, so consumers aren't able to detect the design as a copy when it enters the market first [20]. On the other hand, those brands or designers usually lack deep pockets to chase down copycat versions or cover the costs of litigation [21].

Ironically enough, their best way to seek justice against plagiarism is a widespread use of Social Media. Although the same platform has just let an emerging designer feel how tiny he/she is, it can also lift him/her up enough to protest, often with the same results as a court process: "monetary compensation, getting attribution of one’s own work and avoiding misattribution of the copyist’s work" [22].

In the case of  emerging artist Tuesday Bassen, Zara stole some of her graphics and rejected the plagiarism claims. Bassen decided to share the story with her social media community [see figure no.3], resulting in a large following increasing the traffic around her case. In the end, Zara’s parent company reached out to Bassen again, apologizing and compensating her for her work. Additionally, Bassen asserted her voice to detect more stolen creations from other artist and rose awareness to the limited options they have to pursue [21]


[18] Kaplan, Andreas & Haenlein, Michael. (2010). Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons. 53. 59-68. 

[19] Hamari, Juho & Sjöklint, Mimmi & Ukkonen, Antti. (2016). The Sharing Economy: Why People Participate in Collaborative Consumption. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 

[20] Palandri, L., 2020. Fashion as Art: Rights and Remedies in the Age of Social Media. Laws, 9(1), p.9. Available at:

[21]  Zerbo, Julie. (2016) How come the high street can blatantly steal designs?. Dazed. [Online] 21 Jul 2016. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec 2021]. 

[22] Adler, Amy M. and Fromer, Jeanne C., Taking Intellectual Property into Their Own Hands (May 22, 2018). California Law Review, Vol. 107, p. 1455, 2019, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-36, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 18-20, Available at SSRN: