Woman ordered to repay £140,000 made selling fake band t-shirts

Johanna Donnelly will serve five months in prison if she cannot pay
Johanna Donnelly will serve five months in prison if she cannot pay

A woman faces jail if she cannot repay £140,000 she earned selling counterfeit music t-shirts online.

Johanna Donnelly sole a range of unlicensed merchandise over a three-year period, including t-shirts featuring the names of bands including The Stone Roses, Foo Fighters, The Stranglers, The Clash and Led Zeppelin. Her profits amounted to more than £250,000, having used both eBay and her own website to shift the shirts.

After testing, though, trading standards experts in Newport, Wales found that the t-shirts were not genuine, and that Donnelly had traded under a fake company name.

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Having exclusively responded “no comment” under questioning, she later pleaded guilty to 20 charges of selling and infringing trademark articles, via Daily Mail. With the final shirt sold being one bearing the logo of The Clash on May 13, 2019, accounts showed that PayPal sales figures for copyright-infringing products came to £11,617.26, with a further account having sales of £1,283.38.

With recoverable available assets coming to £141,655, Judge David Wynn Morgan ordered Donnelly to pay back the amount in full within three months. If she fails to do so, she will serve a five-month prison sentence. In addition, she must complete 150 hours of unpaid work, as well as a 10-day stint in rehab.

The news emerges just months after BTS’ record label, Big Hit Music, issued a statement signalling its intention to crack down on counterfeit merchandise at the Korean stars’ massive Busan show last October. In the statement, the label talked of taking “strict measures against companies that had been repeatedly producing, selling and distributing products that infringed on BTS’ portrait and trademark rights (‘rights violating products’)”.

They also announced their intention to “conduct on-site inspection[s] and investigation[s] of counterfeit products”. Whilst it is unclear whether the approach led to a major reduction in the sale of fake goods at the show, the statement and the conviction of Donnelly suggest that bands and labels are ready to begin taking more stringent measures to protect their intellectual property.