A proper brouhaha is brewing on social media, where supermarket giant Woolworths has been accused by a local designer of ripping off her cushion designs and – in the process – violating Wikipedia’s terms of usage too.

The accusations were made by Euodia Roets in a post entitled “How Woolworths really operates!“, in which the designer outlines a seven month process of pitching her Touchee Feelee brand cushion range to a buyer for the store.

From her site:

I was asked my wholesale prices, and as soon as I mentioned the first number, the atmosphere went from friendly chat to hardball in a matter of seconds. I was told very bluntly that “they will never go for that.” OK, we’re negotiating. I can deal with it. After they attempted to butter me up by promising me a feature in Taste Magazine, I left behind a few items printed with my hummingbird painting.

The precised version of the post, which is well worth reading, is that the buyer negotiated, hummed and ha’ed, drove down the price and then pulled out.

And then Woolworths brought out a cushion with a strikingly similar design. You can see the two below. Roets’ original cushion is on the left, Woolies’ is on the right.

hummingbird controversyAs Roets points out, the background text in the second design appears to be an uncredited lift from Wikipedia, which violates the Creative Commons licence used by Wikipedia (and htxt.africa).  Free as in libre, not beer etc.

Roets’ post went viral over most social channels, attracting the attention of Woolworths. The corporation has published a statement in which it says the design was finalised in December 2012, before its buyer met with Roets. The full text is below.

Today, a serious allegation was made against us, claiming that we stole a hummingbird design, which we then used on some material covering scatter cushions.

Please be assured:

  • Our hummingbird design was finalised with a Durban supplier mid-November 2012, while Euodia Roets met with our Artisan representative in early 2013.
  • We are trying to contact Ms Roets via a number of social channels, as we want to meet her as soon as possible.
  • We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.

We’ve tried to contact Woolworths for more. Will update when we get it.



//Update – This post was edited on MOnday 21st to make it more clear that the fourth paragraph is a quote from Roets’ website.


Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.