“Project Runway” Controversy: Did Irina Rip Off New York Magazine?

On last week’s episode of “Project Runway,” resident mean girl Irina Shabayeva was called out for using trademarked images of Coney Island on the silk-screened tees she was planning to show at Bryant Park. Tim Gunn handed down the word from the lawyers and Irina had to soldier on, making new, original tees to keep her New York theme. But Project Rungay bloggers Tom and Lorenzo think the revamped shirt, emblazoned with reasons to love New York, is no better. They’re pretty sure she lifted the phrases on the shirt from New York magazine’s annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue. Phrases like “Because Robert Moses would have a coronary if he could see our streets now” and “Because people will still do crazy things to live here” seem cribbed directly from the issue.And don’t think New York hasn’t caught on. In the most recent “Project Runway” recap, blogger Emma Rosenblum mused on Irina’s possible hypocrisy: “For someone who’s so bent on proving that Althea is copying her, Irina’s quite liberal with her own ‘inspiration.'” (Fans may recall that, in episode 11, Irina accused fellow competitor Althea Harper of ripping off her winning Aspen look from the previous challenge, though Althea got the last laugh by winning that week.)

The Project Rungay team comments:

“We’re not attorneys, but it would seem to us that this material falls under the same protection laws that prevented her from using the Coney Island image. Further, because she was told not to use the image, she can’t really claim ignorance on this matter. Which means she deliberately used copyrighted material a second time after being told once by the producers that she was forbidden to do so.”

Of course, we’ll have to watch the show to see if this affects Irina’s chance at the prize. Do you think it should?

Meanwhile, New York staffers seem to be taking the possible violation in stride. “We’ve just found our new company softball T-shirts!” said Rosenblum. [Project Rungay, NYMag.com]