Plagiarism in Romania: Carpathian copying

Did a Romanian tourism campaign take a leaf out of someone else’s book?

KICKING off a promotional campaign with a plagiarism scandal is not the most orthodox way to attract clients. But in Romania, it may work. On the day Romania’s “explore the Carpathian garden” tourism campaign was launched at the Shanghai World Expo, a blogger revealed that its logo—a green leaf—resembled that of a British clean-transport company. A Belgian designer then claimed to have produced the image and marketed the rights through an online library. The logo can be bought for $250 and has been used by several other companies throughout Europe.

The company responsible for the campaign, THR-TNS, a Spanish-British joint venture, claims the similarity between the two images is “coincidental”. But Romania’s tourism minister, Elena Udrea, has decided to freeze payments to the company until the issue is resolved (although the image will continue to be used for the moment). The company was legally required to use original artwork rather than stock images, she says.

The “unlucky leaf” scandal comes less than a month after the European Commission issued a scathing assessment of Romania’s judicial reforms and anti-corruption measures, warning the government that it is in breach of the commitments it made upon joining the EU in 2007. The report singled out public procurement as prone to “conflict of interest and corruption”.

That may explain Ms Udrea’s twitchiness. No one has suggested that there are sinister forces at work in the tourism row. But the minister has been at pains to insist that the tender was transparent and legal, and that THR-TNS won the contract because its bid was cheapest. That did not stop the press from howling when it emerged that the contract was worth €900,000 ($1.2m), most of it EU money.

Faced with criticism for wasting money at a time of austerity, with the country on a €20 billion lifeline from the IMF, World Bank and EU, Ms Udrea says the campaign is not solely about logos and slogans but includes research studies carried out abroad to help boost tourism at home. As for the plagiarism gibes, they may not prove that harmful. “It promoted the brand in a way we wouldn’t have been able to afford,” says Ms Udrea.

Sursa: The Economist

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