Julian Assange-branded T-shirts could be coming to Indian shopping malls soon, if a new plan is successful.
The secret-sharing organization is partnering with a local company, Franchisee India, to get WikiLeaks-branded goods to Indian consumers, the Times of India reports. "India is one of the countries where awareness about WikiLeaks is the highest and Julian is excited about the proposition," Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Iceland-based WikiLeaks representative told TOI.
The hope is for a number of physical stores as well as an online e-commerce set up, which Sigurvinsson told The Washington Post said would sell "high-end fashion apparel, accessories, household goods, paper goods, that kind of stuff." WikiLeaks had "fashion designers in France and in other places who wanted to co-brand their products," Sigurvinsson added.
The merchandise industry in India alone is reported to be worth $819 million, WikiLeaks is aiming for a truly global operation. Sigurvinsson says that the group has spoken to agents in every country in the European Union, as well as others in Asia and North Africa.
While some Wikileaks merchandise is already available online, there appears to have been a wider push to expand the merchandise's reach over the past year. In February, Sigurvinsson and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released a news release announcing the creation of WikiLicense, a group designed to help license both the WikiLeaks brand and Assange's own personal brand. “We have created new ways for our supporters to fund our work and WikiLicensing is an important part of that,” Assange said in a statement. “This is also a positive way of both spreading the awareness of our work and protecting the integrity of the brand.”
The branding serves a two-fold purpose, WikiLeaks spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson explains in a phone call. "One is to try to stop the abuse of the Wikileaks logo, which has been growing, so we made an agreement with a company who now has the role of protecting the integrity" of the WikiLeaks brand, Hrafnsson says, before adding that it also acts as "a way of generating revenue for our organization and allowing supporters to donate indirectly to the organization."
WikiLeaks has suffered problems with money for years, in part due to what it refers to as a "blockade" against it by various financial institutions. Meanwhile, Assange himself has been confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than two years and is said to be in increasingly poor health recently.
While he would not offer a specific number, Sigurvinsson says that a "majority" of the profit earned from any sales of WikiLeaks merchandise will go back to help fund WikiLeaks operations.