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My Twitter feed lit up this morning with the news that Cody Foster & Co. had allegedly copied the work of the über-talented Lisa Congdon. I’m really proud of Lisa for standing up so boldly and forthrightly for her work.

First, she posted this comprehensive look at the art that was copied and put out a call to action, which included this incriminating Flickr account full of copy sadness. Not only did she encourage her readers to spread the word, but I really appreciated that she wanted us to take it a step further: inform the retailers that they maybe carrying the work of an alleged copyist and intellectual property thief.

Now in the past, when I’ve brought up similar issues involving other artists, a few have wondered if speaking up and boldly speaking out about this kind of offense can really make a difference. My friends, welcome to a lesson in community outrage yielding remarkable fruitage. Lisa’s story went viral. Jezebel lead the charge and a tidal wave of blogs started spreading the word. Consumerist and Monarch Daily joined the discussion. Thousands more followed suit with tweets, blog posts and emails of support. Ya’ll know how much I love Big Cartel, so I was thrilled to see them take a stand in their own blog post:

I expect nothing less from those rad folks at Big Cartel. Oh, but the wave grew larger. Yahoo Shine (which before today, I never even knew existed) joined in on the outrage. Gotta love the directness:

 

But the real win came when West Elm got the hint and decided to pull all of Cody Foster & Co’s products from off its shelves and its website. As Lisa had hoped, a groundswell of independent voices created a chorus that this national seller just couldn’t ignore. In their own words:

No matter how you view West Elm, this is the right thing to do and I applaud them for it. Let’s hope that this episode causes them to make greater connections with the handmade world (and not just through Etsy, because of this) and for the love of cheesecake, do some due diligence when it comes to purchasing. As Lisa so eloquently stated:

In the past two years, I’ve watched some pretty talented artist have their work copied. Inaluxe, Yumalum, Design Seeds (multiple times by multiple sources, too many to mention in one post. OK, I will mention this hot crankin’ mess of a copyist.) and this crazy-insane one featuring Jessica Nichols and her fantastic art being allegedly highjacked by this knucklehead, are just a few examples. As long as the web remains one of our primary means of mass communication, these unsavory moments will occur. But today’s story shows that we collectively can make a difference. How?

What we as artists and bloggers can do is speak up, speak out and speak often. If you see a blatant display of copying, let the artist know. If you are the artist, reach out to blogs like the LAB. Provide the proof and let us help. Be civil, but be firm when addressing the offending party. If you can afford to ‘lawyer up’ and you feel it is worth the fight, by all means lock and load. Your creations are extensions of yourself. Self-respect dictates that you take the appropriate steps to protect your hard work.

Another thing that artists can do is to make sure that they utilize trademark protection when applicable. And do yourself a favor: if your work is inspired by someone else’s, get permission to use it. Whether it’s a photograph or vintage find, getting permission first saves a ton of stress and expense. 

Join the LAB and let’s spread a little #DesignRespect around the web. Learn more here. Congrats to Lisa and a big fat YEAH! to us.

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