By Carolyn Edlund
Artist Lisa Congdon was stunned earlier this week to find out that her original illustrations of animals with Nordic-inspired designs have apparently been ripped off. Giftware company Cody Foster and Company has displayed holiday ornaments for sale identical to Lisa’s concept, without her knowledge or permission.
Lisa promptly took this news public on her blog, and word quickly spread. Outraged messages on Twitter and Facebook decried the copyright theft she reported, fueling a viral social media campaign aimed at exposing and stopping Cody Foster from profiting off of any potential copyright infringement. Shares continue at an astronomical pace, exceeding 80,000 Facebook shares and 14,000 tweets at this writing, and growing by about 500 shares per hour.
Lisa has been bombarded by emails and press inquiries in the past few days. I caught up with her for a few moments to get her reaction to this event and the publicity surrounding it.
AS: What was your first thought when you heard about the ornaments Cody Foster and Company was selling?
LC: Shock, actually! I saw the images from their catalog and I was looking directly at a poorly executed but clearly copied version of my own work. My heart sank, but I knew I needed to take action against this company. I was actually aware of them and their reputation before, but the more I dug, the more I learned that they have unabashedly copied the work of many artists without permission for many years. So I was armed and motivated.
AS: What resolution are you looking for?
LC: Currently, I am looking for two things. First, for them to stop selling the copies of my work. Second, to expose them to retailers who purchase products from them. I think if many of the small boutiques or even the larger chains knew that this company had a documented history of stealing from artists, they would stop buying wholesale products from them. Cody Foster is a wholesale company, so it’s the retailers who buy from them and sell to the general public who we need to inform.
AS: Social media exposure is powerful, and has successfully shamed companies into stopping this type of infringement before. What are you asking your supporters to do to help?
LC: Spread the word. Especially to shops and boutiques and chains who may buy from Cody Foster. I believe if many retailers knew that this company was stealing the work of independent artists and craftspeople, they would not purchase any longer from Cody Foster. Also, let Cody Foster know how you feel! Email them, call them. Let them know what they are doing is wrong.
AS: Is there anything you would do differently in the future to try to protect your designs?
LC: All works are protected by copyright laws from the time you create them, but when you register them with the U.S. copyright office, you have even more protection for damages when a company (especially a large company) steals from you. It doesn’t protect you from others copying you, but it does give you an even greater advantage if you wish to take legal action. I recommend all artists do this.