Alleged Copyright Theft Goes Viral

By Carolyn Edlund

Artist Lisa Congdon

Artist Lisa Congdon

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 Congdon's designs vs. Cody Foster offering

Left: Lisa Congdon’s Designs; Right: Cody Foster ornaments

 

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.

 

Comments

  1. I’m sure that you’ve faced this question but the issue/answer isn’t a part of this article:

    Why don’t you get a lawyer?

    I wish you every success.

    • Actually, James that is a very good question. Although Lisa has an attorney, many artists feel they cannot afford them – and this type of thing goes unpunished. The reason I asked her about the resolution she hoped for was that it’s possible Cody Foster will be shamed into taking these designs out of their line.

      Social outrage can do amazing things, and quite often influences behavior – I am hoping that by sharing her story, I can help spread the word that this is unacceptable and any manufacturers who consider copyright theft should be on notice.

  2. Apparently the viral campaign has made them shut down or turn private all of their social media portals. Hopefully they won’t be able to weather this storm and continue stealing from indie artists.

    • Lezley, I believe I read somewhere that the company had made their social media presence “private” a while back. They have gotten a reputation for this type of thing and don’t accept comments!

  3. @James, she states on her personal blog that she did indeed get a lawyer and plans to take legal action.

  4. Thanks for the answers…it wasn’t apparent, hence the question.

  5. How horrible is this!!!! The question of shame makes me think that if they had no shame in stealing and selling what is not theirs they possibly will have no shame in being shamed. I have seen it.

    Talking to my attorney the other day simply about general stuff, we also discussed scenarios such as this and how companies feel that individuals, and sadly yes, often females, won’t do anything. Of course there is the monetary issue. Yes, an absolute issue, however, how could one not win a case in which something is so obvious? I am appalled at seeing this and my heart goes out to you.

    I am happy that legal action is being taken. These thieves deserve to get the maximum punishment.

    Good luck, hugs and blessings.

  6. start a fund for legal fees. I am sure all artists would be happy to contribute to help stop Cody Foster!

    • anna frederiksen says:

      this is an outrage!!! And, we artists need to take action every time this happens! I don’t have a great deal of money (living on social security) but I could contribute a bit to a general fund for legal action against this company – just let me know!

  7. artists make so little to begin with that it is such a shame what this company is doing. i will definitely write them an email and post her blog article on FB. Hope all this bad press finally shuts them down!

  8. Frankly, the ‘documented history’ as reported by Consumerist is not really that convincing. Owl designs like that have been around for decades. It is hard to say who came up with it first at this point. The dog example share practically nothing in common aside from appearing to be the same breed. What? So only one artist can use a specific breed in his or her work? That, my friends, is absurd! And the crafty cupcakes? Erm… I’ve seen decorations like that in wedding photos dating back to the 1970s — hard to say who came up with them first. Heck, the concept of false food as decoration goes back to at least the Victorian times.

    As for Lisa’s case… I understand her frustration — BUT surely she admits that the concept itself — including the patterns and designs — are ‘borrowed’ from various cultures / traditions. I don’t buy the ‘it came from my imagination’ rant in her response to this alleged infringement. She was clearly influenced by the past.

    It is doubtful that she would have been able to protected the jacket designs in the first place… because from what I’ve seen they involve traditional designs that are clearly inspired by Nordic designs elements — and Native American design elements as well. Some of the patterns / symbols are strikingly similar to patterns and symbols found within those respected cultures. You can’t ‘own’ that. It is universal.

    Furthermore, the concept itself — various animals wearing jackets / saddles — can be found throughout several areas of the world. This is nothing new. These concepts fill the pages of fantasy novels as well… and the film versions of those books. Has anyone seen The Golden Compass. Just saying. Heck, with this mentality I suppose anyone who writes about goblin wolf riders should pay the Tolkien Trust a fee! And what about all of those cowboy on horse sculptures that basically look the same… should that concept belong to just one artist? NO.

    Also, why are the comparison images not of the same size? We really need to have a closer look at both sides of this story. I see a lot of traditional elements — there is nothing really unique about the patterns… and frankly, depending on the placement Foster has just as much right to use them. This would be like saying that someone can’t create a mask inspired by African masks.

    I hate to be the jerk in the room… and if you know me you know I support strong copyright law… but this won’t be the last time that someone ends up placing a decorative jacket or saddle on an animal inspired by past cultures. There is just too much culture / mythological ‘borrowing’ going on from both sides. We are talking about universal ideas, designs, patterns, folklore, history.

    I have a lot of experience in this area… and Just don’t see a case here. There are just too many generic factors involved with the concept itself. I don’t mean for that to sound offensive — I personally love these illustrations. BUT they reap a lot of history.. and you can’t get fired up when someone does the same. Foster’s defense, if this does indeed go to court, will simply suggest that the designs are fair use based on traditional designs from various cultures.

    • Brian, although I agree that this is as yet unproven copyright infringement (Hence the title “Alleged Copyright Theft Goes Viral”), I think the very fact that this did get so much attention reflects the state of high alert many artists find themselves in – whether justified or not. There are definitely copyright theft examples to point out, and I know firsthand that manufacturers send “scouts” to trade shows specifically for the purpose of copying designs (see http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org/blog/prevent-craft-art-knock-offs/)

      Although the decision isn’t made in the court of public opinion, I also think Lisa has a good point and potential case here. As she is pursuing possible litigation, it will be interesting to see the outcome.

    • I’d like to see legal action as well, because Congdon will surely have to answer for her own behavior—cranking out artwork by tracing other people’s photographs (one from National Geographic) and calling the work ‘original’

      http://thomasallenonline.com/2013/11/13/copycat/

  9. Technically the use of the symbols is a trademark issue anyway. You can’t copyright a symbol. You trademark them. The similarity of the symbols happens to be the biggest card in her deck… I doubt they are trademarked — and I’m not even sure they could be due to how close they are to various historic references. This is something that needs to be explored more. Perhaps Maria Brophy will have some insight?

  10. Brian,
    It’s not the concepts that are in question here (ie. animals with jackets, owls or breeds of dogs) or trademarked symbols. It’s the unique EXPRESSION of a concept that’s protected by copyright law.

    The fact that the pose of the Foster reindeer is nearly identical to Congdon’s illustration as well as the proportions of the jackets, the colors and the placement of design elements on the jackets suggests it’s HIGHLY unlikely that these two creative expressions of reindeer wearing jackets could have been developed independently. A litmus test for copyright infringement is if a consumer came across the reindeer ornament would they confuse it with the work of Lisa Congdon? I’d have to say a resounding yes in this case.

    Your statement that owl designs like that have been around for decades is the same thing. Again, copyright isn’t about “owl designs like that” it’s about a specific owl design created by a specific artist. The hanging felt owls are the same size , same proportion and every little detail is the same down to the “v”s stitched onto the chests of the owls. If that’s not copyright infringement then we might as well just get rid of the copyright law since it wouldn’t protect ANYONE from infringement.

    But thankfully we do have a copyright law that protects all of us and the work we create. Unfortunately it’s often a David and Goliath situation and generally doesn’t have the same outcome David got in the biblical fable. I love the idea of social media pressure against a company who appears to be a serial infringer, but it’s important not be get an angry mob mentality and start lynching companies just because we feel they’ve stepped a little too close to someone’s artwork. My understanding is that this company has already settled several cases of infringement out of court so it doesn’t seem like they are mistakingly infringing (which can happen) or that they intend to quit that practice. It’s not so much public shaming that will make them change, it will be the risk of diminishing profits if retailers become aware of their history and decide not to buy from them. I might be mistaken (I’m not a IP lawyer) but my understanding is that retailers can also be implicated in copyright infringement cases (sort of like possession of stolen goods) so if I was a retailer I would want to stay very far away from this company.

    I hope things turn out well for Lisa in this case.

  11. @Brian,
    As an intellectual property attorney with many years of representing artists finding themselves in this situation, and as the founder of Copyright Collaborative, LLC, which is a resource for artists to learn to protect their intellectual property, I’d like to weigh in on your comments.

    While there have been many defendants in copyright infringement cases who have taken your general position, I’m afraid it’s not grounded in a correct interpretation of the U.S. Copyright Laws. As I understand it, your position appears to be that “once it’s been done, it’s not protectable.” I glean this from your comments including “owl designs like that have been around for decades,” “surely she admits that the concept itself –including the patterns and designs-are borrowed from various cultures/traditions” and “the concept itself-various animals wearing jackets/saddles-can be found throughout several areas of the world. This is nothing new.” However, U.S. Copyright Laws do not, and never have, demanded that a work be completely unique and wholly innovative to be protected.
    Under U.S. Copyright Laws, copyright infringement can be proved through the demonstration of three elements-one, that the infringer had access to the work, two, that the work was copied, and three, that the owner of the original work has a valid copyright. In order to have a valid copyright, the owner of the work must show that the original work contains at least a “minimum degree of originality.” A case that I find helpful (and I’m biased here, as I was the attorney for the plaintiff in this case) is Metal Morphosis, Inc. v. Acorn Media Publishing, Inc., in which the defendant, Acorn, distributed a product that was a direct and exact copy of Metal Morphosis’s birds nest pendant, a pewter pendant designed in the likeness of a bird’s nest with three pearls nested like eggs inside the pendant. The Court, in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss (based essentially on an argument similar to yours), stated, “To be sure, the Plaintiff’s creation strikes one as a generic bird’s nest. But in nature, birds’ nests can be deeper, wider, or narrower. Birds may arrange them neatly out of twigs and straw, or they may create less symmetrical forms that even incorporate human trash. Birds may lay eggs in the nest that have the same color, vary in color, or bear spotted patterns. And the number of eggs laid varies with the type of bird. In short, paraphrasing an oft-quoted expression, God gives every bird his worm, but it is up to the bird to make his nest. The Plaintiff’s bird’s nest is wide and shallow. Twigs are incorporated into the nest, but not smoothly throughout. Instead, they run more like veins across the inside bowl that highlight the eggs. This layout of the twigs may be rather obvious, but it is also somewhat unnatural. Atop the twigs are three eggs in nest-two that are off-white and one that is more lavender. Although the degree of inspiration is slight, it meets the originality threshold.”

    Accordingly, under U.S. Copyright Laws, the threshold of originality can be quite low. (This is not to intimate that I believe Ms. Congdon’s work has a low level of originality at all). And this low standard is a good thing, because if we took your (and many defendants’) view of how the Copyright Law should be translated, not much would be protectable thereunder, and there would be no point in filing copyright applications and claiming ownership to works. Taking the slippery slope all the way down, with your view of how the law should be applied, not much would meet that high standard. For example, Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings would not be protectable, as she didn’t invent watercolor, and certainly didn’t invent flowers, and wasn’t the first to paint flowers. The Mona Lisa wouldn’t have been protectable, as it is simply a portrait of a –frankly, simple and plain- woman, and portraits of women have been done for centuries by many famous artists in history. And surely one wouldn’t be able to enforce the copyright to, say, a painting depicting an old village in Europe, or a drawing of the Egyptian pyramids, as those have been around almost as long as civilization. In short, your interpretation of the Copyright Laws is fraught with error and trouble, since, under this very arduous standard, only works never seen before and which are the creation of something absolutely new would be protected.

    Artists are entitled to their interpretations of the world and the expression thereof, and are most definitely entitled to protect those interpretations under the laws, thankfully. And if it’s so easy to create something “unique” from works of the past, why aren’t these infringers doing it, rather than stealing the designs of these hardworking artists? Because they’re lazy and want to make a quick buck off of artists who, oftentimes, are unable for various reasons, to stand up for themselves-or have an attorney stand up for them. So the artist gets taken advantage of, the infringers make the real money (due to lack of scruples and luck with marketing), and the problem simply continues. As one of my client’s put it, “these knock-offs cheapen what we have worked so hard to achieve…infringement has undermined the hard work that we put into developing designing, producing and marketing our line for over fifteen years. For a large company to simply reproduce our line and say that it was there for the taking is reprehensible.” So my question is, if it’s so easy to do, if it’s so simple to “re-design” something that’s already “been done,” why don’t the infringers copy from the past, instead of stealing present designs that artists have worked so hard to create?

    I think Lisa Congdon has some serious guts to be one of the pioneers of fighting back on this pervasive problem, and I commend her courage, passion and strength in being a pioneer who seems to understand that the problem is bigger than an ornament-it affects all artists and small businesses. And I think she has a pretty much slam-dunk case here. I couldn’t wish her more luck.

    • Emily — First off, I’m not against copyright. I helped bring down Art4Love and was one of only a few writers to stand against Shepard Fairey’s alleged infringement concerning his Obama poster. I would support Lisa in a heartbeat had there been more ‘meat on the bones’, if you will. For example, if the animals had been wearing crowns… and Foster did the same thing — I would be chewing up Foster just like everyone else. BUT as it stands, I don’t think there is much here… and contacts I have within the NYC art law community agree with me (which will appear in another article I’m working on).

      My point is that the concept, overall, and the designs are clearly ‘ripped’ (I hate that word… but everyone is using it against Foster) from other sources in the first place. Consider the polar bears, goats, and elk on carousels — we are talking hundreds, if not thousands, of jacket / saddle designs. So even in a relatively contemporary context… the concept, overall, is not from her imagination as she claims (though elsewhere she mentions specific influences from the past — why did she not mention that in her official response?) — unless she has been living under a rock. Heck, people have made a fuss about the triangle border design on some of the jackets / saddles… seriously? Some of the other symbols are common as well. Based on what you are saying… I suppose the carousel companies should file against Congdon and Foster.

      This is something I want to know: Did she use photo references for her illustrations? If so, did she take those pictures? If not, who is the photographer and did the photographer know that his or her photographs were used. Did you work strictly from memory and knowledge of anatomy? I don’t see anyone talking about that side of this story. Just saying. I have asked her about it… so we hopefully she will respond.

      My point about the owls, lumberjack dolls, and other crafts is simple. Those have been around for decades. My grandmother made lumberjack dolls in the 1950s and 1960s. She always received those crafty mags back in the day. I’ve looked at some of the comparisons… and most of them are absurd. Take the dog example… the only similarity is the breed of the dog! As for the cupcakes that Foster supposedly ‘ripped off’… I’ve seen similar crafts in old wedding photos.

      A lot of this stuff is a far stretch… and unless we can see evidence of this company contacting specific victims or purchasing work from specific victims (which has been claimed) it is little more than a witch hunt. Lisa mentioned that others have been ‘ripped off’ by this company — and then conveniently states that they can’t speak about it due to a gag order or whatever. If that is the case… how does she know that to be true? I want to see evidence. I want to see copies of email messages and order requests that directly link this company to the alleged victims… and so far I’ve not seen that.

      I LOVE copyright. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about the rights of artists. BUT I think momentum on this is growing because of the overall anger that artists have… which is understandable — but people are not stopping to think about the other implications. Shoot, based on some of the comments I’ve read concerning this issue it would seem that some people feel that Walmart owns the basic design of a smiley face….

    • I’ll add that I hope she does take legal action. I want to see what results from it. I think she is going to have a heck of fight though… she did not register copyright prior to the alleged infringement, correct? That is a HUGE problem going into a case like this. As you know, you have to register before you can file anyway — but even at that point… it is going to be an extremely difficult uphill climb.

      I already see calls for raising money for the effort… you know what though — I’ve been fighting alongside artists since 1999 over issues like this…. and when money is raised I never see anything happen. 800+ artists were impacted by Art4Love… and not one of them was dedicated enough to pursue legal action seriously. Nothing ever came of it. Part of the problem is the US Copyright Office itself… which has been S L O W to make the process easier and more affordable — even though they do periodically ask for feedback.

    • And the thing that burns me up the most… is that we see situations like this — yet people keep avoiding registration. As I’ve said, I personally don’t think she has much of case when references are considered — and due to the universal nature of the symbols in general. BUT it would have been so much more easier on her if she had registered with the copyright office. Do it, folks! It is not as difficult as people think… and it is affordable if you do it as a series — which could have easily worked with these illustrations.

  12. Thank you for posting this and for taking action! As an artist who has had her own designs ripped off, I deeply feel Lisa’s pain. I have been told by other “artists” who have copied my work that there is nothing I can do about it, particularly as regards the internet where access is easy and copying abundant.

    The degree of copyright infringement I see is outrageous. So much so, that it has driven me to stop publishing my work online.

    • Susan,

      That isn’t true at all -there are many actions you can take! Copyright Collaborative (www.copyrightcollaborative.com) will be launching within the next month or so to give artists tools to help with infringement issues, so check us out. In the meantime, if you have any questions about your options, please feel free to email me.

      Thanks,
      Emily

  13. Emily, I appreciate your thorough and informative explanation.

  14. Brian,

    It looks like we’ll just have agree to disagree, and see how the whole thing pans out! But yes, you are absolutely correct about copyright registration. The damages that one is entitled to with registration prior to the infringement changes the whole ball game, and the problem is that most artists are unaware of this. Most of my legal career has been spent pleading with artists to register their works and trying to portray how important timely registration is. And, to that end, I created Copyright Collaborative (www.copyrightcollaborative.com) to help them understand the actions that need to be taken to fight a good, effective fight. (Our launch date is tentatively December 1). Once artists learn to fight back against infringers, whether it be through social media or the court system, the problem *may* have an end in sight.

  15. Barbara Knauf says:

    Obtaining copyright protection is simple. Make copies of your artwork and send them into the Library of Congress, copyrights, in Washington, D.C.
    Copyright them yourself for a few dollars, don’t need an attorney. That way you are protected. You can get online to get the registration forms and print them out. Then sign and date and mail them in. You are protected from the date you signed.
    If you don’t protect yourself this easy way, you have little recourse later. I had done that years ago for a line of plush toys I had designed and marketed nationally. I also trademarked the merchandise. I was ripped off and undersold by one of the largest toy manufacturers, but found an Intellectual Properties attorney who took my case on a contingency, because I could prove my copyrights and trademarks.
    I won a settlement. So, copyright your designs, you can do so in batches, and then you are in a position to take legal action.
    If you dated your original designs and signed them, you may still have a chance, too.
    If you do neither, you can only blame yourselves, there is no such thing as honesty in the real commercial world of today.

  16. I have a question. How expensive is it to register or copyright one’s artwork? I have no idea. I am working on several series but most of my work is not serial, other than the medium. Even then I work in several mediums. Just a ball park figure will suffice.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.copyright.gov/eco/

      If you download the file that is appropriate for your work, you will find the payment requirements. If you resell your work, consider the cost as a portion of the value of the work. As you can see from the above discussion, it more than pays for itself should you ever need to call upon it.

      • eCO Online System

        File a copyright registration for your work through the Copyright Office online system.

        Before using the service, we recommend you first read eCO Acceptable File Types, eCO Tips, eCO FAQs, or eCO Tutorial (PowerPoint) eCO Tutorial (PDF). For recently added features, see eCO Updates.

        Advantages include:

        Lower filing fee of $35 for a basic claim (for online filings only)

      • Betsy — You can register a series as well. Just to be clear… your artwork, at least in the US, is protected by copyright automatically…. BUT you should register the copyright. There is a FAQ on the US Copyright Office website that may be very helpful if you want a basic understanding of copyright in general.

    • Betsy,

      You can register your works as a collection (i.e., under one application) IF the works in the collection were all created in the same year and first published (i.e., first accessible by the public) on the same date. A copyright application costs $35 to file, under most circumstances. And you can do it electronically. Copyright Collaborative (www.copyrightcollaborative.com) will have a tutorial on filing a copyright application within the next month or so. If you have any questions, please email me.

      Thanks!
      Emily

  17. Betsy it is Not very expensive. Maybe 40 bucks or so. And you can copyright a lot of work for that.

    Emily I would tend to agree with you. Sorry Brain.

    But if what Brian reports is true I am VERY disappointed. There is no excuse for plagerism. And because of Congdon’s actions a thief will go free. But which thief?

    • It will def’ change the game if in fact she did not have permission to use the photographs. It seems clear, based on research that others have done, that the images match. One of the images was under a Creative Commons agreement that dictates that it can only be used as long as altered work based on it falls under the same agreement. So if that is correct… technically anyone can alter that specific work by Congdon and there is zero she can do about it (one of the dangers of Creative Commons I suppose).

      Another person is putting together something that will show that she may have in fact traced directly from the photographs in questions. As I’ve pointed out… if you look at her work there are many variations of skill level — so there may be some truth to that. I’m not convinced that it is merely an aesthetic choice — the critic in me is saying that she simply traces stuff if she is unable to draw it free hand. Which, as a pro illustrator, tends to be frowned upon. That said, I’m not exactly against tracing as a method depending on the context. I’ll offer an update if I read more.

      Hopefully Lisa can clear some of this up today. I’ve yet to hear from her.

      • Brian,

        You are correct that it is a game changer if there was no permission obtained to use those photos (though I see those images aren’t the ones at issue with the ornaments). The last photograph, I would say, is transformative use, but the rest are pretty close. Pity.

        Emily

        • Emily — The polar bear walking illustration is awfully close to the photograph. Also, the deer one — the main one she has argued about… has been linked, and matched, to a photograph. People have been sending me stuff… and I have found other examples as well. I will probably follow up in a few days. I’m waiting for Lisa to respond… which she has yet to do. The irony being that she has had time to promote artwork created over the weekend. Ha.

      • Betsy,

        You can register your works as a collection (i.e., under one application) if the works were all created in the same year and all published on the same date (published = accessible to the public via trade show, website, catalogue, etc.)

        The filing fee is $35 per application, and it’s pretty easy to do. I would recommend filing electronically via http://www.copyright.gov. We at Copyright Collaborative (www.copyrightcollaborative.com) will be posting a tutorial on how to file a copyright application once we launch in the next month or so.

        Best,
        Emily

  18. i’m sorry but as a quilter and artist, I have been shocked for the last 40 years to see quilters copyrighting historic patterns that they didn’t originate. Also, with a son living in Finland, and my husband working in Canada I have seen countless images that could be confused with these. It has to be acknowledged that folk art has always been and should be passed down, free for all folk to use. There is a town here in Kansas where swedish descendants have kept alive crafts that are hardly available in Sweden anymore. Protecting original art is extremely important, but I find even the slightest variation of folk theme enough to preserve, not infringe on reproduction of heritage work that should be unfettered.

    • Jb — That is exactly why I think Congdon will lose her case against Foster if in fact she pursues it. And in light of this other stuff… trust me — Foster’s defense will likely point to it.

  19. I’m posting this on my Art Scene right now! Every artists needs to know, be aware, and take action. I hate that Ms. Congdon is going through, but with this article and going viral, I know it’s opening doors in mighty ways! I wish her the best!

    Shame on Cody Foster and Co. for doing this desipicable thing!

  20. Whatever happened to imitation is the best form of a compliment. I think this is a case of “gee I wish I had thought to sell my designs to a gift company”. I am interested in this topic because I am not familiar with the laws around artistic rights and as a artist and jewelry designer I want to be educated. At what point does the inspiration from seeing someone else’s work that evolves into my own work become mine and not a copy? Are there resources someone can refer me to for answers? I am just starting out and plan to put some of my work on the market soon. I want to do it right and not infringe on anyone else’s rights. I am still finding my way to my own style so I am viewing others work to inspire my own creation. No copy is ever exact and wouldn’t it only be an infringement if I tried to sell my work as an original of someone else’s and not my own?

  21. It is a shame what’s happening here, but what of the artist allegedly copying her poses from photographs? I’ve seen comparison of both photo and her art, and I must say, the poses are identical (to the point where she didn’t complete the feet, because in the photo they are covered with snow, or can’t be easily seen). I’ve not heard of any photographer coming forward as of yet, but still, is this case debunked since the infringement came before Cody Foster? I too want to take them down, but small business stealing from small business isn’t right either.

  22. I have no idea what to think at this point. Take the case of Richard Prince “rephotographing” Sam Abell’s photograph taken for a cigarette ad. Prince’s “rephotograph” then was sold at an auction for over $1Million dollars and to add insult to injury now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s certainly different than using the image as a reference to recreate an entire new piece of artwork but then again if I recall correctly that was his defense. By photographing Abell’s original he created a Prince original. Doesn’t sound very fair to me. But now the lines are blurred – what’s fair and what’s not? Better yet what’s ethical and what is not? Are there any completely original concepts left at this point?

  23. I think Congdon tried to pull the wool all over everyone’s eyes – the artists who created the original work. the people who thought they were purchasing ‘original’ works and the authors who where duped into thinking that she had drawing talent. Her only talent is tracing. The problem is that when something is traced it…well…looks traced. Her portraits are a perfect example. They look as if a 6th grader made them. In fact, a 6th grader could if given a sheet of tracing paper. By uncovering her ‘secret’, Congdon has been exposed con artist and no one wants to buy that.

    Lisa Congdon is just as guilty as Cody Foster. Why? Because she literally copies the work made by others and has the audacity to sell it to people and call it ‘original’. She’s an artist alright—a con artist.

    http://thomasallenonline.com/2013/11/13/copycat/

  24. Her work appears to be copied (traced) from other’s photos and actual art work. Look closely – she really has no talent or original ideas. She is good at self promotion but not much else. I’m not saying Foster should copy her but seriously? She is the pot calling the kettle black.

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  1. […] original work ( illustrations of animals) had been ripped off. You can read about this story on Alleged Copyright Theft Goes Viral. The point to all of this is it doesn’t matter if you are a big company or a self publishing […]

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