In How a company gets away with stealing independent designers work over at FastCo we learn about the most recent ripoff sold by Cody Foster and Co. West Elm have already pulled the designs from their store, while Lisa Congdon has taken to social media and her blog to publically shame the company as she can't afford to sue them to hell and back. Assuming Cody Foster and Co have a lawyer, it still would have been so much cheaper just to license Ms Congdon's work. The question is; why don't companies seem to bother these days?
— Lisa Congdon (@lisacongdon) October 14, 2013
While her bold colors and repeated patterns may be inspired by Sami clothing and/or some badass looking native Alaskan's dress, it's clearly her own original design as her black-line pattern is repeated in much of her work. Lisa wonders if Cody Foster builds the legal & lawyer fees involved into the cost of running their business, and looking at their rip-off trackrecord it seems rather likely. There's a flickr group dedicated to the design ideas repeated at Cody Foster and Co, as they've been sending ideas to be made in China since at least 2010.
CodyFosterandCo have barely any followers, and a rather bland web page... It seems that they're only online to look at Etsy crafters pages, while they factory make similar designs in China to sell via national retailers.
This is certainly not OK. While "copyright", "intellectual property", and "license" seem to have turned into four letter words as the debate about pirating music rages on via banners responding to billboards, people seem to forget that "copyright" is your right. You. The creator of the work. These independent designers and crafters who have adapted grandma's techniques and been inspired by everything from nature to folk art have created something. And when we no longer own what we create, what do we own?
"But as we all figure out how to maintain image rights and property within the abstract realm of technology we have to start drawing lines somewhere, right? Anyone else up for a boycott?"
We do have a way to maintain image rights, there's laws. Really, what we should have is lawyer working for free like everyone is asked to these days. And it would also be nice to not have to argue with people about "it's only ones and zeroes" and "it's a copy so it's not theft" and other semantic twists, because what is taken away is an individuals ownership of their own work.
In a world of ones and zeroes, this is the only thing we still have.