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PUTTING THE (STREET) ART IN WALMART?

Walmart is known for rolling back prices, but are they also making moves that roll right over the intellectual property rights of a Bay Area artist?

The politics of this dispute give it an extra bit of oomph. Walmart, known to be a leading member of the establishment and conservative and not the greatest in terms of worker treatment, has allegedly misappropriated the more anti-establishment work of Eddie Colla and incorporated that work into its art prints. The Colla work in question is certainly protectable as a two-dimensional work of visual art. Walmart’s piece, on first glance, looks to be quite similar. Was Walmart’s manner of moving into the street art game a colossal blunder?

-ATTORNEYSCOTT – scott@copy[email protected]

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Dear YTWWWN:

 

Eddie Colla, an Oakland-based artist, created his well-known piece, “Ambition” in 2009. Depicting a female graffiti writer with a spray can, the piece reads, “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” But in November 2013, Colla discovered an exact replica of his work marketed as an art print on the Walmart website — without his permission or any sort of legal agreement.

 

A big box retailer copying an independent artist note-for-note was not the kind of audacious underdog story Colla envisioned in the work’s text. “I made a piece about individuals controlling their own fate and not making their success contingent on the approval of others,” said Colla. “It then gets adopted by a neo-feudal corporation like Walmart. A corporation whose employment practices have created a 2 million person underclass in this country.”

 

As Colla dug deeper, he discovered that Walmart was selling the mass-produced prints of his work through a wholesaler called Wayfair, who is marketing Colla’s work as a Banksy print through Amazon and Overstock.com in addition to Walmart’s website. Eddie Colla’s name was omitted entirely and his signature was taken off the piece. Friends who visited the Walmart website after they heard Colla’s story noticed the Colla knock-off showing up in their Facebook ads and Google ads on the various sites they visited when they subsequently surfed the net — presumably because of a cookie from the Wayfair website.

 

The idea of big box retailers like Walmart appropriating an anti-establishment art form, street art, to further their profits is all too ironic. The bastions of conservatism and propagators of the increasing wealth gap and declining middle class, companies like Walmart have an ideology pitted against the anti-authoritarian message of Colla’s “Ambition.” Colla chose to combat the unabashed theft of his work with parody — and, of course, an impending lawsuit. A new version of “Ambition” titled “It’s Only Stealing If You Get Caught” shows the same image with altered text: “Introducing the anti-establishment, left-wing subversive vandalism collection. Glorified vandalism available now at Walmart.”
The satirical new artwork — which recently was debuted on a San Francisco billboard on the intersection of Oak St. and Divisadero St. — points out that Walmart’s greed has no limits. Even a radical art form has the potential to be swallowed up by the behemoth machine of corporate capitalism. Colla released a print of “It’s Only Stealing If You Get Caught” with 1XRun on earlier today, December 2, to raise awareness for his cause and gather funds for the hefty legal fees necessary to sue Walmart and Wayfair for the theft of his artwork. The print sold out within one hour, but it’s only a start.

- Online source

The images are below, Colla on top, Walmart on bottom:

Displaying IMG_1143.jpgDisplaying walmart screen shot 2.png

Is Copying in the Cards?

ATTORNEYSCOTT COMMENTARY:

For reasons too boring to get into, the Copyright Office has deemed fonts to not be worthy of copyright protection. It doesn’t matter if it is a complex graffiti font or a font made of sleeping pandas, fonts are generally not protectable. But, if you use your font to create a literary work, that work may be subject to protection if it is creative. There is no delineated length requirement for a literary work, it simply has to be creative and stand alone as a work of art. Which brings us to the issue of alleged design theft at the heart of this post. An artist creates a literary work with accompanying font design that captures the angst that’s felt when one loves and loses and dwells on the loss of that love. It is a literary work that is on the pithy side, to be sure. But should it be enough to garner protection? Even if the work is not deemed by the Copyright Office to be protectable, is the apparent appropriation seen below acceptable?

The original work, by Mallory Rose, is on the top, and the “inspired” work, by Ashkahn, is on the bottom.

By: Attorney Scott – [email protected]

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Saving Face? Li’l Kim and the Zombie

ATTORNEYSCOTT COMMENTARY:

Li’l Kim is a recording artist well-known in the world of hip-hop and pop music for songs like “Crush on You” and “Lady Marmalade.” She is reportedly preparing a new album for a late-2013 or early-2014 release. In advance of this release date, she has been doing promotion and attempting to build buzz. And, buzz was certainly built when, in mid-November 2013, she began offering for sale online her new single, “Dead Gal Walking.”  The single bore a very distinct piece of artwork on its cover.

So distinct in fact, that artist Samantha R. took notice. She did so because the artwork looked very similar to an image Samantha had created just recently, in October 2013. Turns out it was the same photograph (created by Samantha), the same makeup (created by Samantha), and the same Samantha (it was her in the image). But it was being marketed online (complete with “Li’l Kim 2013″ copyright notice language!) as the cover of Li’l Kim’s new single, and was featured prominently in Li’l Kim’s social media presences. Will Li’l Kim learn that just because an artist is undead does not mean that the artist loses her intellectual property rights?

Below you will see Li’l Kim’s artwork (on the top), and Samantha’s artwork (on the bottom)

By: Attorney Scott – [email protected]

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Li'l Kim's artwork

Samantha's artwork, featuring Samantha.

 

 

 

 

 

Cody’s Crazy Copyright Capers – All Bottled UP

Cody’s Crazy Copyright Capers #2 – All Bottled Up.

A bottle is not the world’s most complex object, and we are all free to go forth and create as many bottles in as many shapes and sizes and colors as our imagination can conjure up. But, some might say that when you ape somebody’s bottle’s shapes and dimensions, and then copy verbatim that bottle’s text imagery, that you have gone too far.

In 2008, Alyssa Ettinger,  created a few different bottle designs by taking casts from antique bottles. Each of these bottled included fun, old-timey bottle-relevant embossing. In 2011, Cody Foster introduced some bottles that looked familiar in shape, but bore embossing that did not look coincidental (unless they somehow located the same antique pieces as those used by Ms. Ettinger).

The Evidence Mounts – More Cody Foster Copying?

ATTORNEYSCOTT COMMENTARY:

News of Cody Foster copping the designs of Lisa Congdon led to a much-needed and sometimes intelligent discussion of the protection of art and artists, and what was lawful and/or acceptable when it came to a corporation borrowing/stealing/being inspired by the work of others when designing and selling its products. Since then, we have received word that the Lisa Congdon brouhaha was far from the only time that Cody Foster has been accused of having sticky fingers. This post is the first in a series that we will call:

Cody’s Crazy Copyright Capers

Note that we are not stating that Cody has violated the Copyright Act, or any other laws for that matter, or even done anything wrong. It is entirely possible that one or more of the pieces of possible misappropriation that you will see in connection with the Capers has been independently created, authorized by the artist, or is otherwise cool. You can view the material, and draw your own conclusions

ATTORNEYSCOTT – [email protected]

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Caper #1 Chill Birds – Mimi Kirchner created her fuzzy woodland tree-dwellers in 2011, as you can see in the image on the below right. In 2012, two fuzzy woodland tree-dwellers popped up in the pages of Cody Foster’s holiday catalog.

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