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When Corporations Want Profits, They Don't Ask for Permission

Large retail companies are stealing the work of independent artists — and forcing them to remain silent about it. 

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Similarly, Colla doesn't want to waste any more energy thinking about Walmart or worrying about the seemingly endless theft of his art. The initial back-and-forth with his attorney has already become an annoying distraction, he said. Colla added that any settlement he may be able to negotiate would be meaningless to a company like Walmart. "The first action I took is to talk about it," he said. "Bad publicity has a sort of shelf life. The money doesn't hold people accountable."

And in a few cases, positive publicity for infringed-upon artists is a tiny silver lining to a horrible nightmare. Several artists interviewed for this story reported that the exposure led to a small boost in sales. The revenue was nothing compared to losses from the infringement — but it was still a nice reminder that their work is valued.

Kirchner, one of Cody Foster's alleged victims, will not get any compensation from the ornament rip-off because she did not pursue legal action. But it wasn't a total loss: Representatives from West Elm, one of the companies that broke ties with Cody Foster, decided that they liked her dolls and want to work with her going forward.

Next holiday season, West Elm is going to do it the right way. It's hiring Kirchner as a collaborative designer.

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