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Artist Says Target Stores Ripped Off Bicycle Film Festival Artwork

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by underthesea

underthesea's picture
In The News

Artist Steve MacDonald noticed his artwork being used by Target—looks like the mega-store has incorporated what certainly appears to be the artist’s bicycle-themed artwork, in an allegation of copyright infringement. Appearing in Target’s “Room Essentials” or RE Style, rows of bicycles appear on a pillow cover—bikes that look awfully familiar when paired next to MacDonald’s 2009 artwork he created for the Bicycle Film Festival 2009.

The seemingly shy, San-Francisco, California-based artist, Steve MacDonald, created his bicycle-inspired artwork for the Bicycle Film Festival 2009—with his art subsequently appearing on the film festival’s website and on marketing and textile items circulated to promote the event a year ago.

In response to the copyright infringement allegation, Target’s corporate office issued statement to the media—essentially a standard, vague semi-apology (without apology), so as not to insinuate acknowledgement of any legal responsibility in the legal accusation.

Apparently MacDonald first heard of the Target use through a friend--that his poster design for 2009 Bicycle Film Festival looked suspiciously like a Target body pillow cover. After visiting a Target store and purchasing the pillow cover, MacDonald then wrote a blog post carrying the title: “Target Ripped Off My Art!”

MacDonald elaborated upon the alleged copyright infringement, telling the local paper The Bay Citizen:

“The thing that’s so similar is that they used the off-gray, off-greens [that I used]. It’s pretty rare to see those colors, so for them to have used the same color palette…” MacDonald trailed off. “The types of bikes that they chose, too…I’ve never seen anyone use a tall bike in an art piece.”

MacDonald says his poster design for the 2009 Bicycle Film Festival was also widely circulated—because the film festival travels around the world—and the artist had designed T-shirts and variations on the original artwork in different colors. Whether poster form or on t-shirts, MacDonald’s artwork contained the same motif of the hand-drawn bikes.

Target, for its part, said that it “takes such complaints very seriously”—a seriously vague statement.
Unfortunately—particularly for artists who get ripped off, and actually give a damn about having their artwork stolen—MacDonald didn’t do anything to seize the opportunity for other artists who are the target of copyright infringement. The allegation concerning the Target corporation, and the artist’s work that he swears was stolen (which, considering his complete lack of seeking monetary damages of any type, seems to only further the claim of validity) unfortunately also exemplifies exactly why big companies do get away do certain infringement—specifically because they can.

MacDonald seems a very likeable—and sincere—guy. Perhaps that is what makes the copyright infringement allegation so sad—and MacDonald’s lack of bettering the artistic arena, and its legal issues, even sadder. The artist doesn’t seem to be the greedy sort, an admirable trait—but he’s also skipped the opportunity, for artists in general, to help ensure future legal claim to their artwork.

Apparently MacDonald’s main complaint, oddly, seemed to be more of a frustration with the Target corporation’s website than with stolen artwork—where he said he left a comment, which received no response. The artist’s on-camera media interview displays what, understandably, appears to be hurt feelings in the alleged copyright infringement issue with Target.

Unfortunately the bicycle artist made two key problematic verbalizations, making any potential legal pursuit over the alleged Target infringement basically a virtual impossibility:

a) MacDonald stated, on camera to the media, that he basically has no intent to sue Target over the alleged copyright infringement of what he claims to be his bicycle artwork; there goes any financial recovery or award of any monetary damages in the matter, even if the artist changed his mind. Maybe more importantly, the odds of the artist actually swaying Target to cease using what he says is his artwork is probably also nil—with no corporation now fully aware that he is essentially unwilling to pursue any legal battle, even out of necessity.

b) MacDonald coupled his statement concerning no intent to legally pursue Target with the insinuation that he would have allowed the corporation to use his artwork had it asked, and—one step further—that he would have made the artwork available, at a low price.

Attorneys aren’t going to exactly be busting down the artist’s door, after those on-camera statements.

While the meek may inherit the earth, they’re certainly not inheriting any funds.

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