Last month, we reported on artist Ophelia Chong, who discovered that Starbucks’ recent branding was strangely close to her own art work. The artist has since decided to drop the case and I asked her why.
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Hrag Vartanian: Why did you decide to stop the case?
Ophelia Chong: When I first saw the packaging, I was a mix of surprise and hurt. Then an emotion that should be kept in check surfaced, pride. It became about Me and my Work. I reacted like a man who answers the door and looks down at a child that sort of looks like him, sort of sounds like him, but he is not really sure if it’s his because the child can’t tell him who the mother is.
I could see bits of myself in the Starbucks artwork, but then I wasn’t sure. And not being sure meant that I let go. Letting go means I am moving forward and going back to doing what I do.
HV: What did the lawyers tell you that made you change your mind?
OC: My attorney gave me good counsel and let me decide what I wanted to do. And I decided to move on.
HV: This doesn’t bode well for the small person trying to battle the big corporation, does it?
OC: Each artist will have to make that decision whether they want to take that fight to a conclusion. I decided not to because I could see that it was not as clear cut as other appropriations.
For instance Nike’s use of Minor Threat’s 1981 logo art for their 2005 skateboarding demo tour poster Major Threat, which was a very clear cut appropriation.
My work could’ve inspired Starbucks, but then again it could’ve been created completely outside of my influence; I will never know.
For the artist who feels their art was appropriated, they will need to decide if they have a case, find an attorney who will take it on contingency or have enough funds to carry on the case to a conclusion that might or might not fall in their favor.
Pick your battles well because the war is a long one. I chose to let go and to go back to creating my art unfettered by stress, anxiety and the toxicity of anger.