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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington environmental group is accused of an art heist. The artist claims the non-profit Save the Cape is using his painting in a way it was not intended, and now the group won’t give it back.

Save the Cape is all about protecting the Cape Fear River. Now, artist William Puckett is trying to protect his intellectual property from the environmental group.

“It’s so sad to me that something that should be so good has put such a bad taste in my mouth,” Puckett said.

Last year, Puckett created a circular oil painting for the non-profit group to auction off, but the sale never happened.

“I’d like to have it back so I can do something else with it,” Puckett said. “I didn’t paint the painting to be hung in one of the member’s houses. It was meant to raise money for the organization.”

His wife Lauren also created a logo for Save the Cape. She says the organization paid for the rights to that image, but now the group is also using the logo with the painting on its website and Facebook page.

“I said, ‘Listen: you can return the painting and cease the use of our image. That’s fine. No problem, but if you want to keep it, why don’t I sell you the painting at a discounted rate and all the rights to it, and you can have it?'” Lauren said.

The Pucketts say they asked for $500. They were offered less than that.

“We were foolish enough. We don’t put things in contracts,” Lauren said. “Well, I don’t feel actually foolish. I feel like we trusted an organization, and I totally got taken advantage of.”

Now, the Pucketts are done negotiating. They just want their painting back.

“Bbecause of the way we’ve been treated, because of the way the situation has been handled, I personally would like to distance myself from them,” William said.

We contacted Mike Rice with Save the Cape to get his side. He told us no comment.

We spoke with an attorney, who told us this situation may well raise substantial copyright law violation and breach of contract issues.

We’ll keep you updated.

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