Saturday, December 10, 2011

Copyright? Again?

I hate the phrase, “Beating a Dead Horse”.  It sounds horrid.  But it really is apropos for copyright issues.  For those of us who have been online for several years, and/or those of us who have needed to discuss or deal with issues pertaining to copyright and beadwork, it really feels like you are “Beating a Dead Horse”. You speak your mind time and time again, offer links, give examples…but it seems to fall on deaf ears all too often.

But….there are so many reasons why the topic needs to be discussed again and again. 

The main reason?  Because people continue to steal others artwork, designs, images, instructions, ideas and claim them as their own.  Or they will use another’s artwork and just not bother to credit them for it.  Why credit someone?  Well, aside from the common sense theory that mentioning someone when you’ve used something they have designed will then get their name out there…that maybe the viewer might think, “Hey!  I really like this persons designs, I think I’ll go purchase a pattern from them, too”.  There is also the notion that when you credit someone you are being considerate.  I know, I know….manners, what a bore!  They seem to be taking a swift exit stage left along with compassion, understanding, consideration and ethics.

Another reason to continually discuss the issue of copyright is that there are still people who question it.  They truly do not understand the concept.  Maybe they interpret the law in such a way that it becomes confusing for them.  Maybe they want it to lean in their favor and so they intentionally interpret it how it suits them best.  Or maybe they don’t give a rats a$$.  Here is where I would have included the link to the copyright office.  But since there is the excuse that the legalese makes no sense, why bother. 

It really is rather simple.  Did you design that pattern independent of seeing it elsewhere?  If not, it is not yours.  No matter how much of it you change, regardless of any percentage, color changes, bead size changes, focal point changes, etc., etc., etc. changes…it is NOT yours.  And if it is not yours you do not have the right to claim it as yours.  It is illegal under the copyright law for you to do so…but even more, it is ethically wrong for you to do this to a fellow beader. (PS...this blog post is not about coincidence, nor should coincidence be used as an excuse for you to be unethical.  That is a different topic.)

Did you buy the pattern from a designer?  See it in a magazine?  Find it online?  Purchase a kit?  If so, regardless of what you do to this item it belongs to the original designer.  You have both a legal and moral obligation to not claim it as your own. 

You could make those changes you want to make, but then you simply mention that this item was inspired by So-n-So’s, Fancy Beaded Widget.  There now…that didn’t hurt so badly, did it?  Actually, if you stop and let yourself feel inside you’ll see that it actually felt good.  You were a good person.  And you helped out a fellow artisan by giving them the credit they earned.  And you set an example for your kids, friends and associates by just making a really simple gesture.  Wow…you should be proud of yourself for being such an honest and caring human.

The last reason for continually discussing this issue?  Newbies.  They happen every day.  Thank goodness!  They are a wonderful group of people, fresh, excited, eager to learn.  Everything beady is amazing for them.  I get energized just being around a newbie.  Their excitement flows over in abundance and I get to feel some of it, too.  However, the newbie can also be clueless.  A simple mention that there are copyright issues involved with the patterns/designs they are learning from many times does not make a big enough impact on the newbie.  Their heads are in the clouds due to the level of excitement they are feeling about all those sparkly beads and their newfound joy in what they can create with them that you pretty much sound like a Charlie Brown teacher when you start blathering on about copyright issues.  But don’t back off.  Keep teaching them.  As with all things in life, there is more than one side.  The newbie must accept the fact that there are issues regarding copyright that they will also need to take the time to learn about.  And if you are the one dealing with that newbie, it is your obligation to help them learn it. 

So why am I beating this horse again?  Because I experience copyright infringement often, either in my store, or through email, or I see it online when I’m browsing.  Today I felt the need to bring it up again because I got an email from a newbie beader.  She was so excited about what she just finished beading.  She was also clueless that just because she was the one to put the beads on the thread she was not the original designer.  She was the beader.  The designer of the pattern was never mentioned.  I did my best to help her understand that she gets even more kudos from me (and others) when she takes just a moment to acknowledge the originator of the design when possible. Her original reply was simply, “Why?”  After a few more emails I am happy to say that she understands now.

Oh, by the way…the design she beaded was mine.  She didn’t notice the name from the magazine article. I'm thinking next time she'll look for the name.  =o)