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)


nangel9 said...

Thank you Beki. Thoughtfully presented.

Anonymous said...

As a newbie I am grateful for the insight. We are hoping to start an online business soon but I have to look further into the copyright to how we copyright our designs. I can't exactly copyright my kumihimo work as it is the tool that creates the braid.

Just to clarify if I am inspired by a design that I see in a magazine, if I were to sell my inspired piece online with a nod to the original creator I would be ok legally? I don't want to end up on a slippery much to learn. Thanks!

Patricia Williams, Charlotte, NC said...

Wow, Beki, you are a beader and as a writer. Well put! One more thing, keep beating that horse...we all need to be reminded sometimes.

Patricia Williams, Charlotte, NC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. said...

A very gentle and kind way to get this important message out there! Thank you.

Beki said...

Hiya Newbie! When you create patterns/instructions/graphics or images to sell as instructions or along with a kit, as soon as you put those items into a tangible form (on to paper or a computer document) they hold a copyright by you. If you want to register those copyrights there is information on how to do that on the copyright website:

You do not need to register a copyright in order to protect your intellectual property, but in the unlikely event that you would need to sue somebody having the works registered can be a benefit although not always an absolute necessity.

As for your question about selling, if the pattern does not already come with specific instructions on whether you can or cannot sell the finished piece, your best course of action is to contact the original designer asking for permission.
Many times they are offering you the pattern for a one time usage for yourself or a gift.

Best of luck with your Kumihimo!

tinybeads2004 said...

Thank you, Beki, for a very well written article on copyright issues. I really like the fact that you specifically address beading instruction in magazines and kits. magazine articles in particular are assumed by many beaders to be "free for the world" to use. I've argued till I'm blue in the face on that one!
thank you so much for saying all of this again. I'd love to ask my local bead society to hand out your article at their next meeting ... your words are your property and I'd need your permission to do this.
Mary Alexander

Beki said...

If you think it would be helpful, Mary, please share!

aleta said...

Hi Beki, this is a great article about Copyright, and you have expressed many of my frustrations in dealing with newbies and other not-so-newbies. I have had experienced teachers & storeowners teaching my Indespiral pattern w/o asking; i have had other beadweavers doing the pattern and selling item that they made, without giving credit or asking. And, since it had been published in B&B oct. 2005, I have seen 100's of beaders doing the pattern, many not giving credit at all. I have had a person in Italy, flat out copy my instructions and publish them online for others to buy, with no credit given. Another person in France published my pattern, along with her slightly altered version, and it is still on her website for all to share. She did give me credit, however, but no one really notices that. A company in Korea has been selling the pattern w/o my permission. The biggest problem came when someone took my spiral pattern and used it in their design and B&B published it in 2010. B&B said that they didn't have to credit me, they were just doing it out of courtesy. Really! They did credit me, but not many seem to notice, and now 'her' design is at the top of B&B's header and it has been for almost a year! No mention of me there... So thanks for letting me 'call out'! but I feel people should know about these things!

The magazines only compound the problem - they seem to 'blur' the line between the meaning of 'technique'and'idea' - something that you cannot copyright, and the term 'pattern', which you can. In my opinion, they want to call everything out there a 'technique' so that they can re-publish articles, and let readers believe that what they are publishing is free for everyone and not copyrightable, (other than their own copyrights as a magazine itself).
If I were to do it over, I would never have published anything in a magazine! Sorry folks.

Anonymous said...

Beki, this is something I harp on to the members of my Bead Society. Your article was well thought out, and concise. Thanks so much! I think I'll print it out and let my beady friends read it at the next Bead Society meeting, if it's okay with you! Again, thanks for writing this!!

Klew said...

Well said and should be mentioned in EVERY TRADE Magazine as well...
As a store owner, I often have beaders come in with a tin full of their wares trying to sell or barter. Most often the designs are recognizable from one mag or another so I inquire further...and take a few moments to enlighten them. Same with people who learn then go out and teach dozens of others! It's maddening and boggles my mind. Although I am not exactly a beader I have had many occasion of simular stories- One gal went into a store where I sell my beads and told them SHE makes "Klew Beads" would they like to buy some? ~ Really! Thanks for letting us share this blog as I plan to do on both of mine.... Be Well, Klew

Crimson Frog Designs by Kinga Nichols said...

Dear Beki, I found you through FaceBook, and I am so glad I did!
This is such a complex subject, because oftentimes, the problem lies withing what is considered a pattern, and what is a technique...
I want to share a blog post with you by my friend Marsha Wiest-Hines who herself was a victim of what I consider theft of her intellectual property.
Please check it out if you have a moment to do so.
I do bead embroidery, and to me, the whole creative process is just so very intuitive, I already have so many ideas swirling in my head that I can ever make into a piece of finshed jewelry, i simply am dumbfounded how can talented , capable artist lower themselves to stealing one another's designs.
Having said that, I am a leader of an etsy team focusing on bead embroidery, and even we had to deal with copyright infringement... So I understand, that sometimes people just don't know better, and they need to be told, gently.
And so your article does just that, and I am so gad you put this all into words. I will share it.
Thanks, Kinga

Marissa @ Sea Flower Studios said...

Thank you so much for a great post Beki!
I've been creating jewelry for years but have only been selling for about a year and still am always learning. I am very careful not to copy others work and to give credit to others whenever I can.
I do have a question that I would love your input on. I have recently started making some chain maille pieces. I would never dream of taking credit for the the pattern (for example the Byzantine pattern) because it's something that has been around for centuries and is commonly made and there are tutorials everywhere. After reading your post I'm considering adding a little info about the history of chain maille but is that going to far? How would you suggest I handle this?

Aurora said...

Dear Beki - it has been many years and here I am - finally , back to beading again after beating cancer and loosing my husband.

I found your article while searching for anything at all that might help me as I am just now trying to stop B&B from continuing to sell the issue of their magazine where Dori Jamison blatantly stole and published my netted basket style bag as her own. That was back in 2004 - but just this month I found out they are selling the issue again. They have also announced that they will be putting the old magazines on CD and readying them to sell them on disc - which will never end. (this will apply to all the old issues).

I've asked them to pull the issue with my stolen work - and they will not per Kevin Keefe of Kalmbach. He refuses to stop the re-distribution of my stolen art piece with instructions - per the letter I just received today. He's not an attorney but V.P. editor. He shows no regard whatsoever for the stolen property, even though in 2004 they admited it was stolen and did a tiny blurb in the next issue stating that it was my work, not Dori's.

Does anyone here want to tell me what to do now to protect my property or even have an idea that does not cost hundreds of dollars? Right this moment there is a hurt inside of me as an artist that I'm not quite sure what to do with. I'm an old lady (widow) on Social Security Disability and designing beadwork and patterns is the only way I have to make extra money - while they sit out there and collect their income from resales of a magazine with my stolen instructions in it, that makes it impossible for me to compete by selling my individutal "now stolen" pattern.

For background on myself, I published the "BeadAholic Quarterly" from 1995-2000 with the last years issues having been available on line. I do know copyright law from experience and have never knowingly infringed on anyone else. Bead and Button still, simply ignores me - and - because it costs a fortune to hire an attorney they know they can do whatever they want, as in 99% of the cases, who has the money? It's sure not the artist.
Do you know that just to write a letter to the offender (Bead and Button/Kalmbach Publishing) a good copyright attorney charges $600 in Colorado?

Anyone interested in this plight can contact me at:
Aurora Mathews.

P.S. Beaded Art is NO different than artwork by Picaso or Michaelangelo. Only the media used to express the art piece or structure is different. You are correct in assuming that technique that is ancient is freely useable but if you want to re-paint a "Picaso" to re-sell it - that is theft! There is a big difference between being inspired by an artist and flat out copying or simply chaning a couple of colors or steps to make another artists work yours. Many artists do allow sales of their "copies" in limited numbers for "pin money" by private individuals but allowing more than that means that next year it will be coming in shipped to the U.S. by the hundreds from 3rd world countries for $1.00 each completed, by copycats (art theives) in other countries. It's even worse when the theft is occuring by the "beader" next door. Don't do it please. It is NOT OK!

Beki worded her "blog" so beautifully. ButI'm not feeling so charitable right now as I am being stolen from (again) right now and it hurts so bad. Until you have been there as an "artist" you can't know how distructive art theft is to the artist. So saying it harshley and without soothing the words. Do NOT steal other artists work. Do your own! Ask permission of the artist if you want to do anything more than make an article for yourself or a family member and when someone complements "your" work, thank them for liking your work but the actual designer was "X".

Anonymous said...

It's all about respect, isn't it? So many of us put our designs out there for the enjoyment of others, and are thrilled to hear from those we inspire, or from those who appreciate our creativity. All it takes is a simple acknowledgement, or a simple request for permission to use someone's design.

As a graphic artist as well as a beader, I am also sensitive to the "borrowing" of graphics for use on people's websites. Just as you call for beaders to respect and give credit to beadwork designs, graphic artists should also be respected. (Said gently): It would be great to see you lead by example and give credit to the source of the question mark graphic. :-)

Beki said...

I found the question mark graphic on a royalty free image source website online with no creator name listed with the image.

Deb said...

Thank you Beki for once again bringing this up. As an LBS owner, I see it all the time. Newbies get excited and many of them get visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads when they learn a new technique/stitch/pattern. We never teach a class that's someone else's design unless we have permission. AND we stress in every class that the pattern is not to be reproduced/copied/re-created or sold without proper credit to the designer. We also suggest that if they want to sell or teach that design they should contact the designer for permission. If they don't get permission, please respect that and don't teach/sell it!

I had a lady in the store a while back who wanted to take one of our classes so she could "teach it back home". I explained that she needed to get permission to do that and she said, "How is she going to know?" I got quite "preachy" with her and she backed off, but I'm pretty sure that her LBS "back home" has a new instructor with a "brand new" design.