Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What would you do? Skivving someone else's work.


A friend of yours knows that you do very fine beadwork, and she wants you to make something for her. Wonderful, you think, I'm getting a commission. But then she drops the bombshell on you: she wants you to make a piece for her that's "just like" the one she saw in a book or magazine.

Oops. You're no copyright skivver, but probably no one will ever know. And some magazines say that you can make copies for yourself or a friend. And you could really use the money from the commission...

What would you do?

I haven't had to face this exact issue, personally. I did have a gentleman email me and ask if it would be ok for him to use one of my how-to articles (in a magazine, not online) to make a piece for a customer who wanted THAT EXACT NECKLACE, but was unable to make it for herself. I have to tell you, I really appreciated him asking me. I'd never have known that he did it if he hadn't asked, but it made me feel really good about his personal ethics. Of course I told him that was fine.

I'm not sure what I'd do, though, if someone asked me to make something for them following someone else's instructions. It's just not what I do. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with it, as long as you handle it ethically. So, What would you do?

BTW, I added my answer to what I ended up doing to last week's post if you want to know!


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16 comments:

Robbie said...

I'd get in touch with the artist who created the original item and ask permission. Most will give it..

Heather said...

I would say no and invite them to have me make something unique and personal for them that no one else has ever seen. I want to be true to myself and honest with my customers. I am not in business to just make sales, I want to design and create my own art. That is my fundamental goal.

Pamy said...

People... there is nothing illegal or immoral to make a piece from a legally obtained copy or the article in question. You are supposed to make the items in the magazines and books. That's why people spend so much time making tutorials to publish. SO PEOPLE WILL MAKE THE PIECES. There is nothing here that even touches copyright. If you make an item from a book or magazine, you can then legally SELL or GIVE it away anything you own outright. I contacted the copyright office and that is what they told me.

Shocker alert - you can even TEACH from that book or magazine as long as each student has a legal copy in front of them and you can charge for teaching them because you would be charging for your time and expertise. All through school I never had a teacher who wrote the text book... and yet they were paid for the time they spent teaching me.

All the WRONG info out there has all the beaders out there scared to death to bead anything. It's so very sad.

Cyndi L said...

You might want to read the copyright notice inside each book or magazine before you assume that selling and teaching the designs contained in it are ok activities. Every publication has its own rules, and that is what copyright is all about...protecting the rights of the original artist and/or publisher at whatever level of protection they desire. For example, Bead&Button has the statement "The designs in B&B are for your personal enjoyment. The designs may not be taught or sold without permission."

Of course I want people to make the pieces that I post tutorials for. But I'm not in the business of creating designs so that someone else can profit from them without my permission. Will it happen? Probably. Should it? No.

Sig Wynne-Evans said...

Interesting...but Like Pamy says, there is room in the CR laws that allow for this sort of thing. It is the "Intended use" of a pattern book/magazine for people to make the items, give it away, or even sell it as long as it is not mass marketed.

As for the statement of every publication "having its own rules" that is like saying it has its own laws. They may want something one way, but is it legally enforceable? I could post a sign in front of my house of speed limit 15mph, but the cops could not enforce it just because I want it that way.

Even with that restriction stated, it would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.

Yes, we designers must have our rights protected. But if we offer designs for others to use, then we MUST allow (enforceable by law or only ethically) beaders to use it. That some beaders may wish to sell one or two pieces with our patterns MUST come into the equation of our decision as to whether or not to make the pattern available via books/magazines.

If we wish not, then please, do NOT offer the darned pattern for sale.

That's my opinion as a designer.

Sig

Cyndi L said...

I agree with you, Sig, in that it doesn't bother me to have people make my designs and sell them, short of mass-producing them like you said :-) Other designers wouldn't agree. They intend for their patterns to be used for personal use, not to be sold or taught. I'm not sure quite how we can reconcile this, but my personal choice would be to *always* ask the designer before selling or teaching.

Cyndi L said...

BTW, I should have added that I always loved the patterns and projects that you did for Jewelry Crafts! But I never sold any of them ;-)

Sig Wynne-Evans said...

Cyndi,
I think you and I are pretty much in agreement. Its just the designers who want to keep the tight reign. It just goes back to my question, of why do they make the pattern/design available in a publication, know what many if not most with to use a pattern for?

Glory of being published?

It's really not such a big deal when you get down to it.(being published).

I think the reconciliation is in designers understanding and accepting the typical use that will occur. Not strong arming the average crafter.


Glad you liked my JC articles. And I have NO problem if you make/sell items from those articles!! None at all!!

Cyndi L said...

Well now that I know that's how you feel about it... lol!!

I think the crux of the matter for me is in your statement about not strong arming "the average crafter". I agree totally. I want to help everyone who desires to learn the wonderful art of beading, through my tutorials, artist profiles, and educational posts. However, my business posts are not aimed at the average crafter, but at my readers who are also professionals or who are trying to become professionals.

I don't think any of us who make a living at art need to be copying anyone else's work, even if it's legal, except for the purposes of learning. Certainly I make demonstration pieces from other people's patterns and share them here...but I don't share the instructions or pass them off as anything but what they are...someone else's design. "See, if I can do it, you can too. Here's the book that has the instructions."

Ahhh, so many inspirations, so little time!

Pamy said...

I wrote the copyright office on this issue BECAUSE they are the law on the matter. It's like Sig said, just because they would rather scare people into fearing repercussions from making the items in the beading magazines doesn't mean it's right or even the law. Ethically? Nothing ethically wrong with making and giving or selling a few pieces from a tutorial. They have instructions so you can make them. Are you supposed to keep them all for yourself? I'd have beaded my way into another HOUSE!

If you were just supposed to be looking at the pictures and admiring the art, then it would be a coffee table book with no tutorials.

Getting permission is not required for ANY designer legally. I enjoy connecting with people who make my patterns, so sure it's nice to be contacted, it just doesn't have to be to get permission to do what I encourage all beaders to do.

MOST IMPORTANT!!! GET A GOOD PRICE FOR YOUR WORK! When you don't it makes it harder for the rest of us to be respected for our skills, time and materials.

Cyndi L said...

You raise a whole separate issue, one that we talk about here in my business posts frequently...making your business profitable. Under-pricing one's work is definitely detrimental to all.

KipperCat said...

What an interesting discussion. It appears that the uninformed opinion I had when I first started beading was correct after all! While I am far from a professional beader, I still try to approach my beading professionally. Among other things, this means that anything I give or sell will hold up well and not be other than as represented. If I've made something from another's design or pattern, I say so.

I've often seen pieces in bead magazines that intrigue me technically, but weren't something I would want to wear. Without permission to sell, I've skipped the project. The few hundred dollars a year I take in from beading are an important way to support my habit.

I usually prefer to make my own designs, so it's not a huge personal issue, But frankly, it irks me that the beading community has been taught that something is illegal when it is not. The idea that morality in beading should be different than in any other craft is also a bit insulting and elitist. Many dressmakers work from purchased patterns, and are not castigated for their lack of original design. Why should beaders be held to a different standard?

Cyndi L said...

I'm probably going to make some people mad by saying this, KipperCat, but the point you bring up leads me to think about the difference between being an artist and being a crafter. I know there's a lot of gray area in between the two, but one difference for me is the issue of creating your own designs vs making only those of someone else. For example, you mentioned dressmakers. Anyone who sews only from purchased patterns will *probably* not receive the designation artist or designer. Anyone who sells only work from other people's beadwork patterns will also not receive those titles. And that's just fine, as long as they are only making things as a hobbyist, for the fun of it, or maybe occasionally selling a piece. To be able to consider yourself a professional, I don't know...don't we want more?

Thanks for your input! Thought-provoking stuff :-)

Cyndi L said...

Rereading what I just wrote, I don't think I made one thing clear: I think your attitude towards the matter is professional, even if you don't technically consider yourself a professional. Making pieces from patterns to learn a skill and then coming up with your own twists and designs pushes you into the artist category in my estimation. For what that's worth! lol!!

ccrider2006 said...

This is an interesting topic for sure and very informative as well. I am not totally clear on where to stand on this. I use pieces I see in magazines or tutorials as inspiration and to learn a new technique but I always try to put my own spin on it either by selection of beads, closures, colors, etc. For example, I used a tutorial of yours on another artist for my Bead Soup project but I put my own spin on it by adding other elements. I made sure I credited both you and the original artist for the technique. I had a piece published that I learned the technique both from a teacher and through researching other designs. I used my own colors and came up with a completely different way to finish it but the teacher wanted to accuse me of copying her. When I took the class, nothing was said about this being her design and I had seen plenty of similar things out on the net and used all of those things as a springboard for my design. Was this copying? Nothing was said to me that any pattern was copyrighted. Unfortunately, there is so much out there and you can work on something you think is your own and turn around and someone else is doing it at the same time. I started teaching myself beaded kumihimo and coming up with designs and the next thing you know, I open a beading magazine and there is an article on it. Where do we draw the line? It really gets confusing and it is hard for some of us that are new to the beading to know what we should and shouldn't do. Thank you for addressing this topic.

Cyndi L said...

Hi Chris, thanks for sharing that experience. I'm sure it was pretty painful to be accused of "stealing" someone's design when you put so much work into making it your own. The teacher was also most likely wrong about her accusation. No one owns the stitches. No one. And since I know you, and know that you are very careful to give credit, even more than is strictly necessary, I really don't know why the teacher was upset. Why was she bothering to teach the class if she didn't want people to use the technique as a springboard for their own work?

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