Return to the topic of Copyright.

So, I felt the need to revisit the Copyright topic.
First I have been doing research on *exactly* what copyright IS, and how you (in this case me), as the artist are protected. It is important that you (me) as the creator know just what it means to be protected – how you are protected, and what to do about it.
Secondly, there has of course been a continued dialog in the community about Copying, since the last Handmade Division Talk About blog within our team. It has evolved thru comments left on the members blogs; and in private. As well, of course as other venues, and the internet and art community at large.
One incident that I would like to share is the prevalence of a certain school of thought. And to be honest, it really took me by surprise that not only does this line of thought still exist, but seems to be quite common. That being –
“It’s ok (and perfectly acceptable) to copy someone else’s design for the following reasons:
It’s for my own personal collection.
I’m not selling it.
I have given *Credit* for the design to the original creator.
I only made 1. (or 3, etc) So it isn’t a big deal.
It’s ok. I saw it. I liked it. So I made it. It’s how I make my living.”
So this is the one that shocks me – It’s my job.
I recently ran across a photo on flickr, by a very skilled goldsmith. Of a recent ring he created. In the title, he called it “ 14K 50 Diamond Ring / Marco Bicego / Nine Band “Goa” Ring Copy” And proceeded to explain in the description, how a customer had brought him a page from a magazine (Marco Bicego / Nine Band “Goa” Ring / Ad) and asked him to “make me this ring”. He even included an image of the original page of the magazine – to show of I assume so proudly how well he was able to Copy it. Going on describing the process he used, and how thrilled his customer was with her new Copy of the original ring, as seen in the magazine.
At first, I was so *shocked* to see this from this goldsmith; I was speechless. I had held him in high regards, and in my high respect..… And Now, I have no problem saying I have Zero respect for this artist, or anyone using the same ethics code.
Reading thru the comments left on his photo(s); I was again, *shocked* reading all these various Artists applauding him in his perfect Copy. One even wrote what a great job of “reverse engineering“ he had done.
*speechless*
I wondered to myself; how could this very skilled goldsmith not only Believe it was perfectly ok to Copy someone else’s design outrightly, but to come onto a public forum/site and seem to be Bragging about it?
So, I conferred with another artist whom I also hold in respect, that believes Copying is wrong, but has a fairly different view on the details. She too was Shocked.
I had to go back to comment on the photo. After much thought about it.
In his reply, he states “That it has never occurred to him as a Copyright Violation.” That he thought if he credited the Original artist it was perfectly ok.
So I showed him some legal data (since he implied he might only look it up if he had time, since he thought he was in the clear) to show him he might not want to be publicizing his law breaking. He really didn’t appear care.
And again. Reading thru the many, many comments in his photo, I was *shocked* at the prevalence of how many other people agreed he did nothing wrong. Applauded him for his creation. Supported it was OK. One person even told a story about how they (or a friend) had a Copy of a well known designer’s ring made for her, in her size, in a BIG jewellery store, that carried the original Artists work. So she implied if they did it, it must surely be OK! Happens all the time…
I want to tell you. Because a big Shop did it for you, or a small independent artist, or anyone; DOES NOT MAKE IT OK! It’s still illegal. It’s still wrong! It is still fully violating the Original Artist’s copyright.
Yes, I know, it’s all been done before. If we all created on the basis of it not ever being done; so very few would ever make a single thing. I agree. Original ideas in a field like jewellery are rare. But the difference here, is not freaking out about everything you create, wondering if someone else had done it, or something almost like it…. The line is in Purposefully Copying another artist’s design. Because you liked it. It’s popular. Someone asked you to. It’s only for yourself. Doing so like this is not ok. It is wrong. Wrong WRONG *Wrong!*. If you are doing this for profit, for a customer it is 100X more wrong in my eyes. Though legally, it is equally wrong.
When you Rip off the design of a small artist, well, they probably haven’t filed a legal Copyright with the Copyright Office. And what can they do anyway, jump up and down and stomp their little feet a bit, right? And when you copy a Big Artist, with a well known name, they probably have filed, and have the means and the will to protect their designs, but you’re thinking, how are they gonna find out?
This does not make it any less ok. In either scenario. Period.
So really people. Don’t play the “Ignorance is bliss” card.
As an artist, it is your job to know the laws. To protect yourself, and to protect your creations.
By this I mean you owe it to yourself to know what you can and cannot do. How you can and cannot protect yourself. Ignorance is no excuse.
Do your homework. Know what is ok. And what isn’t.
And to get you Started – here are a few facts for you, from the Jewellery industry.
From National Jewelery Magazine – Protecting your Jewelry Design
“Copyright is a type of protection that is afforded to designers of “original works of authorship.” Under the Copyright Laws of the United States, the designer (or an individual or company to whom the designer has transferred the rights) is the only entity that may lawfully reproduce the copyrighted work, and/or display in public those derivation works which were based on the original copyrighted work.
Copyright protection is available for those jewelry designs which are sufficiently creative and artistic. The design must be original as to the author. An example of a copyrightable jewelry design is the well known A. Jaffe/Sandberg& Sikorski ring.
Although copyright rights are established as soon as the jewelry design has been created, it is desirable to promptly register the design with the Copyright Office. Prompt filing establishes a public record of the claim to copyright protection, establishes a presumption that the copyright is valid, and enables the designer to claim certain
Damages if and when a claim for copyright violation is made against an adverse party.
Most jewelry designers can easily file their own applications. Also the cost of filing a copyright application is only $20. About three months after filing, the Copyright Office will usually return a copyright registration to the person or entity that has filed an application.
If the owner of the copyrighted jewelry design becomes aware that someone is copying it, an action may be brought in Federal Court against the alleged violator. The legal test for whether there is a copyright violation comprises(a) whether the alleged violator had “access” to the jewelry design, and (b) whether the alleged infringing design is “substantially similar” to the copyrighted design. As to the former, access is usually presumed if the designer’s piece is being offered for sale in the marketplace.
Currently, copyright protection lasts for the life of the designer plus 50 years. If the work is made by an employee, and thus owned by an employer, it lasts for 75 years from the date it was first made available to the public, or 100 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.
Copyright protection for a jewelry design is a very powerful tool. However,every jewelry design may not be subject to copyright protection and, further, copyright only protects against the act of “copying.”
When is a copy an infringement?
(Clipped from a very informative article seen in full here Questions and Answers about Copyright
by Stephen E. Feldman of Stephen E. Feldman, P.C.)
The standard for infringement is that the piece is substantially similar and, of course, that the infringer copied the piece. There is no hard and fast standard of substantial similarity, but if the piece looks the same, even though it is not identical, it probably infringes (the rumors that it has to be 10% different are wrong: if the Mona Lisa were copyrighted, and you copied only the eyes and smile, it probably would still be infringement). A copyright lawyer should be consulted before any charges of infringement are made.
A great post from Ganoksin stating this:
” Webster Dictionary defines copyright as the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form (as of a literary, musical, or artistic work). “
And Finally – Some excellent resources
Sarah Feingold, an attorney and jeweler who serves as Etsy’s legal counsel, writes a helpful column on legal issues for artists, which includes several articles on copyrights and trademarks.
She’s also the author book that simplifies the legal issues involved in protecting your designs: Copyright for Artists – Quick and Easy Copyright Protection.