Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food for thought: Copyright?

I've always made things and I've often just made things up as I go. I usually prefer to figure out how to make things on my own. Partly, as Claire mentioned in a recent post, I feel like I'm cheating when I use a pattern, partly because I like the challenge of making something work on my own. Another reason is that I usually can't afford to buy the books with the patterns I love - as a mostly self-taught crafter, this is why I love anyone I come across who shares their patterns, as I can learn some basic techniques from their instructions. But my biggest reason for not wanting to use a pattern is my fear of inadvertently copying their ideas in later work.

Maybe this fear comes from years of academia, where you are threatened within an inch of your life if you even think about plagiarising (not that this stops all students). Regardless, I sometimes fear that I might inadvertently infringe on someone else's work. I wonder if all the books and blogs I read might "influence" my own creations, without me realising that this is the case. I fear the "cease and desist" letter. I fear the wrath of other crafters (see the Lily Chin/Vegan Fox brouhaha from a few years back). Of course, this fear is largely irrational, as I try really hard not to use the original ideas of others - but like all irrational fears, it exists to torment me.

All of this pondering leads me to ask the question of all you plush makers (needlers?): What is copyright when it comes to making plush creatures and posting/selling them on the internet? Where does your idea end and mine begin? Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? And what do you do if you thought the work of Crafter X was just a wee bit too similar to the work of Crafter Y?

I have used patterns and I have altered patterns, but those were only for personal use and were given as gifts or kept for myself. But when it comes to selling, I feel like there is a very fine line between my own ideas and those of someone else.

(p.s. I'm really sorry if this is a long winded post - writing my thesis has caused my writing to become overly, um, verbose).


jellibat said...

you cant copyright an 'idea'.
only the tangible item, finished thing/ pattern/ etc.

being 'influenced' is not the same as copying , recreating or stealing someone else's idea.

I think its pretty rude to copy someone elses ideas and have had it happen, but there's not much you can do about it when it happens really.

i don't think you should use others patterns when your selling things. but I think it's much easier to be creative and come up with your own ideas and not follow a pattern.

Danielleorama said...

I worry about the same things. In fact I just came across a plush that is super close to a drawing I did in my sketchbook the other day and I had for sure never seen this artist or their work before.

I think the fact that you're thinking like this is a good thing. People who blatantly rip off people are not thoughtful individuals who ponder such things.

Anyway were are on the internet a lot looking at tons of things every day being inspired everywhere, we're bound to pick up things here and there, I try to not worry about it too much and when it's happened to take it as a compliment.

squirrel momma said...

This is an idea that can make you crazy with worry if you're an ethical artist and spend time cruising the web admiring other people's work. I know I have self-edited in the past, trying to yank my work in directions that I'm sure are my own, not someone else's.

But what to do when someone blatantly copies your work? Yesterday I discovered that someone who contributes to the same Flickr pool I do was posting photos of pieces that were blatant copies of my work, right down to embroidery details. She was giving them as gifts/swaps, so I chose to take a deep breath and walk away. If she had been selling them I don't know what I could/should have done. Do I even have legal rights? Or is it better for my karma and sanity if I just take another deep breath and walk away...?

jmday said...

I think you've hit it on the head. If you use an unaltered pattern and only keep it for yourself or give it as a gift, then there is no harm. But I also feel that if you alter a pattern it becomes yours, and therefore you can do what you like with it.

As for ideas, those can be patented (an often are). I know that in the past I've come across items that are nearly identical (different fabrics were used) to an item that I know is patented. What did I do? Well, I struggled with it for a few days, and then I bit the bullet and let the patenter (is that a word?) know. After that, it's up to them.

Caffaknitted said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately myself. In fact, I've been meaning for weeks now to post a copyright on my blog and etsy, but just can never remember to.

Claire said...

There's been a lot of discussion about this very topic on the Etsy forums lately, and blogs. Seems like it's on everyone's mind. There's a bit in the Craft, inc. book about this topic, too- what to do when you've been ripped off, filing copyrights, etc. I'd try to quote it but I know I'd get it wrong!

ChristinaWard said...

I agree with the general sentiment. Personally, my own pride/ego wouldn't want to copy someone else's work.

I have, because I'm self taught, researched other plush patterns- to learn specific construction techniques.

Developing and cultivating a specific style is your best protection against copyright infringement.

trinlayk said...

I never use patterns... I sort of have a "method" for what I make, but there was never a pattern involved.

Which means everything I make is going to be OOAK. (Hey, I get bored easy.)

Back when I was in art school, the idea was that if using something as an inspiration, one had to take only the IDEA and not the basic design...and if using a "pattern" had to make it VERY different for it to be something we could claim as original.

Some patterns are even copyrighted in such a way that the designer does NOT give permission to sell works made from the pattern.

IMHO if someone has the basic talent to make something from a pattern, they also have the talent to design something original... even if they can't recognize that talent in themselves.

Be brave, glance at a pattern to get an idea, and use it as a point from which to take flight, not as an anchor.

Have I babbled? I'm really tired today... If it's useful use it, if not ignore it.

Louise said...

i feel exactly the same when it comes to copyright plushies, I like to see patterns because it helps me to understand how for instance you can make a plushie more 3D.

I think that influence is inevitable and nessesary, you can be motivated to up your game by seeing an amazing plushie by someone else.

All art is influenced and inspired by others. The difficulty is where the line is drawn, and with plushies this is even more vague.

I think of it in terms of how far someone have to go for me to feel they ripped me off and made money from it.

... sorry for the long comment

Aloutka said...

Well, internet makes us all vaulnerable to inspiration (we can find LOTS of them in flickr, can't we?, but we - each and every one - have to consider ourselves when the inspiration ends and plagiarism starts.
I don't quite agree with the comment (the first one) that you can't copyright the idea. Yes, you can - the IDEA is the most precious, because it comes first. But - tout le proportion gardez - we are making PLUSH not space ship, then let's be less stressed and more generous in sharing :)
I can share my way: I make drawing first, pattern then, and the more and more I sew from this very pattern I learn what to make to improve it. And I'm trying to keep in mind that I'm Aloutka and I'd better remain myself, not any other person (even the best merchandiser)
Anyway, I learn more and more - and I feel like becoming plush-addicted.


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