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Copycats


#1

It was said of the painter Corot that he could never sit down to
paint Rome without thinking of Claude, Rodin seemed to be thinking of
Michelangelo and Mozart of Haydn.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and I know I get a lot
of inspiration from looking at others work and remaking their ideas
into my own. The end product is always different but I owe a lot to
others.

At an exhibition or a gallery I wander around thinking, “How did s/he
do that?” and “Does that fit into what I want to do?”

I once had an exhibition in London where I’d made a series of
earrings out of gold and shells. Within a month one local college was
turning them out on the students benches and some (SOME) were much
more beautiful than mine. I felt quite good about it. Sort of…

Another time I’d seen a colleague wrap gold around a silver wire and
produce a wonderful necklace. When I showed her my efforts in a
similar but different vein she flew into a dreadful rage and accused
me of copying her work.

As a student I struggles for a time to get enamel to cling onto a
fine wire mesh to make plique a jour. When I showed my mates they all
rushed into doing the same. It was a wonderful give and take about
process and design.

What stinks is having a commercial firm reproduce a piece like yours
in the thousands and manufacture them at a price that undercuts the
goldsmith by 50%

Tony Konrath

Gold and Stone
tony@goldandstone.com
www.goldandstone.com


#2

There is a true difference between getting inspiration and a copy
(even with the legal 10% change or “tweaking” it, as I have heard
some big time Spectrum Award winning designers call it). Using a
certain technique or idea and incorporating it into your own piece is
one thing, but in other arts it is called plagiarism. I have won a few
awards myself and sold wholesale at major shows. I have seen my exact
design win an award for another artist. W hen it was brought to the
judges attention (complete with a dated article in a major trade
magazine), it was still considered “sour grapes .” Many other
struggling artists have been ripped off by designers with more money,
contacts and clout. It is a real problem in the jewelry industry
—no one in any trade magazine or association wants to address this
issue realistically…Marty


#3

It would be nice if we all lived in a world where everyone
contributed equally to take equal benefits out of a common fund. But
it is not. And I for one am not willing to wait until I am dead to
have someone else reap the benefits of my ingenuity and labor. Or,
to have the benefits of my ingenuity and labor stolen by someone too
lazy to or lacking in ingenuity to come up with new and innovative
ideas of their own. Therefore, protecting my many secrets is
paramount to what success I get in this world. I do not share my
secrets with anyone unless they have something of equal ingenuity to
share with me. The only reason someone would copy your idea is for
their own selfish monetary gain. Nothing else. They are theirs at
the most personal level. Your ideas and applications are what they
steal. Learning the basics of doing a specific task is different
from stealing an idea. Learning the basics of soldering or chemistry
and sharing that with someone is passing on knowledge so that the one
you teach can continue to make growth in their field of choice. You
give someone else the chance to make that all important discovery
that will create something more unique. Having someone copy from you
an idea or a finished product is wrong and you should protect
yourself at every opportunity.

Gerry Galarneau


#4

Hi Marty,

I’ve written extensively on copyright violation and/or protection for
a number of trade magazines, in an effort to educate jewelers on this
subject. I agree with you it’s a serious problem. In your opinion,
what should the trade magazines and/or associations do about it?

I’d also like to correct a misconception in your e-mail: there is no
"legal 10 percent change." The legal standard is “substantially
similar.” Yeah, that’s pretty subjective, and it leaves a lot to the
interpretation of the courts, but it doesn’t give carte blanche to
jewelry makers to rip off designs by “tweaking” them. The difficulty
comes in that the law leaves the responsibility for defending
copyright to the artist – an admittedly expensive proposition. One
organization that’s trying to help is the American Crafts Project of
the Made in USA foundation. They intend to help craftspeople of all
stripes bring copyright lawsuits against copycats, for a very small
fee. In order to succeed, though, they need the support of the entire
arts community – something notoriously difficult to drum up, since
artists often have a hard time finding the money for dues unless it
meets an obvious, immediate personal need. (The organization already
has the support of the Rosen Group, which runs several major
wholesale/retail craft shows.)

I’m afraid the solution to this problem – if any exists – probably
lies in the arts community itself. Any thoughts out there on how
craftspeople could work together to support each other in fighting the
copycat problem?

Suzanne


#5
I've written extensively on copyright violation and/or protection for
a number of trade magazines, in an effort to educate jewelers on this
subject. I agree with you it's a serious problem. In your opinion,
what should the trade magazines and/or associations do about it?
Beyond educating folks on the realitites of copying, nothing. 
    One organization that's trying to help is the American Crafts
Project of the Made in USA foundation. They intend to help
craftspeople of all stripes bring copyright lawsuits against
copycats, for a very small fee. 
Hmmm... I see this as a potential disaster.  It would appear to 	be,

in most cases, wholly counter-productive. For a “very small fee” I
can see makers going hog-wild trying to sue every joker out there for
every perceived violation of copyright. Let us bear in mind that
there is NO required legal formality for obtaining copyright.
Copyright “subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form”.
This means that copyright exists from the moment a work becomes real
in any form.

What about people who make design X for their wives.  Ten years

later Van Cleef and Arpels releases a substantially similar design.
Are they to be sued? Ever hear of deep pockets, lottery mentality,
and looters?

I guess my question is how would such "small fee" copyright

instigations be administered and controlled? Is the Crafts Project
going to take on all claims? Will there be rules to qualify
potential actions?

Unless a program such as this is very carefully designed and
administered, I see it as the Titanic just itching to sidle 	up to a

big hunk of ice.

    I'm afraid the solution to this problem -- if any exists --
probably lies in the arts community itself. Any thoughts out there
on how craftspeople could work together to support each other in
fighting the copycat problem? 
I'm not at all sure there is a practical solution.  99% of the time
you cannot find a maker's mark on copied pieces and the pieces are
cheap and there are a million of them.  By the time you find out 	who

is making them, if you CAN find this out, they’ve made their money,
which is now gone elsewhere and at the first sign of trouble, the
front company goes bankrupt and you are SOL. And that is the nature
of MOST serious knock-off operations. You don’t copy a design for
chump change, at least not unless you’re a blithering idiot. So
we’re talking large, slick operations who, by the time you discover
them, have disappeared into the night. You’re chasing ghosts.

This problem has been addressed for at least 20 years in the area 	of

items such as watches and bags. How many sweeps of street vendors
for Gucci and Rolex knock-offs have I seen in NY alone? What has been
the net effect? ZERO.

What about use of design elements?  At what point does a collection
of elements become a design in and of itself?  What of honest use 	of

such elements, i.e. where there is no intent to copy? What then? Can
two people hold copyright to similar designs? Will people exercise
restraint? It’s the ones who wont that might quickly ruin such a
program. Again, this leaves onus on the Craft Program to filter
which claims have merit and which do not, if you’re not going to
administer a free-for-all. That amounts to exposure for them. Wait
until the first suit is filed against THEM for not taking on a case.
The cries of discrimination will be loud.

Sorry to be a naysayer on this, but AmeriKa is suit-happy and I
would not trust your average person to the door to exercise the
intelligence God gave a turnip when it comes to using the proper
discretion in deciding whether or not to sue someone, especially
when the fees are "small". -- 	-Andy V. 	 Eventide Forge 	 Mad Science

Inc. Scottsdale, AZ

That made about as much sense as two monkeys humpin a football.

  • Max Burnett

#6

The Question has been put to me several times as to" what should
trade mags and associations do about copycats ?" Well, how about
talking to these jewelers and craftsmen who engage in these practices
and writing (impartially) about their rationales as to their"
creative" approach to their designs. Take the chance to open the can
of worms that the industry so hardly keeps the lid on, ignores and
only cursively refers to. I know their is always someone who will
want to sue for deformation to character and this is not a perfect
world, but I still don’t have to play the game. I no longer enter the
high end competitions (even though I have won them, before) and have
quit the jewelry industry and now work almost exclusively on one of a
kind works for art galleries – a long hard road to start for an old
jeweler with an artists eye. I have personally found that the
"copycat " venue is a way of doing business for far to many jewelers
who have gone from being artists to businessman and gallery to
jewelry store all in the name of a nickel. Their are still many good
designers out there and hopefully the will never give in
to the business over the art.–marty


#7

I don’t really think suing everyone who makes a piece that is similar
to someone else’s is going to solve the problem is the answer
(although it does discourage some people and this is a matter for the
courts and the-shudder-lawyers ). What if there were an
organization, with enough clout in the industry, of designers, CEO’s,
jewelers, and -again shudder- attorneys who could keep an eye and ear
open to these going ons. Just pure peer pressure and a little helpful
nudge from the lawyers would be enough to keep most jewelry artists
in line. Although the flash in the pan knock off artists are another
story. I am really trying to address blatant in trade theft of
another’s creative, time consuming efforts to bring innovative work
to the market. Take the jeweler whose client sees a ring in the AGTA
calendar (an international award winning piece ). They want “a ring
just like this.” Does the jeweler try to get it from the jeweler who
created it?–" no, but I can make you one just like it, maybe for a
little less cost than the original." Or take the “designer” who buys
a high priced line (because of the originality) from another designer
to put in his gallery “to generate custom work from.” Every day
variations on these scenarios are played out in jewelry stores across
the globe. This is why I no longer work for other certain jewelers in
the trade and have made a career turn, aiming at the art community. My
lament of the dishonesty of the trade in general comes from 30 years
in the mainstream jewelry industry and design. I am not so nieve as
to think it will ever be a fair and honest world – but at least we
should try. Marty


#8

Let’s revisit history again here. There was a period of time when the
Art Nouveau movement dictated the styles of jewelry made by almost
all in the trade. Rene Lalique was perhaps the finest example of this
style of work. There were a number of other top name designers of the
period who also created similar high quality work. Then there was
everybody else who made similar designs, at a price affordable to the
general public, and probably copied some of the masters. As a matter
of fact many of them were taught by those masters, and when they
worked for them, they were obligated to produce the master’s designs
as the master dictated it. The students who were great artists
themselves went on to produce new designs using the same techniques.
Everyone else created things the best they could. None of the masters
sued everyone else, claiming that the Art Nouveau style was theirs. As
a matter of fact they must have reveled in the fact that they created
an ENTIRE style of jewelry never produced before. Rene Lalique was
never bothered by this. He just produced the best things that came
into his head. When he got tired of it he began to make glass. I
recently was in Soho, in NYC, and went into a jewelry gallery there.
The gallery represented 30-40 jewelers, many of them European. As I
walked around I realized that almost every piece in the place looked
like everything else in the place, albeit with minor variations.
These were all top name designers, all doing their own creative thing,
all making very fine jewelry. So why did everything look the same?
The simplest thing to say would be that they all had similar ideas at
the same time (which is quite possible–it is often our ego only which
says that only ONE person-yourself- could have a particular design
idea). The next thing would be to say that the designers were all
responding to current styles, which as I looked around more and more,
began to become apparent. Is it such an original idea to take a major
fashion trend and simply put your own spin on it? Yet I believe that
most of those designers had copyrighted their work. I have personally
found that the > "copycat " venue is a way of doing business for
far to many jewelers > who have gone from being artists to
businessman and gallery to > jewelry store all in the name of a
nickel. Copyrighting is truly something only the very rich can afford
to pursue. Almost all of the copyright infringement suits brought by
the jewelry industry involve BUSINESSMEN who have made a great deal of
money by being jewelers–David Yurman being a case in point. I have
nothing against businessmen, I am one myself, as well as a jeweler.
However the concept that it is only businessmen who have pursued
unethical behavior is inappropriate. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes
Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140


#9

I now of a person who spent a long time on a design and was quite
proude of what he came up with and went to another Jeweler for his
aprovel , The jeweler took a catalog out and showed him the same ring
. the book was an old one. needlas to say it took the wind out of his
sales. they say there is nothing new under the sun just make sure it
is not last weeks Don in Idaho USA

At 05:17 PM 11/27/00 -0600, you wrote:

The Question has been put to me several times as to" what should
trade mags and associations do about copycats ?"  Well, how about
talking to these jewelers and craftsmen who engage in these practices
and writing (impartially) about their rationales as to their"
creative" approach to their designs.  Take the chance to open the can
of worms that the industry so hardly keeps the lid on, ignores and
only cursively refers to.  I know their is always someone who will
want to sue for deformation to character and this is not a perfect
world, but I still don't have to play the game. I no longer enter the
high end competitions (even though I have won them, before) and have
quit the jewelry industry and now work almost exclusively on one of a
kind works for art galleries -- a long hard road to start for an old
jeweler with an artists eye. I have personally found that the
"copycat " venue is a way of doing business for far to many jewelers
who have gone from being artists to businessman and gallery to
jewelry store all in the name of a nickel. Their are still many good
designers out there and hopefully the will never give in

to the business over the art.–marty


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