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,
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
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.