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Design ethics


#1

Recently, a controversy arose in my jewelers’ guild. I’d be
curious to hear people’s opinions on it. The arguing started when I
suggested the following additions to our guidelines. I THOUGHT the
topic was a no-brainer. Boy, was I wrong!

“The reproduction of designs copyrighted by others is illegal and
prohibited. The reproduction on non-copyrighted designs by others,
while not illegal, is discouraged.”

A big chunk of our group doesn’t actually object to the
reproduction of copyrighted work, but I can argue that one on the
basis of it being illegal. There are enough places to legally
acquire line drawings for reproduction, clip-art books being one of
the best.

The big fight is over the ripping off of designs by other
contemporary jewelry designers. In my opinion, it’s unethical for
me to read Lapidary Journal, see a photo of a piece by someone like
Michael Boyd, make a piece enough like it that it can be confused
for his work, and offer it for sale as my design. It’s not good
ethics, art, or business.

To justify the design stealing, guild members are using a quote
from Charles Lewton-Brain’s article, “Some Thoughts on Modes of
Working”, in which he discusses various types of jewelry design
styles and systems. The passage they are using is noted. Charles
wrote:

“FORMAL The composition consists of fixed or regular elements
organized according to traditional or non-traditional design rules:
strict design. Often the elements are simple in form, sometimes
geometric. The organization is based upon rhythms, visual balance
and mass, texture, color and form relationships. <<While the work
may make references to other works, it is in a formal manner and is
essentially self-sufficient;>> able to stand by itself without
knowledge of context or reference. One needs little or no further
to understand it…”

I read this to mean that when I design a pendant with natural
lines and flowing curves, it makes reference to Art Nouveau design,
but is not a reproduction of Art Nouveau, nor need the viewer have
any knowledge of Art Nouveau to appreciate my design. It doesn’t
say to me that I may copy a design of my contemporaries with
impunity.

I’d like to hear what my fellow jewelry designers have to say on
this topic. Charles, obviously, I’m especially interested in your
thoughts here.

Thanks,

Karen Hemmerle
Boulder, CO


#2

Karen, It’s a no brainer about the copywrited stuff. There is no
problem borrowing ideas or concepts from someone else’s work, and
as long as it’s not an exact duplicate, then it’s not in bad taste.
You should try to make it your own, inject your own esthetic into
the design, but who is to say what the right mix of borrowing and
originality is. Entire art movements have started because someone
made something new and exciting, and other people were so inspired
they copied the style. This is not something that can be
quantified, it’s personal and subjective. All you can do is live
up to your own expectaions and let others rise to thier own level.

Having said all that, my moral stand is similar to yours. To be
inspired is good. To outright steal someones intellectual
property, especialy without giving them credit, is not good, it’s
also lazy and uncreative.

Eddie
Ed Colbeth Metalsmith, Motorcyclist
Taunton, Massachusetts (Soon to be Deer Isle, Maine)
508-823-9704
K1100RS
ICQ# 6247734


#3

I personaly have not run into this problem, in terms of someone
copying my designs. I have friends who have taken cases to court
over this legallity. I would find it very disheartining to see
someone copying my designs. Most designers are influenced by
things that they see in their lives, be it a flower, a painting or
perhaps a piece of jewelry, but for it to be copied exactly I find
morally wrong. I think it’s O.K. to be influenced by anothers
design, but you must then make it your own, do something to it that
gives it your signature. I’m now working on some pieces of strung
pearls on wire(who hasn’t seen that before?) Quite boring for me
but I’m recovering from surgery and it’s easy to do. Anyway to make
them my own I’ll be making hand made clasps that will have my
"look". Anyone who totally knocks off a design has no place
calling themselves a designer or artist.

Why bother? I don’t want to do something that’s been done before.
I guess that’s the great thing about being creative, I never run
out of ideas.

Tzipora

P.S. I’ll be in Chicago at the 57th St. art fair first weekend in
June, stop by to say Hi


#4

Wow – I bet this will start a raging war!! Good question, Karen.

My thoughts (for what they are worth) are that anyone who copies
another’s work, whether its copyrighted or not, is either very
untalented, lazy, or extremely unethical.

    A big chunk of our group doesn't actually object to the
reproduction of copyrighted work, <snip

I could be wrong (it happens…), but I think I would be looking
for another group with higher standards. Maybe the world view of
plagiarism has changed, or maybe I’m stuck with Victorian
standards, but plagiary used to be a dirty word. I know it usually
applies to the written word, but when one plagiarizes he/she is
still stealing someone else’s ideas and I was taught that using
another’s idea(s) as your own was an indication of one’s low-life
status.

    The big fight is over the ripping off of designs by other
contemporary jewelry  designers. <snip>.....  It's not good
ethics, art, or business. 

Well, certainly its not good ethics or art. But – in our “make
a quick buck” reality unfortunately “good business” means just
making money – so – copying probably is ‘good business’, because
it is a known and saleable item and money can be made without
investment or effort. Your banker will love you, your neighbors
will envy you and you can retire early and – most of them won’t
even know your standards are low. All that said, there is a
difference between copying and inspiration. We all look at other’s
work and appreciate good design. Sometimes inspiration follows.
Who hasn’t been inspired by someone else’s ideas? But inspiration
is defined as: “… a work of art, that moves the intellect or
emotions or prompts invention”.

Whew… I’m off my soapbox now. I’ll be interested in Charles’
response and everyone else’s too!

Nancy
ICQ # 9472643
Bacliff, Texas Gulf Coast USA


#5
  The big fight is over the ripping off of designs by other
contemporary jewelry designers 

Jewelers who can’t design their own work should remain
apprentices. People who steal someone elses designs make me sick.
It’s okay to use a technique or process that you see in other work
but you need to make it your own in the way that you use it. Is
that direct enough for you… Deb


#6

Hello Karen,

I am not familiar with legislation in other countries, but as far
as Canada is concerned, designs and works of art are automatically
protected by a “right of author” as long as the edition has not
exceeded 50 copies. This copyright does not have to be registered
but would be subject to proof of evidence that you were the first
one to create the drawing or other art work.

That is for the “local” legal part of it.

Despite this legal side, I cannot understand how any respectful
artist or professional or anyone else, for that matter, can feel
comfortable copying someone else’s work claiming it’s his own and
signing that copied work.

Michel Larbrisseau
Montreal, Canada.


#7

Hi Karen,

I think you are fighting a losing battle. Once your design is out
there you should expect it to be knocked off. I think a good
portion a many people business is to make people what they the
customer wants. If they walk in with a picture from a magazine and
say can you make this for me with my stones, most jewelers will say
yes. Typically in my case, I am not reproducing it exactly and am
only making one. They like the piece they have seem but want
baguettes rather than rounds or wider or whatever. I think its an
accepted practice to make a customer a single piece based on
something they have seen. I think it is wrong to make multiples or
put it in a line with your name on it. I would never do that.
Usually by the time it gets to me they have tried the designer and
they have little interest in altering their design in anyway, so
the customer can’t work with them.

As I said, I think that is very different from duplicating someone
else’s design and marketing it as your own. You have to have more
self respect than that.

Mark P.
WI USA


#8

This is one of the first things that I teach my students.
Inspiration is one thing, but copying is WRONG. I have had it
happen to me, by a student at one time. Her analogy on the
situation was “well, you said you were not going to make that
design anymore so I figured you wouldn’t mind. Although i set
her straight, she still, to this day is using the same idea in her
pieces. (of course, this was about 6 years ago, well before the
"Y” necklaces so her “creations” are very dated, now)

I can not think of any reason or any time that this (copying a
design) could be acceptable. Joy in a sunny hot Illinois (and the
Pool is OPEN)


#9

Here’s a little tidbit for design ethics: in the costume jewelry
industry it is common practice to take a little field trip to New
York, or where ever, and buy a bunch of designer jewelry for the
sole purpose of ripping it off. Some of these pieces are use
directly as models to make the costume jewelry equivalent of it.
Some of the companies are a little more careful when they see a
copyright symbol on the piece and will change it enough so they
don’t get sued. Or a buyer for a store will come in with another
company’s/designer’s work and say that they want this made for
their store. And the work doesn’t even have to be out in the public
yet to be ripped off - some guys go to the caster (or plater, or
job shop) to pick up their casting jobs and, when no one is
looking, grab a sample of everything they can lay their hands on.
Some casting companies even will allow use of another company’s
molds for a jewelry company who is a friend of theirs. And these
aren’t isolated incidents - just business as usual.

One of the many reasons I couldn’t bear to work in the jewelry
industry anymore and started to work for myself. My personal stand
is that it is o.k. to look at another’s work, and maybe a certain
aspect of it really appeals to you: the way the links of a
bracelet lie on a wrist, certain texture or patterns, a certain
mechanism or finding on a piece. Then you take the feeling of it
with you and let it inspire your own work. I have more ideas
swimming in my head than I could make - no need to want to claim
someone else’s.

Jill
@jandr
http://members.tripod.com/~jilk


#10

Karen,

What a topic! Great question. This is no doubt a wordwide problem
and one that probably can never be solved in a satisfactory way.

By coincidence we had a jewellery committee meeting in Manama (the
capital of Bahrain) the other day and discussed this very subject.
The idea of the meeting was to discuss hallmarking and the
sponsor’s mark as well as this very difficult topic. The matter
was actually brought into discussion by a particularly famous (in
the gulf region) Bahraini jeweller, as another company was caught
red-handed selling his designs (one in particular was an exact
copy). He was obviously furious about this and wanted to discuss
the problem and find ways of stopping it from happening again (any
ideas anyone?). This will be a very difficult problem to solve and
I can personally see it going on and on and on etc… It
probably will never be STOPPED anywhere in the world, unless the
copyright laws are extremely robust and the resulting penalties
are sufficiently off-putting. What are these factors like in your
respective parts of the world? Are there any ways in which designs
could be protected without having to have each design copyrighted?
What are the copyright registration prices like on individual
designs in your respective countries? To copyright a single design
here it currently costs in the region of 50 dinars (approx. US$
130) and takes roughly six weeks to finalize. This is costly if
there are a number of designs to register and lengthy at that! It
would be interesting to compare the answers to these questions and
see if anyone has any good ideas! My own opinion is that copying
the design belonging to another jeweller is ethically incorrect
and should not be done. However, I have spoken to some jewellers
here that have said to me “look this is a very small market and
unlike Europe or the USA where the market is huge in comparison,
everyone has to make a living the best way they can. Therefore, if
a customer comes to me and says they would like ten pieces of this
design (sample provided, [picture or sample piece]) are we
supposed to turn them away and say bye bye to a percentage of the
turnover we HAVE TO make in order to make the necessary monthly
payments or accept the job and breathe a little easier”. Again
your comments would be of interest on this point.

regards - Nick
(Bahrain)


#11

Thank goodness there are still ethical people around. I had almost
despaired…then I started reading the comments from all the
wonderful Orchid people …my faith in humanity is being restored.
Sure it’s ok to derive inspiration from someone’s work; but to copy
it exactly and pass it off as your own??? NEVER!
…Donna


#12

Thank goodness there are still ethical people around. I had almost
despaired…then I started reading the comments from all the
wonderful Orchid people …my faith in humanity is being restored.
Sure it’s ok to derive inspiration from someone’s work; but to copy
it exactly and pass it off as your own??? NEVER!
…Donna


#13

Dear Karen Hemmerle,

what a wonderful topic. As one who has made my whole living from
individually designed and hand-crafted jewellery and now teach
the same to apprentices, all I can add to all the wisdom that has
been posted is that we don’t live in a vacuum.

There are so many ways that other peoples’ work can influence us.
Other peoples’ influence can sit quietly in our creative mind for
years then re-emerge without us even remembering the original
influence until some more perceptive person relishes reminding us
of it. And there’s always someone to tell you how it’s all been
done before!

Commissioned, some years ago, to design a new range for a major
jewellery chain in Australia, I was startled shortly after the
launch to see some of my colleagues, pen and paper in hand, copying
the designs from the showroom windows. At first I was inclined to
be affronted at their undisguised plagiarism, but reconsidered,
realising that it was rather flattering - and in any case I was
already moving on to the next range of designs.

In any field of design there will always be pure innovators and
there will always be plagiarists with most of us positioned
somewhere between the extremes. But it’s always a good debate to
have. Regards, Rex from Oz


#14

This will never stop as long as there is a market. I think most
retail buyers have no idea what is involved in design or producing
a piece (not just jewelry almost any product) and mostly have no
interest in who actually did the first one. If it is a pretty item
it gets bought. Note: if you have a conterfeit (sp?) pair of
jeans, ‘rolex’ or designer purse you are part of the problem for
those industries.


#15

Considering the recent comments on design infringements I think
this old quote speaks much. I am currently a college art major, and
often we are required to keep sketch books of our ideas and studies
in possible future project, so as to prevent plagiarism, while at
the same time encouraged to walk around our studios to observe and
be inspired by others in the class or works on the walls.
Obviously in this academic setting, where plagiarism is a major
issue, the line between inspiration and copying is a tight rope.
These comments are no final words on this debate, but be advised
that this balance is a long standing debate, that probably will
never have a final solution.

On another side, according to the Bible, Solomon said,
Ecclesiasties 1:9 What has been will be again what has been done
will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. The New
International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
House) 1984.

Let’s keep on our toes and on the edge of ‘newness’. efw


#16

I think the issue rarely is “design” but rather "what will sell"
MONEY, moolah, bucks…it is the great compromiser.

The Titanic jewelry is a perfect example…even "in the style of"
and influenced by is mostly about SALES…

True design is so powerful that it reflects a new way of seeing
what was always there… sometimes it is recognized and bought
and sometimes it languishes. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his
LIFETIME… many have tried to copy VanGogh but he is “the real
deal”.

The latest issue of Lapidary Journal has an article about
Russian jewelry artists still in the shadow of Faberge’ and some
who have moved on.

If a design (jewelry, tool, music, yah dah, yah dah) is really a
hot seller it is often copied in Asia and try to enforce a patent
or copyright there… even in this country it is very difficult
and one needs to have very deep pockets to protect “design”. Not
impossible but a long term expensive project, consuming lots of
energy and creative design time…

If you enjoy the company of lawyers and giving them lots of time
and money then litigation is always a choice…and sometimes it
can even lead to large judgements…money …again…

I think everyone is trying, in one form or another, to find the
source of money energy that Bill Gates has tapped… and if you
have BG as a client/patron there is a freedom and a servitude in
every relationship.

And when one does achieve financial freedom(?) does this mean NO
money, Know money or All the money.

The designers I love best, design what they feel and have
something to say that reveals their heart… the copyrights
usually cover marketing and the lawyers…

How many designers really have something to “reveal” how many are
rehashing the obvious? Look at the jelly bean cars, look at the
jewelry catalogs.

Ontogeny recapitulating yet again…

Remember, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”…

pssss It’s All Small Stuff…

Have fun , feel good, design, design, design…

Orchid Rocks…

Bill
http://www.concentric.net/~lightone/


#17

Nick,

    This will be a very difficult problem to solve and I can
personally see it going on and on and on etc...... It probably
will never be STOPPED anywhere in the world, unless the copyright
laws are extremely robust and the resulting penalties are
sufficiently off-putting.

I don’t think we anyone telling us what we can or cannot do. Most
people are ethical and act accordingly. Why punish the many for
the acts of the few?

    However, I have spoken to some jewellers here that have said
to me "look this is a very small market and unlike Europe or the
USA where the market is huge in comparison, everyone has to make
a living the best way they can. Therefore, if a customer comes to
me and says they would like ten pieces of this design (sample
provided, [picture or sample piece]) are we supposed to turn them
away and say bye bye to a percentage of the turnover we HAVE TO
make in order to make the necessary monthly payments or accept
the job and breathe a little easier". 

Excuse my language but thats just a bunch of shit! If these
bottom line give me the money people can’t make it without
stealing, then maybe they shouldn’t be in business. If the market
is smaller then there should be less backstabbing not more.
Everyone must know each other and their work, their is no excuse
for such behavior. People like that wouldn’t make me so mad if
they just admitted what they are.

Anyways, I do have a couple of suggestions. It’s always better to
be self regulated than to be governmentally regulated. You mention
a Jewelery Committee, perhaps if you could get enough jewelers
together, you could get organized and come up with some guidelines,
and promote the organization and the benefits of buying from a
member Jeweler. Maybe your friend with the copying problem could
offer a finders fee for customers referred to him by an other
jeweler. If everyone would refer customers back to the designer of
origin than everyone would make out just fine, except for those
unable to design!

Thats enough from me,

Eddie
Ed Colbeth Metalsmith, Motorcyclist
Taunton, Massachusetts (Soon to be Deer Isle, Maine)
508-823-9704
93 K1100RS "Wanderer III"
ICQ# 6247734


#18

Dear Nick Sturman,

oh boy, I knew Karen Hemmerle’s post would be stimulating! I can
sympathise with your Bahraini colleague about the problem of
copyrighting designs.

I was involved in a courtcase some years ago which in part
revolved around ownership of one of my designs. Part of the legal
argument used the precedent, set in English law, involving Brendan
Behan’s “Under Milkwood” - just to give you an idea of how
complicated the law - and lawyers - can get.

I further discovered that copyright only extended to the actual
designed piece, so if I wanted secure protection, I would literally
have to legally copyright every single variation of the original
design - separately and at considerable cost each time. The
plagiarist can legally copy my piece to all intents and purposes as
an “almost exact” copy but do it with one less diamond, or make it
in 14ct instead of 18ct. I won’t even talk about the costs of
prosecution!

I won, but I was in a no-win situation.

It was about that time (as I said in a previous post) that I
decided to be flattered when others copied my work.

Lots of luck in a litigous world. Regards, Rex from Oz.


#19

Dear Edward and Brenda, Thank you for quoting the ultimate source
on ethics, God’s Holy Word, the Bible. J.A.