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When your work gets ripped


#1

It seems the subject of “stolen” work is resurrected with frequency
here, so here is my contribution to the archive. I should preference
this post by saying it is aimed at those who really do strive to
create original and unique work and not copies from catalogs or
internet printouts.

How many of you actually worry about your work being ripped off? If
you do what are a few of your less than secret strategies for staying
ahead. Does it mostly come down to trying to have fresh designs every
few years? Some suggestions I’ve heard aRe:

-Only work in limited edition or do custom work

-Don’t have a web site, if you do, don’t show all your designs (a
self defeating concept if you do all your sales via the Internet)

-If you do have all your designs online, only allow customers with
approved login/passwords to shop (again, self defeating in regard to
trying to capture fresh sales)

-Offer a “finders fee” if someone discovers your work being ripped
off and it results in litigation and a settlement (guess this would
work for a Tiffany’s or Cartier)

-Don’t outsource your production

-Don’t care / Be “flattered” / loose your market share and shut up
about it because you are a poor/barely making it artist with no
rights…

…as is evident, most of these solutions border on desperation. But
is the best policy truly not to care if your designs get ripped? This
question is asked with the acknowledgment that no-one is born knowing
how to make jewelry and we learn from watching others, but truly
creative people know how to take common design elements and attribute
their own unique interpretation to it. So to rephrase - do most of
you honestly feel that the best policy is not to care when someone has
ripped off your unique interpretation?


#2

There’s not alot you can do about any of this, especially when
copyright laws vary from country to country. If you produce a piece
that someone views as something they want to mass produce chances
are you’ve made something nice and should be mass producing it
yourself!

If you are producing pieces like that then you need to ‘brand’ them
and get the media to know your ‘brand name’ so anything else would
be a ‘knock off’, much like the Guchi(sp?) or Coach handbags many
women buy. Wonder how they feel about their stuff being reproduced
on the cheap?

Anyway, there isn’t alot you can do about it in reality. Just keep
making unique pieces and making a name for yourself so people come
to you to buy your items, not some knock off shop that is doing it
cheaply. If you see a piece of yours being mass produced try to get
them to stop, and mass produce it yourself!

Craig
www.creativecutgems.com


#3

Hi

A few years seems like a long time to go before coming up with new
designs. This is just an observation.

I know I am really small potatoes at this point, but I live/sell in
a town where there is also a bead store and many crafty bead people
to go with it. I like to work in the really tiny beads. I make my
pendants under a strong magnifier. I don’t think there are that many
people that have the patience to try to copy one.

For the bracelets I make, I get the beads from all different sources
and the designs are constantly changing. The customers like this
because no one has a bracelet that looks just like theirs and I like
it because I don’t have to deal with the pressure of finding the
exact same beads again and again. Others might be able to make a
bracelet that looks a bit like mine, but not exactly.

I’m actually teaching the bracelet in October and I will teach the
pendant shortly after. Unless I move to some remote location and
keep things under lock and key, people will copy. I’m going to try
and make a bit off the designs in the mean time. By the time they
stop selling well, I would hope that I would have the where with all
to have come up with some new stuff. Otherwise, I had better change
professions again.

The more experienced probably have other strategies.

Best Regards
Kim Starbard


#4

when i was in jewelry school, one of .my teahcers told me that if
someone rips your design off adn you don;t have any more creative
ideas, then you shouldn’t be making things anyway.

this works for me to some extent: in the work i really care about, i
find that if someone ripped me off, it would be so obvious that the
person would be embarrassed and would stop once the public that
knows my work noticed. however, if they did rip me off and were far
away, it either wouldn’t matter or i would just be pissed. then i
could move on and start making new things!

i have my work set up so that i can constantly change my designs
while still remaining with my “look”. this allows me to constantly
have design and technical challenges while also allowing my buying
public to not become bored with my work.

i do make lower end items that somehow always end up
trendy…meaning, i somehow am very good at makng things that
become in the general conscious of design. i hate that this happens
to me, but whatever, it does. for example, i have been making alot
of oval shapes for the past few years. suddenly in the last year or
so, i see oval jewelry everywhere! i know it is not because of ME,
but because of the general conscious. so i am now making sure to use
the ovals in my own individual way. i have stopped making the things
that i now see out there on the cheap/general market.

i have a lifetime of making jewelry ahead of me, which to me means
that i have a lifetime of designing and learning as well. how
exciting is that?! there are so many things i want to make, i will
be happy to move on from what i am doing now when the time is right.
i can always design more, push myself more as far as creativity goes
and also as far as technical ability goes.

part of being creative and making things is about letting go. there
is nothing i am so attached to that i couldn’t let it go if someone
else ripped it off. i teach as well, so i HAVE to be able to share
whatever knowledge i have with others and let them use it as they
see fit. this is part of the joy of my job for me: i love to share,
i will teach anyone how to do anything. i feel this is important for
all of us, for in this here jewelry world, there are no secrets. and
in teaching, i always stress that it is important to use skills and
techniques in your own way, don’t copy, be creative and see what YOU
can do with the gathered. when someone does try to copy
or makes something too similar to mine or to someone else’s work, i
always point it out.

my 2 cents.
joanna


#5

“Caring” that someone has ripped off your ideas costs money, lots of
it. It is up to you to financially defend your designs in court. If
you win, great, you could probably recoupe your court costs as part
of the judgement. If you lose, well…then your out even more money
and the design is still stolen. Double edged sword, if you ask me. In
my opinion, if you put something out there into the great beyond we
call the world, it ceases to belong to you. Everything is recycled
anyway. I worked for a manufacturer in NYC who regularly tore pages
out of magazines and gave them to his factory rep from China
saying,“Make me one of these.” This is especially true for the
fashion industry where the past is recycled on a regular basis. The
present is as well. A design walks down the runway in Paris and
eventually finds its way into your local retailer in a dumbed down,
cost effective manner. My advice is, if you have lots of money than
fight tooth and nail to preserve your original idea if it means that
much to you. If you are like me, and don’t have the money to help a
lawyer buy that third sports car, or pay off his beach house, then
say,“That’s the way of it,” and let it go. Who really benefits the
most from lawsuits anyway? Hmmm…I guess you can figure out what I
would say to that.

Augest Derenthal
Cry Baby Designs


#6

I made a very unique and elegant model of a solitaire, and sold
several units of it to a store I had dealings with. We drifted apart,
as happens. A few years later, I opened the San Francisco Chronicle
(the main paper here). On page 2, prominently displayed, was my ring,
in an ad for a store I knew of, but had never dealt with. The same ad
ran for about 1 1/2 years, on and off - it’s a nice ring. The ring is
simple, but distinctive - there’s really no chance that anybody else
designed it on their own, and it was EXACTLY the same. I considered
my options, of course. I could hire a lawyer, track down the
perpetrators - the store is only a vendor, not the manufacturer -
spend 6 months in court, and what would I gain? Pride? It would be
different if it was the whole line, or they were rubbing my nose in
it, but the store, I believe, simply bought the ring from a shop in
good faith. Plus, this is local, and everybody knows everybody - good
faith is priceless. Sure, I could maybe have made a few thousand
dollars - probably less, but the effort, and the bad feelings, would
not have been worth it, to me.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#7

There is an enamellist out there who blatantly asked me about my
processes a number of years ago. She told me she was a teacher and
had no intention of going the sales route like me, took my schedule
of shows and chatted for a good hour. You guessed it! The next year
she was at all the same shows with work that looked remarkably like
mine and avoiding running into me. Sadly enough, I would have given
her almost all the same had she been honest, including
how I was going to bag a few of the shows since they were low sellers
anyway.

Since then she has moved out east and started doing mostly wholesale
work. It still looks pretty much exactly like it did 6 or 7 years
ago. She seems to do good PR and wholesale shows. Meanwhile my work
looks little like it did at the time and I have moved on except for a
few best sellers. She engendered a ton of ill will from other artists
who noticed the rip off and I had a good push to do some really fresh
new work.

But yeah…I’m still really ticked off when I think of her. I never
really handled it at all.

On the other hand several years ago I was approached by the chair of
a show from somewhere down south who told me how excited she was I
was coming to their show (one I had never heard of). This was based
on her seeing a large photo of a piece I had sold the year before
that I had hanging in my booth. Apparently the guy who bought the
piece had cast it or used the original as one of his booth slides…I
sent her a copy of the receipt with his name on it and my slide,
after comparing it to his she told me she kicked him out of the show.

Surely others have done better than me in either of these cases!

Karen


#8

I have a metal stamp (like the 14K, 18K, Sterling stamps) of my
signature that I stamp on all my custom designs.

Other than that I really don’t care/am flattered if someone borrows
my designs. Besides being a jeweler I am also an economist and I
understand that the size of the “pie” is unlimited and that just
because I am making more, it does not follow that you are making
less.

Ray
http://CustomMadeSilver.com


#9

Hello,

So to rephrase - do most of you honestly feel that the best policy
is not to care when someone has ripped off your unique
interpretation? 

No. You teach people how to treat you. If you believe your work is
an expression of yourself, then when you allow your "expressed self"
to be stolen, you are making a statement of how you see yourself. If
your work isn’t worth defending, then what kind of person are you? Do
what you can to protect yourself, do what you can do protect your
work. You may not accomplish total destruction of your opponent, but
sometimes just being a pain in the ass is enough to discourage these
people.

My own two cents.
Susannah


#11

In the end it will get ripped if it’s good enough, ultimately
available on the street-- Take it as a compliment if it goes that
far-- Tough love-- but it’s the truth-- going after them unless
you’re CK is probably a waste, better to come up with the next
thing, that’s what I say…


#12

If you want to participate in the marketplace you have to be aware
of the risks as well as the rewards associated with this. If you feel
that something you have created is too precious to be risked in the
marketplace, then you should not release it to the general public. I
have pieces of jewelry and artwork I’ve created solely for myself and
loved ones, these obviously will never be placed on the Internet or
in a catalog.

With that said, take the proper precautions, clearly post your
copyright notice on all literature and or web pages and always sign
your work. Watermark web images. Also register your copyright. If you
have an established tradename, why not spend the extra money to
register that as well. Obviously none of these precautions are
absolute but if you do find yourself in court one day (which you
sound like you are willing to do) having taken these steps will draw
favor for your case. Use the tools available to you. to protect your
work then get on with the business of creating.

I understand and sympathize with your concern, there is a distinct
difference between those who merely copy and those who truly create
and I don’t think it productive or fair to blur the line between the
two. I also think those that try to blur this line have the least to
gain from copyright protection. It is not flattering to have work
that you put your emotion and sweat into “ripped off” but I believe
that most of the artists on Ganoksin who are telling you to view
such an incident as flattery are actually admonishing you not to
expend yourself emotionally on this issue unless you can and will do
battle in court over the matter. I say divorcing yourself emotionally
from your work is unnatural for a real artist and at the very least
show yourself not to be an easy target by taking the precautions
mentioned above.


#13
If someone copies your design and produces it under their own name,
I think one should be honoured and revel in the fact that your
design is successful and has caused others to imitate it and grow
from it. 

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when others
deliberately imitate your work, take credit for it, and profit at
your expense, that is the lowest form of chicanery.

Dee


#14
I think the bigger question here is, do you really care that
someone has copied/imitated your work and take offence as an
original artist? Or are you angry as a business man/woman and do
you care more about the lost revenue from potential clients
purchasing from another source? 

Geoff, I respect your opinion but ardently disagree. How about I am
concerned both as an artist AND a businesswoman? I am an artist have
been nearly from birth (I also work in watercolor and ink) and will
go to my grave being an artist, but it wasn’t until I seriously
embraced being a business woman that I began to sell work and make a
living from it. It is not “flattery” when a non-creative person
loots your market share or your creative product.

Say that the fear of losing a substantial amount of money if you go
to court is what keeps many artist from pursuing copyright
infringement cases, not that the proper mode of action is to accept
the violation as “flattery”. I work damn hard producing hundreds of
sketches before I decide to put out a line of jewelry, I don’t see
the compliment in some lazy talentless person benefiting from a
piece I spent multiple hours designing.

Regarding the “evolution of jewellry” and our contributions to the
creative learning pool, I have no problem with contributing to the
creative fodder for future generations, but while I’m here
scratching out an existence on this planet, I would like the
exclusive right to make money off of my art without it being ripped
off. After I’m fertilizer in the ground, I obviously won’t be too
concerned with notions like paying my mortgage and protecting my
brand name.


#15
No. You teach people how to treat you. If you believe your work is
an expression of yourself, then when you allow your "expressed
self" to be stolen, you are making a statement of how you see
yourself. If your work isn't worth defending, then what kind of
person are you? Do what you can to protect yourself, do what you
can do protect your work. You may not accomplish total destruction
of your opponent, but sometimes just being a pain in the ass is
enough to discourage these people. 

Susannah, it is fun to think of your “expressed self” as unique, but
as soon as you express it to others, it becomes part of the cultural
expression of your society, and, as such, is impossible for you to
solely possess. Just ask the folks at Gucci, Rolex, Vuitton, etc., if
they will ever be able to fully protect their designs. Your work,
along with the work of everyone else, is derived from the sum of your
experiences, including things that you saw before you had any
interest in the creative arts, and will always owe a debt to the work
of others. This debt is paid back by your creations serving as a
springboard for future artists, craftspeople, and yes, design copying
thieves. There are billions of people alive today, any one of which
may have, in fact, independently come up with the exact same design
as any of ours. These people have ownership rights to the design just
as compelling as you or I do.

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers


#16
Laying claim to designs (unless a symbol or name is involved) is
outrageous. 

Although I agree with this position to some extent, the United States
Patent Office does provide for a “Design Patent.”
(http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/design/toc.html#def) Every
’designer’ should have some familiarity with this law and this site
provides a good outline. The examples and sample on this site may
have some interest.

By the Patent Office definition:

  "A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics
  embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a
  design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a
  design patent application may relate to the configuration or
  shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an
  article, or to the combination of configuration and surface
  ornamentation. A design for surface ornamentation is
  inseparable from the article to which it is applied and cannot
  exist alone. It must be a definite pattern of surface
  ornamentation, applied to an article of manufacture. 

  "In discharging its patent-related duties, the United States
  Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) examines
  applications and grants patents on inventions when applicants
  are entitled to them. The patent law provides for the granting
  of design patents to any person who has invented any new,
  original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A
  design patent protects only the appearance of the article and
  not structural or utilitarian features." 

An extremely large number of patents fail when challenged in court.
Although I would expect that to be true of design patents as well as
the more traditional areas of patent law, the economics of
prosecuting or defending such claims may have significantly limited
the number of infringement actions or challenges.

Komowkwa


#17

Hi I am brand new to list. At first some of topics made me wish to
crawl into a hole but then I started noticing familiar topics (in my
realm) and when Kimberly called herself small potato then I thought
well that’s me too! We all start somewhere. This topic of copying a
design made me wish to put my two cents also. I think we all know
what "there is nothing new under the sun’ expression means, we just
interpert differently. The wheel has been remade so many times,
right? I see new things and that leads to me thinking it up
differently. I would not want ever to be making something like I saw
somewhere else. I remember an article that got me started making
bracelets. The first couple I did like the article and then branched
from there, to the point the end result looks nothing like the
first. I IMHO think a TRUE artist does not sell or represent copies
as their work, but they may use it as a stepping stone to their own
creative ideas. When I see insects, or certain animals that look
like some of man’s creations (planes) I marvel at how man has
adapted the wheel to his own creations. We can’t hide in a closet
our wonderful creative works but share them and like Kimberly said
go on to create new things. I think artists do tend to get bored
easy,I know I do. Thanks for all of the neat imputs.

Terri–


#19

I already wrote about one of my pieces being published in the
newspaper, by someone else. Some of the posts here, though, have
raised many issues. I think it really can be broken into two aspects,
though. The first would be me - I made a ring, it made it’s way to
some shop, who molded it, probably not even knowing who first made
it. Happens every day - “Oh, nice ring, let’s make a mold of it
before we pass it on.” Or other, less mercenary reasons, like needing
to make a duplicate part. Yes, this is often a bad thing to do, but it
is common practice in the industry. The other aspect of it is Rolex,
where you have, and need to have, a whole watch factory to make huge
quantities that are actually meant to defraud at Rolex’s expense. The
design of mine that was knocked off was not marketed as being by me,
by my name, it was just a ring design, which doesn’t excuse it,
either. There have been a few posts about outrage, and pride, and art

  • mostly very idealistic, in my mind. So, somebody prints your design
    (I mean EXACTLY your design) in the paper. What do you do? If you
    fight it, you need to hire a lawyer, then you need to document your
    prior owndership of the design, then you need to track down, not the
    retailer, but the manufacturer, then you need to convince them that
    it’s your design, then you need to get them to document their sales of
    your design, then you go {back} to court, try to get a judgement. As
    far as I know, any judgement is only going to be a percentage of the
    profits realized from the design, and I’m not sure if you can get
    legal fees. Basically, what you will get is royalties, retroactively,
    for your year’s legwork. Is it worth it? To me, no. It’s only a
    jewelry design, not my first-born son. I’ll just make another one. Am
    I outraged? Somewhat, yes, but I’ve been in this business a long
    time. The best advise is in one of the posts: If you don’t want your
    designs copied, don’t put them in publications of any kind. When/if
    you get into bigger issues, like the Rolex thing, people maybe
    actually using your name, having your logo made into a stamp for
    their use, and other, more dire things, then that’s different, and
    you might just have to act on it.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#20

Hi Terri

Hi I am brand new to list. At first some of topics made me wish to
crawl into a hole but then I started noticing familiar topics (in
my realm) and when Kimberly called herself small potato then I
thought well that's me too! We all start somewhere. 

I am very glad that I have inspired someone to come on board. Any
new group, be it live or computer, can be intimidating. There have
been a couple of times in the past fews months when I have "goofed"
on a post and been embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. However, what
I have gained from the forum has been well worth a little red face
now and again. Post away.

Best Regards
Kim


#21

Hello, Lee

I stand by my statement.

but as soon as you express it to others, it becomes part of the
cultural expression of your society, and, as such, is impossible
for you to solely possess. Just ask the folks at Gucci, Rolex,
Vuitton, etc., if they will ever be able to fully protect their
designs. 

United States copyright and trademark laws do not see things this
way. If you do not believe me, try to put the Gucci, Rolex, or
Vuitton logos on your work and see what happens. For that matter,
try to market something using Native American symbols as Native
American (without being one) and see what happens. (Speaking of
cultural symbols) If someone refuses to protect their designs just
because they feel they won’t discourage every single copycat, then
they are setting themselves up for continual abuse. Go after the
ones you find out about. Ideas are worth protecting.

along with the work of everyone else, is derived from the sum of
your experiences, including things that you saw before you had any
interest in the creative arts, and will always owe a debt to the
work of others. This debt is paid back by your creations serving as
a springboard for future artists, craftspeople, and yes, design
copying thieves. 

Again, I beg to differ here. My interpretation is just that: mine. I
don’t owe a “design debt” to anyone. Lee, you are making sweeping
assumptions about inspiration, interpretation, and design, here. Not
to mention the gap between copying a design, and "springboarding"
from one.

There are billions of people alive today, any one of which may
have, in fact, independently come up with the exact same design as
any of ours. These people have ownership rights to the design just
as compelling as you or I do. 

Above and beyond the fact that physics says there’s no such thing as
a coincidence, this reason is precisely why it’s important to
copyright your work as soon as it is created. Then if there is ever
a contest about design ownership, it can be determined who actually
had the idea first. Again, ideas are worth defending.

Just my humble two cent’s worth.
Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations


#22
If someone steals my idea and is more successful with it than I am,
good for them, as an artist I think the more important thing is my
idea is being used and im proud its my idea, I visualized it, I
created it, I learned from it, now I can move on and make something
better. 

I may have said that I would hope I was creative enough to move on
and come up with new ideas, but I never said it was ok to copy other
peoples’ work. If designs are money than copying designs is the
equivalent of stealing and I am no thief. A thief is one who steals.
Copying designs is stealing. A copier is a thief.

You can use all the semantics you want and paint a pretty picture of
it for yourself. that’s fine with me, but I don’t for one second
subscribe to this kind of back-stabbing behavior. People spend years
in school, weeks (years) in the shop, and then weeks (months, years)
promoting themselves on the road. How dare you say it ok to take
their ideas and run with them. That is the biggest crock of dung I
have ever come across on the forum.

Good luck with that
Kim Starbard