Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marsha, Remember Form… Copyright Issues Part 1

There are days where my professor's voice from college resonates in my head:
"Marsha, I know you really like working with testing glazes, but you need to remember form as well."

I did not realize how much those words would stick with me throughout my life this far… 
I will try to remember my "form" as this person I have become and want to remain. 
And right now, in my life as an "artist", my life work revolves around making clay pendants for Marsha Neal Studio, LLC - my business. The name I chose to use to make my work "professional" and to be able to deal with all the legal stuff & taxes.

There is so much going on right now in the world with technology at our fingertips…
With these blogs, websites, pages, groups, etc as constant interaction and stimulation. 
There is so much to see, so much to be inspired by, so much to learn about.

I am a teacher and scientist at heart. 
I love to learn about things, and share those things.
I get excited about stuff, and can't wait to tell someone about it…
I like to figure things out by working with my hands…

I am going to be writing a bunch of blog posts about my lessons I have learned by working as an artist in the current bead industry. 
There are things I am confused about. 
There are things I am angry about. 
There are things that need to be cleared up - even if it is for my own sanity… 

I need to get some things off my chest. 
They are weighing too heavy upon my head and in my heart...
My heart gets heavy after receiving emails with pictures attached like these…
(Thank You!!! for sending them to me and for getting a piece for me - will be sending to my lawyer!)

My textures - my hand carved textures…
From doodles and drawings in the margins of my notebooks...

My every piece made by hand - here under my vision…
Many designs have been taken and are being reproduced without my knowing it…
Somewhere not like this…
(Below is a piece of scrap drywall where my porcelain clay shards are resting until they are dry enough to go into the kiln for their first firing).

I want to let you know that these posts are not directed at any individual or situation…
Legally I do not want to step on any toes. I do have a copyright lawyer helping me deal with some knock off situations that are currently on the rise. 
Please let her deal with things…
I have to keep reminding myself that - that is why I hired her…
If you see anything suspicious while you are out and about, take pictures and send them to me with information such as store, brand name, price, sku, date, etc. And I will pass it on to my lawyer…

These blog posts will be based on my experiences on decisions I have made. 
Things I thought about, think about, and things that help me to make better decisions when I am in the studio making work. Things that maybe give me a fighting chance at battling the person or company(s) that are having these made and imported…

Things that maybe you need to hear or pass onto someone that needs a good smack upside the head. 
Or someone that you just think needs to read a little about this.

Let's face it:
The bottom line is this…
If you see something and think to yourself or utter to your friend: 
"I could make that"
Then proceed to try to remake it - even something remotely similar… 
STOP YOURSELF RIGHT THERE! 
Really… Think about it…

It's like I hear my husband tell people on phone conversations for work (we both work from home): "Everyone is a genius in hindsight". Meaning you can look at something or situation after it is completed and have all kinds of ideas. But can you come up with something or deal with a situation the right way - the first time, on your own?

You can be inspired by someone's work…
You may even use the same tools & products as someone - there are a lot of things commercially available, and there is often overlap...
But you don't make the same something as someone else - especially not someone's original design!

As I can I will post more about my cases if I am allowed…
Let me say for now, that Marsha Neal Studio, LLC pendants can be found through bead shops listed on my website
If you see a piece with my design on it, and it's not in my retail price range ($10, $14, $20), then it is either:
1. A discontinued actual item from an online retailer (such as ArtBeads.com, FusionBeads.com, etc)
or
2. A knock off

I want to find out who is having these made...
And yes - I am going to let go of "form" for a moment…
I need to let this out:
 
Mr. Whomever you are…
You are not only hurting me on an emotional level,
You are destroying a business I have worked SO hard to build up…

And the jewelry designers and bead shops that I have worked hard with since I first started making pieces… you are hurting them by making cheap crap that people can't tell that it is not mine until it is in their hand and they see the inferior quality. Or selling to those that do not know better…

You deflate me and my feelings of self worth…
You are making me fight every bit harder to prove to the people in my life that depend on an income from me that I can in fact can show an income.
You have crossed the line. You have messed with the wrong woman and her lawyer…

And let my situation be a lesson to those of you out there.
Don't rip off other people's designs, no matter how "easy" it may seem to make…
Try your best at making something your own, even if it is using something old or a borrowed technique…
Your style and design will shine through…
If you think your work is looking too much like someone else's then push yourself harder to take it to the next level…

And talk to each other…
Critique each others work…
Ask questions - think about the answers…

Thanks for letting me rant a bit.
I will be posting more about these issues - not related to my specific cases until my lawyer says ok, but to issues that seem to touch on the "gray area" a lot...

11 comments:

  1. I feel like you are helping the handmade community as a whole while you are doing this. Thank you for this post and your legal efforts to put an end to this.

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  2. A clay artist friend of mine had a similar problem with her original design of a mug (3 legs, cow spots & an udder) being cheaply knocked-off and sold to mail-order catalogs... she WON her suit!
    Inspiration is one thing... outright copying is another, especially with something as uniquely you as your pendants are.
    My friend also noted that the knock-offs were exactly 10% smaller than hers... they had made a mold directly off of her hand-made product!

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  3. Marsha, I am saddened every time I hear about these issues and I am so sorry you are having to go through the expense and emotionally draining experience fixing it. Thank you for sharing this with us and taking the time to put your thoughts to words. As Mary said, this helps us all.

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  4. Tiara Designs by VictoriaSeptember 25, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Marsha, know that you have a vast group of people who truly love the effort and love you put into each piece you design and make. Keep strong in your fight, I only wish you didn't have to go that route. You have a wonderful network of supporters, I for one would do anything to help you! Love you and your work!
    You're the best!! Vicki

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  5. This is just so wrong, yet I hear about it happening more and more often. I am sorry for your pain- financial and emotional pain.

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  6. Sigh. It makes me sad when I read about original work being copied and then seeing how it impacts the original artist. I'm sorry you are having to deal with this :( I know you already have so much going on. Hugs

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  7. I and several other glass and jewelry artists are in the middle of a legal battle right now (the second go-around for some of them) that stemmed from very similar circumstances as yours. It's a massive financial and emotional burden, but it's a fight that seems to be becoming more and more necessary. Stay strong and good luck!

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  8. "If you see something and think to yourself or utter to your friend:
    "I could make that"
    Then proceed to try to remake it - even something remotely similar…
    STOP YOURSELF RIGHT THERE!"

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? That is called arts and crafts. If I see something I like and I want to make one there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. It is the selling of it that is wrong, but taking an idea and expanding on it is open game.

    Your pieces aren't that original or unique. I see the same patterns and shapes commonly used among the ceramic artists. I am shocked that you think these patterns and shapes are yours alone. Seriously? That would be like you saying you invented polka dots, or birds.

    LOL

    I am soooooo sick of "they are copying me" in the jewelry world. Whatever is being done now has probably been done before. Truely original ideas are extremely rare. I have yet to see any in the ceramic jewelry parts....

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  9. To I have been thinking a lot about this topic and it's been on my mind for a while. I'm glad that you are taking legal action to protect what is yours. Your work is original and I can pick it out of a crowd which means you've done a great job creating what you create. Keep doing it.

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  10. ahhh… Thanks everyone for the comments. Life has taken me a bit wayward over the last few days (kids, family members health issues, wow!). I will be making another post soon to go into a little more detail about the specifics of what I am dealing with. Have to snap some better pictures too for my lawyer and to prove a point about being inspired vs straight up copying and why I chose to create my pendant line the way I did. Keep an eye out - I like all the feedback…

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  11. If it's a discontinued design, how does it hurt you? What I think hurts you, is spending time, money, and creative energy going after people you feel are copying you. Move on. Leave 'em in your dust!

    I am NOT saying there's nothing wrong with copying. Making a mold of someone else's work and selling products from it, is waaaaay out of line. And yes, it's a copyright violation, and I don't see a thing wrong with prosecuting something like that.

    A fairly famous artist once pointed out that the (perceived) originality of an artist's work is closely linked to the obscurity of his/her sources. That's so true. There is very little new under the sun. There's a fine line between direct copying and "inspiration." If I wanted to copy someone's work, all I have to do is change one or two elements and it's no longer a copy.

    As for the friend with the cow-mug...how long ago was that? I distinctly remember seeing that kind of design in a store in the mid-'70's; I remember discussing with my boyfriend the possibility of getting my sister one for her birthday. They didn't have one that looked like the kind of cattle she and her husband raised, so I didn't. Unless your friend's mug was generated before that, she was not working with an idea that was anywhere close to new. As I said above, making a mold from her work is a whole different issue and is absolutely wrong.

    Where do we draw the line between inspiration and copying?

    Marsha, please reconsider your statement "You deflate me and my feelings of self worth." You are so much more than that. I understand frustration; I understand irritation; I understand disappointment. Those are all legitimate feelings in a situation such as this. Your worth as a human being and as an artist, is far more closely tied to your creative potential than it is your past. If someone's hurting your business, and you can show that, that's one thing. But if they're just a bunch of wannabe's, they're not worth your time and energy.

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I would love to hear what you think…