I work really hard each and every day to come up with unique and inspiring ideas. My goal in life is to inspire creativity. I love seeing people riff on my ideas, because that’s a dialogue. In the classical music period, musicians had musical dialogues with snippets of music called motifs. They were expanding on each other’s ideas in creative and fascinating ways. Jazz musicians also do this. That’s the sort of dialogue I want to have with my readers. I also love knowing that they’re making the designs I’ve created and enjoying them as is. That’s a really wonderful feeling.
I don’t so much love finding out someone has co-opted my work as their own. That’s...the complete opposite of the point. It’s a subtle distinction, but let me see if I can’t clarify.
My blog, my books and my magazine projects all have a common thread. They’re protected by copyrights. That means if you want to reproduce a project I’ve shared with you for yourself, that’s my intention. I want you to do that! That’s why I make and share projects! If you want to give said project to a friend or family member as a gift, that’s fabulous! But...and here’s the big but...if you want to copy said project and make it into a kit, a class or a design for profit...that’s not okay. It’s okay to take a technique I’ve shown you and make your own unique design and sell that, because then you’ve engaged in a dialogue. Can you see the distinction?
If you copy and paste the picture of my project or an entire post into your blog or on your website without my express permission, that’s also not okay. The internet has created a free for all when it comes to horking intellectual property and I’m here today along with other artists to start staking our claims to our work.
The problem is that everything is so easy to take from the internet, so it seems less wrong to take it freely. It is, however, wrong.
If you copy someone’s art work and sell it for profit, you’re stealing. Do you steal regularly? Do you feel entitled to walk into a store and take things off of the shelves without paying for them? Do you hork stuff from your friends’ houses? If you visit them and see a vase you really like, do you feel entitled to plunk it into your purse?
Intellectual property is property. Artists and musicians and creative people work incredibly hard and they deserve to be paid for their work just like everyone else. Illegally downloading a movie or a song is stealing. Pirating software is stealing. Copying and pasting a copyright protected image into your blog without permission or credit is stealing. Uploading a segment from a TV show to YouTube is stealing. Copying an image that is under copyright, printing it and reproducing it in your artwork is stealing. Copying a design, reproducing it and selling it for profit is stealing. (On a side note it is okay to use images you cut out of books or magazines in collages, it’s just not okay to copy them and use them multiple times. See the difference? One is recycling, the other is theft.)
Anytime you co-opt someone else’s professional creative output for personal gain or profit or even for your personal pleasure without paying for it, you are breaking copyright laws. These laws can be very expensive to enforce, so you may just get away with it. Lots of people do. That doesn’t make it right. Because it is theft and theft isn’t right. It’s becoming a rampant and serious problem with the boom of the internet. People who create for a living have the same right to make a living as everyone else.
I see my work in projects sold to magazines and in ads for manufacturers and even winning design contests, only it’s actually other people copying my work. What incredible audacity it must take to steal someone’s work and claim it as your own. The way I see it, if you aren’t creative enough to make your unique designs or to give due credit when you are inspired by someone else’s work; you probably shouldn’t be selling your work. I’m just sayin’.
This topic gets everyone all kerfuffled. Even artists can’t agree on what is and what is not copyright infringement. If we can’t agree or if we’re so afraid of being unpopular we can’t take a public stand against copycats and copyright infringers...well I’m afraid this sort of activity will continue.
For the record, I am taking a stand. I have no interest in making lazy people easy money. If you want to sell kits, classes, projects for publication or finished goods, use your fertile imagination. I want you to make my designs and wear them and enjoy them. I want you to be inspired by my work to expand into new directions and most of all I want to see you become empowered to make your own unique designs. If you want pictures to post on your blog, take them yourself, use stock photos, permission free images or credit the source, if you’re thinking about taking my pictures or text from my blog or website make sure you ask permission and that if I grant it...you give me credit.
So every time you illegally download a song or a movie or copy software or sell a copy of someone else’s work in your Etsy shop or copy and paste a picture from a Google search into your blog, think about what I just told you. It’s not okay.
If you'd like to participate in educating the public about this topic, please post a blog this week and I will share your link with my readers in a group link post. We can't complain if we aren't willing to take a stand.