Monday, November 10, 2014

Sticky Wickets

"Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, and the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."

Hard to believe, I know, but we had yet another fascinating Facebook discussion this week.

Well, maybe it wasn't truly fascinating, but I like alliteration.

One of my FB friends, who I met because we were partnered in my first Bead Soup Blog Hop, posed this question.
If you post tutorials on your blog with a copyright attribution/no copies/no derivative works and people still ask if they can copy and sell the designs ... what do you think? I feel that the design is clearly intended for personal use. Want to sell a few at a craft fair or to folks at work? Sure! Do I owe you a free idea from which you can profit with quantities of product made and sold without paying me? I do not think so. But I don't know that it matters what I think. This is the sticky wicket of the Internet. Once you give it away it is hard to get it back. If you are going to profit from the idea, what do you feel you owe to the designer? Anything? Nothing? Credit for the idea, a few bucks, a thank you, nothing? Thoughts?
And of course, after a slew of commiserating posts in response, I assumed my usual role of fly-in-the-ointment.

I responded thus.
I'll go out on a limb here and say, if you don't want people to make it and sell it, don't put the instructions on the Internet. Pictures sure, sell it yourself yes, sell a tutorial, absolutely. I think legally a copyright only protects you from having people re-post the instructions, or worse, sell the instructions. It's not the same as a patent or trademark.
My FB friend had the grace to agree, or at least not disagree.
Oh yes, this is true! I am just contemplating the complexities! Do you think, then, if I post a tutorial and clearly state that it is intended for personal use that I owe the reader the right to make a profit with the idea? I know the legalities. I am mostly contemplating the overreach! Just food for discussion.
I'm guessing by overreach, she was referring to people taking her idea and running with it to generate lucre. She seemed to be pushing the envelope by questioning whether she owed them some right to do so, when she clearly felt quite the opposite to be true.

I said this.
I don't think you owe the reader anything! We have a lot of discussion about this in the bead-making world. It's generally conceded that if you publish instructions, teach a class or sell a tutorial, you relinquish control over what people do with the info. The most you can do is to ask people to give you credit and encourage them to come up with their own spin.
Another friend contributed this. I'm still not sure what side he was on.
It's a moot point. The Facebook culture has changed what we mean by copying. Once I post something I usually consider it gone. There's no app for common decency or creative trust.
The original poster continued her pondering.
Of course, the reality is what it is, but still it fascinates me that people feel entitled to profit from your idea that they got for free. I am amazed that even among creatives, the idea that it is okay to profit from the tutorial exists. What happened to being inspired to make it your own? I know the reality, but I am still asking the moral question, the deeper question, do you feel I owe the people who read my blog the right to make money on my ideas? Because I already know they feel that I do and I want to know what creatives think. I don't think it's a moot point, I think it is one that is worth discussing.
Since I'd already answered that question, I posed a related one.
What if someone is selling a tutorial and you look at the picture and think, I know how he/she did that. Am I prevented then from making and selling that thing? Of course, personally, I'd want to make it uniquely mine.
She came back with this.
That is a good question, or say, and this happens every day, you see a finished good and think, I know how they made that ... is it okay to make and sell that thing? Reality ... people do it every day. Morality ... is it okay? Are ideas really all free?
Frankly, I don't think it is immoral or even see it as a moral issue. If you are an artist, if you consider yourself an artist, you won't want to copy anyone's work. Where's the creative gratification in that? But if you are just a hack, just trying to make a buck, and you see something that you can replicate and sell, well, isn't that essentially the basis of our economic system? Competition? Building a better mousetrap?

And just for the sake of argument, even a patent only grants exclusive rights to an inventor for a limited period of time, in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention. And an invention is considered a solution to a specific technological problem. Does art fall under that definition?

Trademarks serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. They serves as a badge of origin, a logo. You can trademark artwork that you use to sell or promote your products or services. Do instructions for a project fall under that definition?

This was my last word on the subject.
I think it is OK, but that is just my opinion. Creatively I always want to come up with my own ideas. But here's another question. What if you independently came up with a design and later found out someone had previously posted instructions for that design. Would you have to stop making and selling that thing? There are many people who think they have invented some design or technique whereas in reality others have been doing that same thing.
The original poster was still grinding her original ax.
Yes, this is another pickle isn't it, Elizabeth? I believe ideas are out there and sometimes independently people come up with the same ideas, they are logical progressions or they are similar solutions. That to me is different from blatantly taking an idea and making it with full knowledge that it was not your own and then expecting to be able to make a profit from it on a scale basis.
The discussion rambled on without me and eventually she summed it up this way.
I am just baffled as to why people feel it is free for profit if it is free for inspiration. That's the crux of what I'm putting out here today. Why do we owe people the ability to make money on our ideas? I love inspiring creativity! I am all about it! We still have to eat and the conundrum is how to make your ideas make enough money that you can afford to let them go.
I'm not without sympathy. I don't think she owes her readership a meal ticket, but I also don't think her readership owes her compensation for ideas freely shared, or additional recompense for ideas sold in a tutorial.

So that is that. Maybe if I ever have an original idea that others try to copy and sell, my tune will change. Right now I think I'd be flattered that someone would want to take an idea of mine and run with it.

And all of this begs the question, why are the most interesting interactions in my life happening on Facebook of late?

No need to answer that.

Because shortly after the conversation above, a somewhat related Facebook discussion arose that bears further, um, discussion. It began thus.
I like to see what other artists make and challenge myself. Sometimes it's an epic fail, other times it's pretty good. But if it wasn't my original idea can I sell it? I am making snowmen lentils and really can't seem to make them my own. Really a snowman has pretty distinct features. What are everyone's thoughts? I don't want to hurt another artist.
Most artists don't regard imitation as a form of flattery, however sincere.

These snowmen lentils were made by Jeannie Galt.

I promise I'm not going to go into all 32 responses, just mine (which is wordy) and maybe a couple of others.
Personally, as an artist, I'd rather make my beads original. But there is a lot of copying. Bead makers buy and use the same frit blends, rollers, presses, silver wire, leaf, etc. Bead designs can't be copyrighted or patented. Consumers benefit by having more options. Most things have been done before and who's to say where any idea originally came from. As you say, snowmen have distinct features, can you give it a spin? Make them in fantasy colors, add eyeglasses or a pipe, a cherry nose instead of a carrot, etc.
Another bead maker said the same, but possibly more succinctly.
I don't think snowman lentils "belong" to anyone. I've been making them for years. They do have their own personality. I made one recently with a stocking cap instead of a top hat!
Not everyone felt quite the same.
I think if you have looked at someone else's lampwork bead for inspiration and yours pretty much matches the one you were looking it, then you shouldn't sell it. If you got your idea from some other source, let's say a greeting card, your head, or piece of fabric, and it still happens to look like other people's beads as a coincidence, then sell it. For me, there are loads of ways to make your snow person different from others. But it is hard to see and know everything that is out there already.
So, it's OK to copy an idea, as long as you aren't copying the idea from another artist's bead.

Another poster summed it up this way.
Nothing is new, everything has been done. When it comes out of your own hand it will have its own flair therefore it will be your own. If you keep looking on the Internet you will someday find exactly what you've made, made by somebody else.

A few years ago, a German artist published a tutorial for a cat bead. I looked at the picture and said, I can see how that is done. And I went into my studio and made a few.

But I didn't feel right about selling them online, even though I used different colors and changed the design on the cat's body. If I'd paid for the tutorial, I think I'd have felt the same. I sold a few at local bead shows, but somehow I felt that listing them in my Etsy store only invited criticism by other lampwork artists. The global community of bead makers is so small, that inevitably it would surface that I'd copied the design.

I stopped making that bead. If I take a class, I don't go home and make the beads that were taught. I like learning how someone else does things. Then I go off and do my own thing.

Don't look for snowman lentils from me any time soon.

"Disorder in the house
The tub runneth over
Plaster's falling down in pieces by the couch of pain

Disorder in the house
Time to duck and cover
Helicopters hover over rough terrain

Disorder in the house
Reptile wisdom
Zombies on the lawn staggering around

Disorder in the house
There's a flaw in the system
And the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down

The floodgates are open
We've let the demons loose
The big guns have spoken
And we've fallen for the ruse

Disorder in the house
It's a fate worse than fame
Even the Lhasa Apso seems to be ashamed

Disorder in the house
The doors are coming off the hinges
The earth will open and swallow up the real estate

I just got my paycheck
I'm gonna paint the whole town grey
Whether it's a night in Paris or a Fresno matinee

It's the home of the brave and the land of the free
Where the less you know the better off you'll be

Disorder in the house
All bets are off
I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair

Disorder in the house
I'll live with the losses
And watch the sundown through the portiere."

(Warren Zevon)

1 comment:

Cathie said...

This is an interesting debate. I tend to agree with you Liz. Once you post something out there, you don't have much control over what people will do with it. On my blog I posted the translation of a short story by Kate Chopin called 'The Story of an Hour'. I love it and tt had never been translated into French. I put the © sign at the bottom of my page, saying that people are entitled to use its contents, but should quote its author. This post has had an enormous number of visitors, because this story is a favorite with teachers of EFL (in France). Well I am pretty sure no one bothers to quote my contribution to their students, but there it is. Maybe someone out there will improve it. Same with your bead stuff. You use what you find and make it better. No reason to fret. Every artist has always copied someone but made the result personal and different. If you have your own style, it is bound to look different.
If you don't want anyone to steal your ideas, the best thing is not display them, or maybe not to have any! :-)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz