Thursday, March 5, 2015

Copy Rights vs Ethics vs Originality

It's an ongoing discussion in the groups I belong to on FB that revolve around the ethics of using the same techniques. One discussion that stands out in my mind was very civil, everyone held strong opinions but remained calm and rational, it was REALLY a nice discussion, rare for this topic. A recent discussion reminded me of it and I thought I might take a moment to talk about it here.

At the heart of the discussion was a question about building a sellable product line. In noticing the products of other artisans in this persons home town she began to wonder if she was missing the boat in her own product line and posed the question should she add this technique to her line, and if she did, was it in fact ethical to do so.

The general consensus as always was: don’t copy the other artists work but develop your line within your style and if this technique works use it.  Some people though, felt very strongly that even using the technique was an ethical violation. To use the technique was the equivalent of copying.

That stance really got the gears grinding and it made me wonder just where do we draw the line as to mine mine mine. 

I’ve been copied, it hurts, I would never recommend you copy another artists work solely to build your sales.

Technique however, is not copy rightable. How you use that technique, as it relates to design, is. If I use my own handwriting in a design, the hand written aspect is technique, but the font, the way it is used, is design. Does that mean if I use handwriting in one of my designs, you shouldn’t? No I don’t think the idea of a written design is novel, but my personal hand writing is. It is so novel the courts preside over forgery cases. Je t’aime written across a pendant, not original enough to claim copy right. Je t’aime with a rose and a crystal and hand written in my personal font is. 

If you want to make a pendant that says Ti amo in your handwriting using a daisy and a pearl, go for it. While I may know exactly where you got the idea, you took it in your own direction. Italian vs French, different flower, different stone, different writing. I have absolutely no right to get mad because you used hand writing…….. the rest is still considered derivative. You changed enough to be legal but not enough that the influence isn’t recognizable. See what I mean?  I can gripe about the design if I want to but have no leg to stand on if the only thing I’m mad about is the handwriting.

However, if you hand engrave Ti amo in your handwriting across a bracelet bar,  that’s all yours. I have no rights to be angry, and you have a new product in your line.

The stance that two jewelers can’t use the same techniques without violating ethics is terribly flawed. 
ethical |ˈeTHikəl| adjective
of or relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these
• morally good or correct
• avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment

I live in a small town. SMALL less than 1000 people small town. I know of three other people that make jewelry. If I string am I being unethical? No

If they wire wrap are they being unethical? No

If they see that I use leather and hand made chain for my pendants, and they decide to use leather and hand made chain are they being unethical? No

If they see my dragon and make an exact replica? Yes highly unethical and is also copy right infringement.

If it is unethical to use a technique that another jeweler is already using, we are ALL in a world of trouble. Not one of us uses a technique that no one else has ever used or isn’t using as I type this. I’m pretty sure most of us are using these techniques without any thoughts of malice.

As I wrote above I explained exactly how two artists can use the same technique without undermining each other.

Peoples tastes are vastly varied making room for many artists using different, similar and even the same techniques…… bezel set stones anyone?

Life’s too short not to learn new and fun things, it’s too short to spend it angry or worried that someone else might want to make beautiful things. Can there really ever be too many beautiful things in the world?

Go forth, make beautiful things!
I’ll be here, making some of my own.
Thanks for stoppin by!
We’ll see ya next time!

PS This was a blog topic I had tucked away for later use. The bones of it were written months ago and I freshened the writing a little.  I currently do not have any jewelry like this in my product line, it is just an example pulled from thin air. Although I do know people who have similar pieces in their lines now, this was written before I had knowledge of it and in no way means I think they copied anyone - just great minds and all that good stuff.