Inspired or a Ripoff?

Edit:  The seller of the original item has NEVER contacted me negatively on this issue, and I wish to clarify this.  I respect her and her work.  I have been contacted by several other artists regarding this issue, but not she herself and I do not want to shed any negative light on her in any way.

~~~ 

I wrote a post a while back, that I won’t revisit, that displayed what was essentially a copy of a handcrafted item that I wanted for my wedding.  I had contacted and followed the seller of said handmade good for about a month with no response, hoping to buy my own, and in the meantime, my gracious friend said that she would instead try to recreate a similar item for me as a gift, since I was having no luck with the seller.  I was incredibly touched and what she made for me was incredibly personal, and incredibly meaningful to me, not because of what it was, but because of the love and time that was spent making it for me.

It consisted of fabric, stuffing, a couple golf tees, some wire, and a couple other miscellaneous craft supplies. No pattern was followed, no item was purchased from the original artist and reproduced, it was simply a replicated hand crafted item, from one friend to another, made with love. These items won’t be reproduced for sale, and will never be reproduced again.

I occasionally still receive hate/disgust mail in regards to the fact that my friend made this item for me. Which is perfectly fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and as a blogger, I understand that you always open yourself up to criticism with every post, and I welcome honest opinions, as I stand behind and believe in everything I do, and others should be able to freely voice their opposing opinions.

So, here, I’d like to encourage the debate:

DIY brides are inspired at every turn by everything they see: invitation designers, artists, magazines, catalogs, books, and even bloggers here at Weddingbee. As a Bride, when it comes to DIY’ing your wedding, when is it okay to copy something you’ve seen, and when do you cross the line into “ripping someone off”?

Furthermore, as an artist, when you see something of yours reproduced, do you feel slighted? Do you feel that if a bride cannot afford or does not have access to a particular item you sell, should she give up on her dream of having said item for her wedding or is it ok to try to recreate such an item for her personal use?

Discuss.

BLOGGER

Mrs. Penguin

Location:
Northern California
Wedding Date:
June 2008

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    nosylibrarian, Guest @ 11:40 pm

    i’m very interested in intellectual property, and as a librarian, i have to know something about it (thought not as much as an IP lawyer)…

    i think that one negative thing coming out of etsy and the ease of selling products on-line is that everyone has an expectation that everything they do should be successful…and if it isn’t, then we see this creative community who on the surface is all about sharing ideas, starting to get upset about copyright.

    while someone mentioned that copyright is meant to spur creativity in the market place, and protection is an incentive to create, you can also freeze a market with overly-aggressive laws.

    like it or not, a lot of this tension is market driven. i think the craft world, much like the music world, is getting a little crazy over-saturated with product, and people are finding other ways to participate and have access.

    i don’t understand the people that think posting instructions were crossing some imaginary line…the instructions were how *she* did it, not this other seller who couldn’t be bothered to be a responsive business person.

    i know i sound a bit harsh, but in a highly saturated market, it takes more than just artistic talent to have a successful business. we can has over the finer points of copyright law all day long and not have a good answer, but the people and business who succeed are going to have a better plan for selling their work.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Birdy, Guest @ 12:06 am

    those people are HATERS, miss penguin. brush your shoulders off. seriously, just like everyone said above, your friend was NOT trying to profit but to do something very sweet using her crafting talents! there is NOTHING WRONG with that, and no one said the original crafter was a copycat even though it was the lord above who designed birdies in the first place ;-)

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Cy, Guest @ 12:22 am

    What frustrates me the most is the fact that this idea was most likely conceived by someone else first, before this artist! Most ideas are. I hate the ‘OMG COPIER’ attitude on etsy and craftster sometimes. Usually, the ‘first person’ to ‘do something’ on those sites is not the first person to conceive the idea. But due to a bizarre community social effect, there is backlash against anyone other than the OP. The majority of the time, it’s a basic idea that anyone could come up with the inspiration for, and make in their own home.

    It is a fine line – I can’t remember what the original post is (can someone enlighten me? pretty please?) but as an example, if you make a ‘clothespin doll wedding cake topper’ or ‘stuffed birds with wire feet’……. maybe some prominent artist is choked because they make those as well and are successful at doing so…. however. They in no way have the rights to go on an OMG COPIER rampage, and neither do the fans of their work.

    Now if, on your clothespin doll, you copied everything right down to the placement of the painted mole on it’s face, and the fabric print of their ‘dress’, they might have reason to be upset. If your stuffed bird uses the same fabric, etcetera…. then possibly. But really…. I can’t believe that you are receiving hate mail from people over this, it is ridiculous.

    This comes from an artist that sells work online. Too many people get choked up about someone else using the IDEA and not copying the exact item. It’s like teenagers that get mad at their friends in high school because “OH MY GOD, I THOUGHT OF PUTTING THAT STICK-ON-EARRING IN THE CORNER OF MY EYE FIRST!!!” ;) – aka immature. It also accomplishes nothing but alienating people and creating rifts.

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Nicole, Guest @ 12:36 am

    I’m an artist who creates and sells jewelry at art fairs sometimes. For the most part, if someone is doing a one-off, making just one of something “inspired” by one of my creations, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. If they were selling that one item to someone else, it would bug me, but I’d only be REALLY upset only if it was being mass-produced and sold! Don’t even tell me all the artists writing hate mail aren’t gaining inspiration from others in some form or another.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    jnicholea, Guest @ 12:58 am

    Everyone keeps going back to how she posted step-by-step instructions, but I don’t see how that is any worse than posting about the reproduced item at all (if you think it is a bad thing to do). It has been said over and over, but almost no ideas are original anymore. If I see a photographer took an amazing picture of the Eiffel tower and I do my best to duplicate that exact image am I infringing on copyright? If I like Andy Warhol’s version of Marilyn Monroe and I use that image to inspire the painting of my own am I doing anything morally wrong?
    If the materials are available to all, shouldn’t the deisgn be considered unique to all who produce it?

    I don’t know anything about law (as is evidenced by my post I am sure), but someone mentioned moral issues, and I don’t think that Miss Penguin was morally wrong either. What she created was not in fact an original design to the artist, if I remember correctly she received a little inspiration herself when she created it. Like from nature?

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Red, Guest @ 11:40 am

    As as baker (or as I like to tell people, a cake artist :-) , I sometimes think it would be nice to copyright a cake design. However, in reality, it would just be silly. For one, it’s not really enforceable – almost any change to the original design would discount it from being a duplicate and therefore a copyright infringement. And second, I believe that competition is healthy. It may not always be fair but it’s healthy. For the most part, if you offer a quality product and service, there will be people who will recognize and support your work. Just think of all the people who pay outrageous prices for designer jewelry, clothes, etc.

    At some point, everyone has benefitted from competition, from someone looking at a product or idea and saying, “I can make that cheaper, better, faster, etc.” Don’t get me wrong, if someone’s got a lot invested in an item and want it to be protected, then he/she should get a patent for that item.

    As an artist and business person, I appreciate our free market and believe competition is healthy. Bring it on!

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    Watercooler » Weddingbee » The Wedding Blog, Guest @ 8:36 am

    [...] Inspired or a Rip-Off? by Miss Penguin [...]

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Is Imitation the Sincerest Form of Flattery? « BridalCheek, Guest @ 9:27 am

    [...] weddings — laragale @ 8:27 am Tags: copying, wedding bee, wedding planning, weddings Miss Penguin’s recent post on Wedding-Bee inspired me to tackle an issue I have been mulling over for quite some [...]

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    kim, Guest @ 10:07 am

    i believe that for these matters, it only becomes an issue when someone takes the idea, makes it and makes a profit from it. if it’s just for personal use, then what’s the big deal, you know?

    there’s several circumstances in which you really just have to DIY something that you see… whether it’s cost or accessibility. it only should really become a problem if you take that item you’ve made, sell it and essentially take the money straight out of the hands of the artist that thought of it to begin with.

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Mrs Popcorn, Guest @ 8:17 pm

    I did the same as your friend did, for my cousin. I copied the cherry blossom hairpins from http://www.io-mareas.com/ for my cousin to wear for her wedding.

    I think I’m about on the same page as you: done as gifts between friends or for personal use, is just fine. there are also many ideas out there that are generic enough that nobody should get huffy if someone else figures it out on their own and makes it for sale as well, though buying something and then reverse engineering it to copy would probably be going to far.

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