Sunday, January 23, 2011

Copyright or Copywrong?

What constitutes copyright infractions?
Is it being inspired by seeing something, and without taking pictures or etchings, reworking it from memory? Is it seeing a design in one medium and attempting to recreate it in another medium?

On my Etsy shop for Needle Felting (DebFeltIt) I have the following stated:   I needle felt with patterns, I needle felt without patterns, I needle felt from pictures seen, I needle felt what comes into my brain and out of my fingers. I wet felt scarves, bowls and vessels. I nuno felt.  Basically .. I felt!

    I have found myself in the position of seeing a sculpture at a trade show and becoming so enamored of it, tried to recreate it from memory by needle felting it when I returned home.  I did not try to pass this felted sculpture off as my own (see statement above) but I did put it for sale on my Etsy store.
    The original creator contacted me by phone and told me it was a copyrighted design (which had never occurred to me that it would be - I thought it was a 'display' item and again, copyright never entered my wee little mind) and asked me to remove the item.  Of course, I did so immediately!

   Later on that year, I did another couple of designs based on "Shaun The Sheep" from the Wallace and Gromit series.  Surprisingly enough, these were also similar  - or so it would seem - to the 'so called copyrighted' sheep design of earlier. I sold one at the First Frost Art Show and then placed the 2nd sheep on my Etsy shop.  Once again, I was contacted by the 
 same individual yelling copyright issues.
I told her that this sheep was based on Shaun The Sheep but was told that since 'her sheep' had knobby knees and Shaun did not have knobby knees, I was again duplicating her design. And since my sheep had 'blue' eyes like hers, it was obvious that I was in the wrong.  I responded by saying that since I have a stuffed Counting Sheep residing on the back of my sofa that also has 'buggy blue eyes', and since my "Number 44" has the same face style as my creation, he was also an obvious inspiration to my felted sheep. Once again, I was told to remove him immediately or face consequences.
So at what point am I guilty of copyright wrongs?
When I saw her design and from memory recreated it?
When I looked up Shaun The Sheep, or looked at my Counting Sheep,
and  recreated it?
When I put 'my' sheep up for sale, even though I did not claim personal  
credit for it?
And what happens when I see any other image in print, or in person, and
needle felt it?  If I felt from a kit and put it up for sale?  What if I do a dog
with spots and someone else has done a dog with spots?  What about my
 long-legged birds?
Again, going back to my Etsy shop description ... I needle felt with patterns, I needle felt without patterns, I needle felt from pictures seen, I needle felt what comes into my brain and out of my fingers.

Opinions, comments, criticism .. all are welcomed!!!


Carol Jager said...

Oh my goodness. I can't read all of it cause a sheep covers some of the text but I get the point. I thought everyone looks for inspiration the way you do. I do it in beading, crocheting and so on. In my opinion all crafting comes from inspiration from others. I didn't know I was violating copy rights. I also think the other person needs to get a life.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion it was your pattern because you did not use her pattern and then sell it, you used your own. That person seems like they have a real problem!! I don't know exactly what is prohibited with copyright other then the fact about photocopy or selling under your own name when its a pattern from someone else. Which you clearly are on a fine line since you looked at it and did it from memory but I don't know. If you are in the right thought once u find out I would repost it to sell and send her a copy of the proof so she stops.

Anonymous said...

Come on Deb. Stand up and tell the lady to get a life. How do you know that she hasn't violated the laws with her buggy eyed sheep. Be pretty hard to prove that you are violating anything. She is just afraid that she is going to loose some of her buisness through your cute little critters.

Jacqueline Korteland Boller said...

It seems to me if you put your own personal touches along with what inspired you that it is not copyright infringement. If you change enough elements, it's your own design.

Measi said...

IMHO, if she's screaming copyright infringement - ask her for the proof of her copyright.

Deb said...

I fully respect copyright regulations as I understand them in the needlwork industry. I don't want to get into copyright wars with her or anyone else .. just want to see what the parameters in felting scupture may be. How would this be different than recreating, say a ceramic vase seen in an gallery or the Eiffle Tower in felt?

Deb said...

Oh, and I've tried to re-arrange the images so that the 'sheeps' aren't covering up the wording! Sorry about that!

Unknown said...

The best way to be certain is to take your creation and her creation to an intellectual property rights attorney - the rest of us are just guessing! As one who has had the "opportunity" to consult an IP attorney, the initial consultation is usually free. If you want them to take action, like writing a letter, that costs, but usually not a great deal (under $100).
The problem with most of this is that there is very little precedent, since most of our issues are so small they've never been taken to court, so there is no case law. There is no percentage of change in law that makes it your own work. All of us are inspired by what we see, even the artist claiming infringement. Debbie Rowley

Anonymous said...

DEb...coming from someone who was introduced to the market the same way in counted cross stitch, I feel your pain and confusion. But from an artist and designers perspective and what I have learned in school.....ex: You go to the Art Museum and "copy" a DaVinci to learn the technique...but you don't sell the painting. There is a fine line between being inspired by something and copying something. Technically, you can't copy the wallace and Grommet sheep either...he designed it, he owns the design. When you sell a pattern however, you assume it will be reproduced by needle and thread, not copy machine!
Be inspired all you want: no one creates in a vacuum, but make it your own some how..and not just by changing eye color. That woman...whoever she is, does not have the rights to all sheep, just her sheep. It is a coutesy thing not to copy artwork...but everyone hopes others are inspired by it...

Anonymous said...

Anything that is designed, created, written by someone, with or without the copyright mark, is still copyrighted. That being said, as others have mentioned, we all use another person's works at times for inspiration. The item is considered copyright infringement if you can look at it and see enough similarity that you can see it possibly might have been copied. When you "copy" something you have seen you cannot sell either the item or a pattern for it. You may keep it for personal use only. However, you may take an idea or two from someone else's work to use in your own, but again, you need to make it your style. It needs to have its own character etc. so as not to be confused with another person's work. The chance that this woman will really take you to court is slim, but it is important that you acknowledge and be considerate of her designs. Take ideas from the works of several others to create a style that you like. Add your own touches to make it yours, and enjoy the creative process.

Hope this helps. I must admit, your sheep don't look that much like hers. Perhaps everyone who has ever put knobby knees on something will be after you now.

Peggy H.

Anonymous said...

One more quick thing. I design stitchery/needlework patterns. Others have asked me if they can reproduce them for sale. Unless the author tells you that you may it is against copyright law to do so. You are taking income from them by reproducing their design and selling it, as they make their income off the design itself and for every finished product sold using their design that is one less pattern the designer will sell.

Again, hope this helps as you are trying to make those decisions.

Peggy H.

natalysneedle said...

I dont believe it is copyright infridgement. How about patterns people use for quilts or bags and then they turn around and sell their crafted items. Isn't that what crafts are. No one can tell you were to get your inspiration from as long as you aren't using it as our own logo or selling a pattern as your own but you are selling a sculpture you created. Keep on Felting and love what you do.

Anonymous said...

If you intentionally recreated Shaun the Sheep with the intent to sell the finished product, you've violated copyright laws. Changing the color of the sheeps eyes or making other small changes means nothing really.

Even though you may have given credit to the original designer, it's still a copyright violation.

Certain things about the sheep are going to fall under public domain. Sheep are white, they can have a black face, they have eyes. What doesn't fall under public domain is how all of those elements come together to give Shaun his unique look. (and he is unique)

Because you readily admit you copy other works to create your own it's kind of a moot point. When you say you've copied something, you've probably violated a copyright.

Seems pretty obvious that you just aren't that familiar with copyright laws. In other words, it wasn't an intentional violation. Just an opps!

Deb said...

To Anonymous:
I am familar with copyright laws, as they stand within the needlework industry anyway -- that's why I started this whole post/conversation. Shaun the Sheep was NEVER copied by me - my sheep was loosly based on the inspiration of Shaun, AND on the inspiration of the Serta counting sheep, AND from the memory of seeing the sheep that started this whole discussion. My sheep, a brown sheep with black face and body made of a variety of colored wools and yarns, has a similar face (and knobby knees).
Anonymous said <>
What I was concerned with is this .. if I recreate a gallery art vase design in felt, if I recreate the Eiffle Tower in felt, if I recreate say a bird or dog in felt that someone else may have done previously in the same style .. even if I never saw the original creation ... is THAT considered copyright infraction?

Anonymous said...

Since when can a sheep be copywrited? Tell her to ask God if He allowed her to use His design.

Unknown said...

Really now, how much profit could this lady have lost? And was the buyer in a position to buy her sheeps instead of yours? Isn't it possible that more than one person will see a sheep in the same artistic way?

Kathy said...

IMO it is your creation from your own mind. No pattern was involved therefore you are the owner of the creation and any pattern you would make. You didn't copy a pattern that belonged to someone else so what copywrite could be involved? I son't think you are violating any copywrite when you create something from your won design.

Anonymous said...

Only my opinion, but I have to say:

I have a lot of 'good ideas' for cross stitch patterns, but do not design and sell because I CAN'T afford an attorney. I won't even get into a designing business unless I could afford to pay for legal help if needed.

Sounds to me as though you need legal advice, if only one meeting with an intellectual property rights attorney, as Debbie said here. If you do this, I suggest you take photos with you of both your Shawn the Sheep and the Serta sheep and any other inspiration you've used for the design.