Monday, November 23, 2009

What Would You Do?

There has been a lot of talk in the last little while about copyright and copyright infringement.  In all honesty, until I started designing and publishing in the decorative painting industry more than 20 years ago, I knew virtually nothing about copyright laws except for the obvious…that you can’t copy something and call it your own.

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What has come up in recent discussions is the general belief that as long as a design is altered by at least 10%, then you can then call the “new” design your own.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Copying any part of any design that is not your own and using it in a design that you deem as yours and as original is a blatant copyright violation, especially if it is being sold for profit under a different name.  Ignorance of copyright laws is NOT an acceptable excuse in a court of law.

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Just last week, when I was perusing one of my favorite magazines, I saw something that for a second,  literally took my breath away.  As I was flipping through the back of the magazine where one can read about and see items for sale (which admittedly I very seldom read), I saw this staring back at me.

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Nice fall flag” or “So what?” might be your immediate reaction, right?

Well mine was, I don’t believe it!  What I immediately recognized was a combination of some of my painted designs altered by some other ‘artist’ who is claiming this to be an original of theirs.  NOT!

This artist/thief has taken elements from three of my designs, two of which come from one of my books, specifically this one which was published in 2006.

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The pumpkin, leaves and corn come from this design…

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and the pear comes from this design.

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Some of the corn, the crock and even the design on the crock were taken from this design which I designed, published and taught at a convention in Columbus, Ohio in 2000.

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I am still shaking my head in disbelief, even as I write this.

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Before I retired from the decorative painting industry, I was asked to sell the rights to some of my designs to a company who would then use them for whatever purpose they chose.  This is called “licensing”.   The company pays you a mutually agreed upon fee and the artist relinquishes all rights to the design thereafter.  For personal reasons, primarily because I had no input as to how or where the designs would be used, I declined.

Part of the licensing agreement is that one must sign a form stating that the design being sold is 100% original and is not in violation of copyright, thereby exempting the company of all liabilities should there ever be a lawsuit.

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At this point I would like to say that I do not blame or hold either the magazine or the manufacturing company responsible.  I blame the ‘artist’.  As you have seen, even the theme of the design was not original.  All the elements for this ‘new’ design were taken from my copyrighted designs and reconfigured in such a way to be deemed unrecognizable.  I knew that they were mine as soon as I saw them.

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My question to you all is what would you do if you were in my shoes?  I would really like to hear what you have to say.  Thanks and…

Happy stitching!

Kaaren ♥  

P.S.  A note to Kathy who left a comment on my post entitled “BOO” regarding the vintage images.  I would love to reply to you but you are a “no-reply” blogger and there was no email address on your profile page either.  Please email me if you would like an answer.

47 comments:

Kim D. said...

Karen, it looks like they are down right copying your designs. You might want to seek the advice of a copy-write attorney. I don't blame you at all for being irritated.

Terry said...

I hate when this kind of thing happens, and unfortunately it happens all too often. At one time I was a graphic artist online and drew all my own original graphics. Someone was always taking them and calling them their own. It's hard to stop that sort of thing online. At least with the magazine, you have someone to contact about it. I agree with Kim...contact an attorney.

conny's quilts said...

Karen I think you have all reason to be angry baout this,what a stupid thing that someone is a copycat of your design. I'm not familiar with American law, but maybe someone else is and may give you advise! Good luck with that.

Alice I. said...

Kaaren, I think the thief did not count on you ever seeing that particular flag! A similar thing occurred to a quilt teacher/designer and she wrote to the magazine and suggested there was a copyright issue, threatening law suit. The magazine thanked her, investigated it, and I believe they contacted the "other" party, who hopefully will think twice about stealing designs again.

Grammy Linda / Behind My Red Door said...

I'll be following along to see what you decide and what happens. I hope you can stop the artist from selling YOUR designs as their own!!

Cathi said...

I'd contact a lawyer who's well-versed in the area, contact the magazine and contact the "artist". I believe magazines are very sensitive to copyright laws and imagine they would immediately investigate. Perhaps a letter from a lawyer to the "artist" will make him/her think twice before stealing someone else's work again. But I would definitely do something. Don't let her/him get away with this!

By Hoki Quilts said...

OMG, I know how you feel. As a quilt designer (sometimes) I have had a similar problem and even had someone teaching my design claiming it as their own. I was fortunate enough to be in the class! So when all had gone I did the face to face thing and got a published apology.
In your case I would contact the publisher of the book mentioning copywrite laws etc and if possible seek legal advise. Good luck
Miche'le

Stephanie said...

I would certainly contact the magazine the work was published in explaining the situation. Sad thing is BIG companies can afford the lawyers and we small folk can not. This is happening way too often and what else irks me is seeing bloggers taking works from foreign magazines and changing one thing and calling it their original work. I do fume over this. I guess those who steal think everyone else is ignorant!

Stephanie said...

P.S. Love your new holiday header.

Sherri said...

This is terrible...I understand it happens frequently. But if no one ever takes a stand, it will continue to happen.

Chookyblue...... said...

this is an area that I had no idea or cared about (because I never knew anything) before blogging............I am still confused but I am pleased I am not a designer and dealing with this stuff makes me even more set not to become a designer..........
no advice from me sorry.........because I wouldn't know what to do........

Anna Rosa Designs said...

Hi Kaaren,
Sorry you have to put up with a copycat who has no respect for the law.
As a painter myself, I understand and I'm always preaching to my students about copyright laws.

I would definately do something, however it depends on how much money you want to spend.
I hear its very expensive to take these things to court.
My suggestions would be to contact the magazine and they should pursuit the issue and inform you of a response.
A solicitor's letter should make sure the person knows your on to them and should not breach copyright laws again.

You should also expect a public, written apology.
Good luck,
Hugs,
Anna

Annette said...

I'm so sorry about what happened. I know I would feel just awful. I hope you are able to get some sort of restitution for what has been done.

Di said...

I do? I certainly can empathise with your situation. My husband & I run a small but professional photo journalism business. Before the advent of digital photography, we would give our client a post card sized photo with which to pick their enlargement from. For a few clients, they would not order but when we next visited, up on the wall is an illegal enlargement.... We have circumvented this, but only giving out thumbnailswhich can not be enlarged.
I am so sorry that you have fallen prey to these type of individuals.

Jan said...

I think I'd start with the publication. They should print a "retraction" or correction of some kind. An attorney would be a good next step, or perhaps a first step.

Patty said...

Kaaren it is obvious that your work was copied,and is being passed on as His/her work.I have know idea how to pursue this but contacting the magazine should be the first step. i guess it would depend how much time,money you would be willing to put in to stop this thief. It is just too bad that some people feel that it is alright to steal. Good luck and keep us posted.
Patty

Darlene said...

First, I love your new header! Very cute!

I think I might start with the publisher of the magazine however I think I would contact the "artist" as well. I'll be anxiously waiting to see how you handle this. I can understand why you'd be shaking - this would make me very angry.

(hugs)

Quilt Hollow said...

Contact the magazine to give them a "heads up" and find out who their "source" for the product...I think you'll have to do lots of digging through layers of many hands on this one. It's unfortunate but you are not the first person I've heard having this happen. I feel your frustrations and disbelief. It is unfortunate that this happened to you! You may want to ask Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville of her thoughts as well.

Tom H said...

Kaaren, Experience in this area says the thief is counting on you not to get involved. I am sure they know that to realy get involved takes a lawyer. A lawyer, is very expensive, and that is only the start. These cases take time and lots of money. Start with the publisher and give them the facts. Also strongly hint at a lawsuit. Try to put the publisher in the middle, with something to loose.

Julia said...

Kaaren, on my blog sidebar, you will see my Hexagon box published on the cover of a magazine...I did that back in 2005, well after that came out, there were hex boxes being made and claimed as their designs everywhere...even an online tut on it, when I emailed the person, all she said was...
"Oh, that's where i got it from, I could not remember to credit you with it"..here it costs way too much for me to take it further...What do you do?
Julia ♥

Julie said...

hi kaaren,
i think this would be extremely difficult to prove. pumpkins, corn and the like are standard scenes artists paint. they are just so common. i think you'd find they are also widely used in teaching. well, they were back when i was painting at least. wish i still had some pieces here, as i could show you my pumpkins which look very similar to the ones you've just shown. i must look back through my books and find some.
all the best with it anyway.
julie xox

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Kaaren,
I used to be on the quiltart blog
( quiltart@quilt.net) where I heard a LOT about copyright laws. I would suggest that you subscribe to their mailing list. These artists have walked this path before, and have a ton of information on what you can and should do.
p.s. I did a post on my scissor collection today :-) So when you get a chance, take a peek!

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

I know. I've had some of my ideas pinched. It hurts! A whole group of ladies photo copied one of my patterns and passed them out. Terrible stuff.

Carrie P. said...

For the longest time I had heard the rule of 10% but I know that is not true.
I can definitely see that it was copied and that is so sad. I would definitely contact an attorney and the person making those flags. Hope it all works out.

Deb said...

This isn't fair at all Kaaren. People spend a lot of time and effort designing and achieving results that they are happy with. This is totally not acceptable.
I think I would definitely consider looking into this further even if it is to highlight the "wrong" to the artist. I suppose we always like to give people the benefit of the doubt but if you are in this as a profitable venture then you should not go into it with without being given the correct information and your eyes wide open. All the best, I hope you get some satisfaction with whatever you do.
hugs Deb

Kimberly said...

Oh Kaaren, I'm sending you a hug... you deserve one after this!
Good luck, Kimberly

tami said...

I think you should contact the magazine. They would not want to be violating a copyrite AT ALL. I'm sure they will take it up with the artist.

Jane's Fabrics and Quilts said...

I have no idea what I would do, but I know you should do something and from the other comments an attorney seems in order. I am so sorry this has happened to you, it is just not right.

Allie said...

Oh Kaaren these stories make me sick to my stomach. I've so wanted to get into designing and I keep hearing horror stories like this. I'm so sorry this happened to you - I would at least contact the magazine, put the word out in the industry about this person. I think they count on people not wanting to spend the money on attorneys [it does cost a lot].

Amy R said...

First, I'm sorry this has happened to you. Part of the answer to what you should do comes from asking yourself about how long do you want to be involved in following up on this incident and will it zap all of your creativity while going through the process? Alternately, will you be able to handle doing nothing? Several have suggested you contact the magazine, and I suspect the magazine will not like being put in this position by this "artist." You may get at least a consequence to the artist by not being able to advertise or be featured in the magazine again. (If the magazine is owned by a parent company, it might be nice to ask for all titles to be notified?) Best of luck to you! Sure hope you find a peaceful resolution for your creative soul quickly!

Cynthia said...

I would contact the magazine and make them aware of the situation, although that might lead to more frustration. I guess it is like being a famous person and reading headlines about yourself that aren't true! Probably just learn to live with it.......with a positive attitude and a cheery disposition. I'm sorry for you that that happened.

Robyn said...

Dear Kaaren,
I have no opinions on this either, except it's not right at all!!
Seek advice perhaps?
Oh dear..I'll be watching too.
Hope you can find a resolution.
hugs
Robyn xx

Micki said...

That must be so upsetting for you karen. I don't blame you for being so frustrated with the whole thing. I am sure that you can do something about it!
Micki

Cybele's patch said...

At least I would contact the magazine. The design looks so much 'yours' even if it is altered. The copycat is not worth to be called artist. Stand up for your rights!

Janet said...

First I have to say something nice. I love your new header!Definitely contact the magazine, they should steer clear of this person's contributions. A lot of people who violate copyright depend on not being found out or it not being pursued legally. It really is a big thing in your case and maybe get some legal advice and a contact for the thief to send a leter to for starters.

Debbi said...

I love how willing most artists are to share their talents and allowed those of us who aren't as clever to use them for ourselves. But, it makes me want to scream when someone who should know better "steals" from someone. I have found that by asking the artist if you can use their design, most will say "yes". I have done this when teaching a class and I've always given the credit where credit is due. Gerrrr

Francien said...

Ofcourse you recognize your own designs Kaaren...even if they are altered..its like they would take my Bulldog Meisje and put her in between hundreds of others like her with the same color and build a.s.o. i still would pick her!! Its a bit the same i think and maybe a bad examle but you know what i mean to say..The "artist "should not get away with this...you must find out who did this to you and at least ask an written apologie in the next copy of that magazine...i dont know nothing about the other legal stuff..but everyone knows that this is not right!!!...At least let the "artist"know that you are on to her/him..maybe write a open letter to the magazine and they should publish it in the next issue......what a world!!...here you are...the most generous person ever sharing your lovely patterns with everybody...good luck with whatever you decide!!
greetings ♥ Francien.

Jantine said...

Hi Kaaren, I do understand you are upset. But honestly, I am doubting about the coying issue in this case. For me it seems like 100s of painters have made assemblies (or how do you call these in English) with pumpkins, corns, pears and other fruits. So I wander how you are so sure it is your design they copied.
But... I am not a painter, I didn't study paintings or anything, so I can be completely wrong. It is just what came up into my mind. SO I hope I didn't offend you...

Robyn said...

Kaaren I don't know if you have time to read other designers blog pages. Barb from Theodra Cleave & Natalie from Cinderberry Stitches have both had the same happen to them this year. It's just disgusting I'd follow the letter of the law and take action those who copy your designs. The more designers who take action might just help put a stop to this problem

Debbie said...

I have seen things like this at craft markets. You should take legal action. So many people get away with this and are not left accountable. It's becoming more common because legal action is not taken to stop them. Write the magazine and tell them also, or call. Insist they remove the persons adds. You have the proof, put together color copies, a presentation of your case with a written letter from you. That way you have it ready to mail or fax as needed.

teresa said...

Hi Kaaren, I'm so sorry this has happened to you and I'm sorry you have to go through this. There has been so much advice already given and I guess you will have to decide how far you want to go with this. All the best, and I look forward to seeing the outcome. Wish I could take the sick feeling away from you though. Good luck and I hope karma catches up with the thief. xx

Susannah said...

Hi Kaaren...at the very least....find out WHAT you can do and then decide. I don't think you will be able to forget it if you don't look into it farther. Why can't people just abide by the rules? Some can not do their own designing and so they have to steal others work.

Friends,
Susannah

Molly said...

Several years ago I had a part time job at a major national fabric/craft store. If you had an idea for a class the store was eager for you to teach it. I had a sewing class I thought people would enjoy, but said we would need to order patterns from a small designing company. They wanted me to tweak the pattern, so we could use it without crediting the designer and it wouldn't seem like outright theft. When I refused, saying that if I were the designer I would be really angry at people stealing from me in that way, they backed down and let me order the patterns---on my own, at my own expense! Several others working there had no qualms about changing a few details to make it "alright."
That company had deep pockets. I'd hate to be a small designer going to battle with them. On the other hand, they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it, like playground bullies! Good luck!

Yuki said...

Hi Karen, You know, I looked at the pix and maybe I didn't see enough detail but thought they looked similar but not that much alike. At any rate, I think you should contact the magazine accepting the ad as well as the artist and find out where they got their inspiration. Did they intentionally try to pass off something as their own? If it were me and this was my life' work, I think I'd try to work out a deal. You have published proof of your work.

Last Januray, I took my sister to a quilty shop for her birthday present and bought jelly rolls for us and enough fabric to make a quilt. I worked out a very easy quilt patch for us to make using the jelly rolls in the quilt shop classroom before we made the purchase. This was my very own, off the cuff design. I finished my quilt and sent it off to my daughter in Georgia. I live in Maryland.

Well, imagine my surprise when I saw my daughter's quilt made up into a pattern at a local quilty shop. It was not the same fabric or the same colors but the design was the same. I didn't bother contacting the person. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps they were inspired by some fabric. Who knows? I work as a computer programmer. I don't teach quilting or quilt design. Quilting is my hobby, my therapy. If the maker of the pattern saw my daughters' quilt, would she wonder where I got my design? Would she be upset?

ttfn :) Yuki Nakamoto

Behind My Picket Fence said...

Wow, you know it happens, but what a startling moment! I'm thinking I might start by contacting the magazine and tell/show them what the artist has done. If it's an artist that they wanted to come back, maybe they would not have him/her back. And wouldn't you love to contact the artist? But I have no suggestions about a course of action. I hope you get some resolution on this.

Karla said...

Dear Karen, sometimes its hurts a person more to just feel sorry for them and pray for them. It is like someone stealing from me, if they would ask, I probably would give it to them.

Seems like it would take more effort to copy than to try and come up with your own thoughts.

Even if you sued they probably wouldn't have anything to get in return anyway!!!!! That is why they are stealing!!

It is the Christmas Season......forgive and forget and be happy.

Karla in Louisiana

Carrie ~ Cricketwood Prims said...

I'm sorry you are going through this Kaaren. I'm sure you will find a solution, maybe you will be receiving some royalties unexpectedly! Whatever you do you are in the right!