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.
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.
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.
“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.
The pumpkin, leaves and corn come from this design…
and the pear comes from this design.
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.
I am still shaking my head in disbelief, even as I write this.
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.
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.
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…
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.