Thursday, April 8, 2010
BEADWORKERS: SEVEN DEADLY SINS - SIN #1
Sin #1: Breech of copyright
Years ago, my father showed original watercolors in an exhibition of paintings done by Ontario Provincial Government employees. I was outraged to see the above painting by Gustav Klimpt copied, brush stroke for brush stroke and signed as an original by the impostor who painted it.
We bead artists know this issue is a bit of a snake's nest - tangled and difficult. So let's take a look at it from a couple of different angles....
"The secret of creativity is hiding your sources." For anyone who hasn't encountered this quote before, it is attributed to no less a luminary than Albert Einstein, a man known for originality and genius.
There should be no shame in admitting right out loud that we all have "sources." For me, the list is endless. It includes paintings, fiber, ceramics, nature etc. Last, but certainly not least, I have a growing library of beading books and stacks of magazines and daily view the inspirational work of my many fellow-artisans online.
Anyone who says they haven't done derivative work is doing a stitch I've never heard of or beading in a studio on the moon in my humble opinion.
That's okay. Peyote, right angle weave, African helix, netting, square, brick and herringbone stitches belong to all of us. And we are all inspired by something, by someone.
But when someone combines stitches and materials in a new way or creates an excitingly original pattern or design - make no mistake, they own the copyright.
Seems straightforward, doesn't it? But really, there is so much out there that even the best of us goof. A while back, a famous beading magazine featured an article on copyright and a pattern for a beaded bead identical to one I'd learned several years earlier. And the designer credit was not for the designer in the book where I'd found the pattern. I emailed the editor and she replied that she hadn't known that and, "No one complained." So if the pros can get lost, it's not that difficult for the rest of us to retain something and later make an item forgetting that there was a specific source. No crime there.
But there are instances where black is black and white is white. If your intent is to copy a design in it's entirety, and you do not have permission to do so, you are contravening copyright law. If you buy a pattern and then reproduce it for sale without permission, unless the seller states it is for commercial use, you are breaking the law.
On the other hand, back in the gray area, we learn from others. Our original work at least stems from work that was done before. And how do we deal with that?
I'd like to talk about permission. Perhaps most of you saw the special issue of Bead & Button devoted to using lampwork focals? One design featured a juicy innovation on Celini spiral - which reversed the spiral at mid-point. I wrote the designer and told her that I'd love to use that variation in my work, giving credit to her as the originator of the stitch. She generously granted me permission - and added that she appreciated my contacting her. "Most people don't ask," she said.
I also wrote Rachel Nelson-Smith to ask if I could use her "bump" stitch (from her fabulous book, "Seed Bead Fusion").
"When that information goes out into the world with instructions, it really belongs to the world at that point. Where would we be if anyone who ever wrote a textbook, refused to let anyone use that knowledge in their own work?"
The point is - many designers - and especially those who teach, are generous. It never hurts to ask. And it certainly does not hurt your credibility as an artisan or artist to give credit where it is due. Be honored to state your sources. It's a classy thing to do and maybe someone will do the same for you some day.
The truth is that since the advent of the internet and the enormous surge of interest in our craft, if you publish a picture - someone will copy. I guarantee it. This can be a bitter experience for someone who has spent many hours developing a design and who has plainly stated his or her copyright. So don't.
I promise you that you can take that "source" and hide it by challenging yourself to do something original and just as good.
And to those teachers who allow we students to use their innovations - a grateful and heartfelt thank you. To the hundreds of beaders out there who inspire me every day, my sincere gratitude.
Meanwhile - pay it forward.