Apr 25, 2016

When Is it Okay to Copy?

    We get asked a lot about our policies around copying our samples or using our handouts by teachers for use in class settings. This post isn't an in-depth explanation of copyright law as I'm not an attorney and I'm also not an expert! I can only speak to how we feel at beadshop.com about our designs and intellectual property. Hopefully I can answer most of your questions about what we think are good guidelines for use of our designs. If there is enough interest, we will create an area just for those interested in teaching with our handouts and videos. For now, I'd like to just focus on when is it okay to copy our jewelry samples?

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci 
Imagine you are an art student and you go to a museum and set up an easel and paint a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a commonly-held belief that when you're learning to paint, it's okay to copy as you study the techniques, the style, the colors. You're not attempting to forge a copy of the painting and sell it as an original. (That would get you arrested!)

At beadshop, our expectation (and we think yours) is that you want to copy our designs when you're learning to bead. We give you project maps, learning materials, videos, skill builders, lists of ingredients and even offer kits for sale that encourage you to mimic the samples we create. We know the best way to learn beading is often by doing step-by-step with very specific ingredients and samples for you to replicate. And you are welcome to copy as many times as you want. But....if you are making them to sell them, than copying is not okay. 

Beaders are like leaves...no two are alike.
I can't tell you to the fraction how much you need to change a design for it not to be a copy. Some say 10%. I find it hard to measure creativity in percentages. Again, I think it's common sense. Does it look different enough? If the answer is no, then you need to change it. And we believe strongly, in fact it's one of our core values, that each person has a unique, creative voice, no two are alike. After 30+ years teaching jewelrymaking,  I am positive you don't need to copy to be successful. 

When it comes to creating your own look inspired by one of our projects, Poetry is an excellent example of a project that will demonstrate the guidelines for what to do. Here's how the project was developed:

Poetry in Pearls by Janice Parsons. Poetry in Pink by Sarah Runco. Poetry in Grey by Karen Marshall. www.beadshop.com

I was in a yoga class and saw a bracelet on someone and I fell in love. I never got up close to it but noticed pearls were separated by thread and it wrapped multiple times around her wrist. I went back to my studio and sketched what I wanted to do. I had several macramé designs and handouts I had done that gave me the confidence that I was creating something I could put my name on. I also scoured the internet to see if I could find anything that mimic'd what I wanted to do. Nothing. So, through trial and error, I found the right weight thread (Tuff Cord #1) to use with our freshwater pearls and sourced a pearl button. We were selling the charm already by JBB and thought it would make a special, finishing touch. I macraméd the Poetry in Pearls sample and Grace Noland photographed it. Grace also created her own sample, Poetry in GreenI wrote the handout to guide everyone through step-by-step and we made kits up with all the ingredients. Then Sarah Runco and Karen Marshall interpreted the project in beads and colors they hand-selected.  

It's often hard to follow the trail of originality in jewelrymaking. We all have access to beads and supplies commonly available for purchase. Unless you have designed a unique clasp, cast your own beads, or own the only molds available for pressed glass beads, most of the ingredients are not protected by copyright laws (but, again, I'm not an expert!). However, our photographic images, written instructional handouts, project videos and the samples for those project form an umbrella of intellectual property which is protected by law. They cannot be reproduced without our written permission and consent of our artists. 

I hope you use common sense when finding inspiration from our talented designers, their samples and our learning. And that you give credit to our artists and beadshop.com where appropriate when and if you decide to sell your jewelry. Again, please use your best judgement and ask yourself, "would I want someone doing this with my designs?" You'll probably never go wrong if you use the Golden Rule.  

I am more than happy to talk with you about your questions and concerns. Please don't hesitate contacting me.

Happy beading!

Flash Sale Friday...get creative!

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