In the past couple of months I have written blogs regarding Angel Policies and copyright issues. Angel Policies are permission to use products in your crafts that you make and sell. I have questioned some of the policies because these are products that are produced in large quantities that are sold in stores, brick-and-mortar and online. The intent behind these products is for the consumer to buy and use. I’m not quite sure that the use of these items falls into the “fair use” copyright category for all crafters, but you are actually buying a product, not a license. When you buy an individual item you can do whatever you want with it except make a copy and distribute it. However, you have to respect the rights of the artist, and always give credit.
In researching copyright law, I have come across a few message boards and blogs from artists who are concerned about individuals copying their work. Don’t copy, it is against the law. You can use photos for inspiration, but your work cannot look like the photo. I saw one instance where an artist was sued because he had created a ceramic piece that was an identical copy of a photo. The artist did not have the rights to the photo and lost his case because he “made a copy.” I have also seen some examples where individual jewelry makers have seen some of their work reproduced, sometimes in large quantities, without their permission. In fact, there is a lawsuit in progress regarding an artist who lost a large commission because somebody had used an image of one his paintings and used it on merchandise sold online. The commission was lost because the image was no longer considered unique.
What really concerns me is that I have seen more than one comment on a message board stating that the individual “never buys anything on Etsy” they just “figure out how to do it and make it.” Again, this is against the law because not only is the item made copyrighted, but the photos are as well. Also, it is not fair to the artist who has spent a lot of time, effort and materials to create the item that you “copy.”
I purchase fabric and have several subscriptions to quilting magazines that I use in making my quilts. Most of these are given to friends and family. I do, however, create my own designs, since most patterns are geometric and easy to create. A lot of quilt designs are based on blocks that are in the public domain. And I don’t buy “licensed” fabric, so I am not restricted on how I can use the fabric.
Things are not so simple in my cardmaking. I like quality paper. Home printers cannot print with the paper, inks and finishes that commercial printing provides. I don’t have the money to be able to have my own designs produced in large quantities. You won’t see me use a crafting design CD in my work because of copyright and quality issues. I don’t have the artistic skills to create the beautiful designs on the paper and stamps, so I purchase items that have the design and quality that I prefer. I always give credit to the company or designer, and I always abide by the Angel Policy. And I never make copies, I hand stamp individual pieces of art.
Respect the artist, and if you can afford it, buy the item. The phrase “starving artist” is not just a saying.
The teapot design at the top of my blog was inspired by an image of a teapot, but it was entirely created in Adobe Illustrator by figuring out the geometric shapes and combining them into a teapot shape. There was no tracing involved in this artwork.