Thursday, August 20, 2009

Copyright Infringement In Handmade Arts-It's Not Cool!

Usually, when I work with a person to create a custom design for a guitar strap, the issue of copyright doesn't come up. We're putting something together that's completely original and doesn't borrow from copyrighted material. It's something I absolutely will not knowingly do (and make a diligent and conscientious effort not to do) and, upon occasion, have had to explain to my patrons that I'd love to do a strap for them but, no, I can't use Sonic the Hedgehog or Batman or whatever because those are copyrighted images.

I am astounded, however, at the number and brazenness of artisans who are willing to blithely trample on copyright laws. Hello Kitty, Twilight, Harry Potter, and the images associated with them, are copyrighted and owned by someone else. If stealing someone's images isn't enough, I see artisans embroidering or stamping copyrighted song lyrics on their creations with no apparent understanding that they are stealing. This is one area of infringement I'm particularly sensitive to because my son is a songwriter, and if I ever saw his lyrics used by someone else to sell something, without his express permission, I would go through the roof.

Another infringement I see on a regular basis is artisans who use copyrighted song lyrics to describe their items. For example, let's say I embroider a guitar strap with a rifle and a big "No" circle over it, then describe it this way: "America's the big back yard of boys who fight in wars--wars of blood and weapons, wars of books and words! You'll love this anti-war guitar strap embroidered with gunpowder gray embroidery thread, yada yada, yada." Well, the bold words are copyrighted song lyrics (used with my son's permission so I'm okay... not to worry) and their use in selling an item without the copyright holder's permission is a copyright violation. But that doesn't stop a shameful number of artisans from using other people's lyrics to sell their items or using other people's images when creating their items.

As a buyer, I know you want what you want, and every artisan wants as much as possible to provide it to you. But, on rare occasion, you can't have it if it means violating the law. Be wary, very wary, of artisans who are willing to sell you someone else's creations or use someone else's creations to help them sell their own work. It demonstrates a profound disrespect for another person's hard work and the fundamental propriety of the creative process. Thanks for reading! Terri

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