For today's post, I want to share some thoughts with our readers about being an artist and copyright. As an artist who has had original designs published in national beading magazines, I get a lot of questions about whether or not it's okay for someone to make a copy of an artist's work and sell it. It's a common misconception that just because a set of directions have been published in a book or magazine it means that it's okay to make those pieces and sell them or teach them to others without asking for permission from the artist who designed them.
Take a few minutes to watch this video by artist Tara Reed about copyrights and stealing sandwiches:
I think Tara has a very good point - artists have bills to pay, just like everyone else. So while it's great that we can share some aspects of our art for free through our blogs and by offering free tutorials sometimes, it's also very important that we find a way to bring in income with our art. For my family, my art is very important because that's how I earn 100% of my income.
And copyright theft isn't just limited to visual arts and crafts. A few months ago, there was an uproar over a small culinary magazine that copied articles from cooking blogs and published them in their magazine without giving any credit to the original authors. When one blogger found that her article had been used without her permission, she contacted the editor of the magazine. The reply she received from the magazine's editor told her that she should be "thankful" that they did such a good job editing her article and how any content on the Internet was actually just public domain. (In reality, content on the Internet is subject to copyright, just the same as it is in books and magazines.)
But there are still people out there who think it's okay to copy a design they see in a book or magazine or on the Internet, just because they can. Last year, I opened a catalog from a major bead supply company and was shocked to see a copy of one of my designs which had been entered in their beading competition! While it wasn't an exact copy, it had all of the same elements as my original design with a few minor changes, which made it a derivative of my original. (Like Tara explained by taking some of the ham and some of the bread out of her sandwich.) Even though I emailed and called the company several times to see if I could have the design removed from their website, they never followed up with me. As a result, I no longer choose to spend my money with this company or promote them in any way.
As an artist and a businesswoman, protecting my designs is very important to me. It makes me very sad (and a little angry) to see unethical copying of art and design.
So what can you do to prevent copyright theft?
I like the idea of promoting education about intellectual property rights and copyright. The more people know, the better it is for everyone. Some people copy designs and sell them without really knowing that it's not the ethical thing to do, so I think it's important to help them understand that what they are doing is actually taking money out of someone else's pocket.
The other thing that I think all artists can and should do is to continue to grow and develop your work as much as possible. The more you work, the more you can develop your own style. Art is all about finding your own voice, and you can't do that by using someone else's work! Copying someone else's design or project is great for learning a new technique or improving your own crafting skills. But take those techniques and skills and turn them into something that is all YOU!