A while back, I was perusing my Facebook feed and came across a very angry page owner – someone had copied one of her designs, she said, and was selling it as their own. She had no trouble naming and shaming this person, going so far as to linking the ‘copied’ article in question. Lots of supportive comments ensued, as one would expect, and I too felt compelled to know more. Copyright can, after all, be a sensitive issue for an artist.
I’ll be absolutely honest, although both designs were absolutely similar, I wouldn’t call it a copy, because I didn’t find the first article to be so original that someone else couldn’t come up with it separately. Let’s say I made mugs with contrast handle colours – was this so different that I should be angry if someone else did the same? I really can’t say for sure.
As you can well guess by now, I’m not one to name and shame. After all, I haven’t told you who this angry artist was, nor do I feel it would be polite to do so in this case. If the above-mentioned offended artist were me, I’d probably be thinking long and hard on whether I should say something publicly, and whether I was in the right (which can absolutely be a matter of opinion). I’m not saying she did wrong, mind you, only that I would have reacted differently. To the point, this is a touchy subject and I admit I am wary of the day I might come across some design I find to be copied from me. How will I react?
A few weeks after this incident, I came across an Etsy shop that did something which made me fume: they were digitalising craft books and magazines, removing all mention of authorship from the covers and also the listing descriptions, and selling them for cheap. The reason I realised this was, I owned one of the books and knew it wasn’t this cheap, it had authorship and other useful info on the cover, and I was pretty sure this person selling had no affiliation with any of the publishers or writers.
I proceeded to report this to Etsy, but there was no specific flag for “this is copyrighted, yet isn’t my own design,” so I had to go around the issue and be more specific in my written report. I also contacted the author on her personal Facebook because she didn’t have a business page, but it went to her Other/Spam folder. Still, I didn’t name and shame publicly.
I wonder if I should have. The first time I came across this shop was on an Etsy promotional email, and to my dismay it appeared again on the next one they sent me. Etsy has no way of monitoring every single shop, but it did upset me to see someone like this on an email feature.
On a more personal level, I used to collaborate with a third party to sell my wares in a brick and mortar shop, but after a while decided I wasn’t happy with the conditions I was offered, and said so to this person. I believe I was professional and courteous in my complaints, but felt the response was a little too defensive on their behalf, and we got nowhere in our conversations. I had sent the email hoping for an opportunity to discuss our collaboration terms, but that didn’t happen, so I terminated our ‘joint venture.’ Although this was very personal to me, again I opted out of the naming and shaming – I just quietly went about my business and tried to forget this ever happened.
Should I have said something? I mean, I didn’t have to be horrible about it, just state the reasons I was leaving and, if another artist saw this, maybe they’d think twice about accepting a collaboration – or finding me too picky and deciding this was a great opportunity, and why not? The point of the matter is, I am very uncomfortable going public with my grievances, for my own reasons (excuses?) and often wonder if I’m reacting the ‘right’ way.
I also admit: although I know I’m not copying from anyone, who’s to say someone else might feel differently one day and name me publicly? How would I react then? Maybe this is a worse scenario in my head than being copied, I can feel the air being squeezed out of my lungs just thinking of it. Maybe this is why I don’t point fingers in public, because I am worried of some sort of horrible karmic punishment coming my way (silly, I know – it’s my middle name).
So. If it were you in these different situations, how would you react? Has any of this ever happened to you? If you feel like it, share your experience – either in the comments section below, or shoot me an email!