Where ownership, copy write and intellectual property come into play!

It has been an interesting month watching one of our fellow artists being attacked through the courts by another entity. A group of 10,000+ have rallied around this artist and have lent their support. The disturbing factor is that this entity is trying to take credit for basic and fundamental processes we have all always used. This entity has now gone after 15 designers, some in court. They claim publicly that all wire wrap artisans are cheap rip offs of their work and original ideas.

This has brought up some very interesting questions about ownership, authorship, copy write and intellectual property in the world of wire jewelry.

I want to start off by saying the art of wire jewelry goes back to thousands of years BC. Throughout the centuries, artisans have shared and passed on their knowledge and we have all expounded on it with adding our own flair and styles. While this is true, there are, and always have been basic and fundamental steps, work, processes, etc.

We all take our work very personally and some of us love to share it through pictures, videos and tutorials. As a rule, we are a very giving group of individuals. Some of us are even guarded about certain techniques, which is fine!

The problem comes when a certain entity tries to take creative and financial credit of these wonderful techniques and prevent other designers from using them. This is where ownership, copy write and intellectual property come into play. Let me try to explain each one as I understand them.

Intellectual property consists of creations of the mind which include inventions, artwork, symbols, names, and designs. Intellectual property protection options include copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

A copyright may protect creative expression such as a jewelry design. A trademark may protect a word, logo, symbol, or design that identifies the creator of a product. A patent may protect new technological innovations. Intellectual property is not property that can be touched or felt.

The law protects a number of different types of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Determining which area of intellectual property will protect a particular creation or idea can be confusing. It may be helpful to associate each area with what it protects:

Patents protect: Inventions and Designs (machines, tools, gadgets, and functional things)

Trademarks protect: Business Identity (names, logos, slogans, etc. that identify a particular product or company)

Trade Secrets protect: Proprietary Information (secret formulas/recipes, confidential customer lists, and other confidential business information)

Copyrights protect: Expression (movies, music, literature, writings, artwork, and generally software)

The owner of a US copyright has the exclusive right of and to authorize others to:

  • Reproduce the work;

  • Prepare “derivative” works based on the work;

  • Distribute copies of the work;

  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of, for example, musical works;

  • Display the work publicly, in the case of, for example, visual works; and

  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

A derivative work is a copyrightable creation, which is based on one or more existing works. Only the holder of the copyright of the original can produce or give permission to another to create the next version. A derivative work usually involves a transformation. For example, a film based on a book is likely a derivative work.

US copyright protects expression. Copyright does not protect ideas. Copyright does not protect facts, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright does not protect titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, or mere listings of ingredients or contents.

Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

It can be frustrating to discover a similar piece of art to yours. However, ideas are generally free to copy. And the line between an idea and expression may be difficult to draw. Artists may be inspired by other artists, previous art, and the world around them. For example, Cezanne is thought to have inspired Picasso’s cubism period and Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau inspired Renoir. Copyright does not protect everything. For example, copyright does not protect facts, processes or utilitarian aspects of a design.

The law is very complicated and may vary from situation to situation, place to place, and even judge to judge. Do your research and treat others as you would want to be treated

I want to close by saying that if we don’t close ranks; I don’t know what the future holds for us as artisans.


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