Friday, August 19, 2011

A question...

First, let me preface this by saying I swear I'm not trying to be snarky, or call anyone out, or any such thing.  I don't have any ill will, or bad thoughts about anyone on the subject, I am merely curious.

Ahhhh....Now you're interested right?  :-)

Anyway,  I've discussed this topic a bit with a friend.  And the whole thing is still swirling around my brain several weeks later.

What I am wondering, is how can someone take a cast of an object such as a lego, or a hello kitty face, or a  logo of a famous company and use it in their work without infringing on another's copyrights?  And what about molding and casting or embossing commercial metal stampings?

I really don't know anything at all about copyright infringement other than people in the forums of Etsy like to throw the words around a lot, and use them to try to harass others into not making the same type of work that they do.

Is it ok to take a metal stamping, mold it, and reproduce it in say ceramics?  Has the original design been changed enough not to be infringing?    Is it ok to take a component, say made in brass, and cast it into sterling and use it in your work?

Way back when I took the intro into metalsmithing class.  Our teacher had a big ziploc bag full of sterling components that he had cast himself.  He wasn't at all shy about announcing to us that he had ripped them off from Rio Grande.  And sure enough, every component he had could be found on Rio...
He just flat out didn't give a rat's ass about it.  He was a bit of a rebel artist.  :-)

A couple of weeks ago, I was up late one night supply shopping on Etsy.  I'm looking for some cool brass or copper stampings to use to make necklaces and earrings for an upcoming show.  I was happily shopping, hearting things left and right when I came across a component in pewter that I recognized immediately because I follow the original artist's work.  Someone in presumably Asia had cast an artists original design and mass produced it in base metal.  I slept on it overnight before convoing the artist the next morning.  She didn't know about it, and succeeded in getting the shop to remove the item.

It really gave me sort of an odd feeling.  On one hand, it would be kinda cool for someone to think your work was great enough to be mass produced.  But how bad does it suck to have your work stolen and reproduced without your permission?  I mean, we all know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into creating a piece sometimes.  After that I felt really jaded, and was a bit afraid to buy any base metal components wondering what poor unsuspecting artist they had been ripped off from.

I don't me out here guys.  Give me your thoughts on the subject....


  1. It just sucks, plain and simple. You think you might feel that slight bit of "does this mean I've made it? or "imitation is the the more sincere form of flattery" - nope lemme tell you the feeling is not at all laced with thoughts like that. It's a pit in your stomach, sinking "how am I, the little guy, gonna stop this?" feeling.
    Casting is an amazing art form, but I personally feel you are only an "artist" when you are casting your own creation. The story from your metals teacher made me retch a bit - knowing how to knock off stuff doesn't make you an artist, it just means you have the skill ( note: skill, not talent). Just because we are capable of making something doesn't make us who we are, it just makes fabricators.
    It's what you put into your piece that is all you, that makes you an artist.
    Just my humble opinion of course.
    Thanks for writing about this, i'd thought about doing so myself for a while ;-)

  2. I hear you Jaime. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I think it's okay to make a mold of say a vintage button and recreate it in a different medium- making something completely different.
    I know people that do this a lot.
    But as far as make a button out of metal with a mold from a metal button- I'm not sure that would fly because an identical thing is being created. what an interesting post! I shared the link on FB, I will come back to see more comments!

  4. I have been in the Etsy forums quite a few times reading the "someone copied me post". Sometimes it seems silly,someone once posted a simple earring ( I assumed to illustrate their point) and complained "254,987" people have copied me! Then there are the obvious full out copies. The there are the blurry lines.I was just researching vintage wax stamps and followed a link to a new stamp and seal seller who creates all their own stamps, who owns the copyright and who list this on their website as well as their usage for personal use only and NOT for jewelry making. Search on Etsy revealed quite a few people using the same stamps - and selling the designs.ICK.

    Many of the brass manufacturers ( like R.U.Toolmart) flat out make you sign an agreement before you buy you will not use their pieces as molds - and yet I see them too.

    Sadly the problem is so big and expensive to deal with - It seems unmanagable - I'm not sure what the answer is.

    I've had one piece of jewelry copied - and found it quite by mistake - it was a horrid feeling. Mentioning "gee I have this necklaces twin" the blogger merely mention "Oh what a coincidence!" UGH!

  5. Something like this happened not so long ago, from what I can remember. A competitor ripped off a bunch of designs from Green Girl Studios and started casting them and selling them. In my mind, it's wrong, no matter what material or method of casting you're using. If they aren't your original designs, you have no right to sell them, unless you have permission from the artist. Making a buck is great and all, but unless there's some kind of integrity behind it, it's wrong. Just my two cents.

  6. Interesting subject to say the least and once so many people have addressed. I do these versions of those "Chan Luu" beaded wrap bracelets and am getting tons of sh** for it because I have them on my etsy shop.

    I didn't do them because I saw hers first (I should have, God knows why but I saw someone else's first) but I did them because they were a rather trendy, fairly classic in design, I had clients asking for them and for things similar and there were several tutorials of various wasy to make these online. So, I tried it, like it and I needed an alternative to hammering metal for a few months to let an injury heal but still wanted to create something fun - so it sort of just happened.

    I'm thinking of taking them off my site because I feel like a fraud having things that look so much like other artits's, (and everyone else on the planet!) but I have tried to create ones I haven't seen before using some various supplies to do so - so I'm not sure what to do.

    I think it's getting a bit more difficult to look around and see unique and individual designs in any medium these days because once 'trends' start to turn towards certain materials or styles, everyone starts making variations on them and then before long, everywhere you look, it's a blur of 'the same ol', same ol'" - even from designers who where once original and unique themselves.

    As far as castings and truly "copyright-able" designs such as charms, beads themselves, etc. it is a shame to see someone taking another artists designs and 'mass-producing' the exact, identical item and the original artist not getting any of the benefits of that.

    I think this sort of thing happens not only in the fashion world, but all around us in everyday life - makes you stop and pause when you really think about it.

  7. Wow! What great comments everyone! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspectives! It is an endless battle I think....