"Owning" a technique
Copyrights, patents, trademarks


"OWNING" a technique

see also these discussions:
---Polymer Clay Central, message board, message # 4486.1, and whole thread
---Polymer Clay Central Teacher's Primer: http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/polyprimer1.html

---newsgroup rec.crafts.polymer-clay archives at http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search, subject: Re: A question of ethics?

Some Thoughts & Possible Guidelines:

First, legally... the bottom line seems to be that one cannot copyright a technique, only an individual piece of work.

However, there are a few other considerations that most clayers agree on as "ethical" and fair, e.g.:

...do not make exact copies of anything you've seen, then make money from them (for personal use, usually okay) without specific permission from the original maker... by selling, etc.
......selling fairly-exact copies would be illegal as well as unethical (legally, only a few changes are necessary to make an item "different" from the original, but to be fair take the idea in a new direction before calling it "yours")
...do not claim (or infer) a technique to be your own original idea if it isn't (...and even if someone else discovered or created it as well as you and you're aware of them, that person should be mentioned as well)... that wouldn't be technically illegal, but still not ethical

Generally, legal action is not taken by the originator of an item, except for Disney and perhaps others who have deep pockets and staff lawyers, and who intend to protect any representation of "their" characters, etc. --right down to confiscating single items at craft fairs
...however, complaints may be made to a show or to other venues' leaders, or in the clay community, by the originator of an item or technique ... and as a result you may well be disallowed any sales or classes, etc, by them, and/or suffer negative feelings in the clay community

There is a lot of free sharing in the clay community though, and most want to keep it that way.
...But different clayers sometimes have different opinions about protecting "their" work (as a personal thing), and many would have particularly if beginning to give classes on it, publish in books, etc.
.....So if a technique is freely given out by a clayer, generally it's fine to give classes to one's guild or even teach small classes, but would still be ethical to credit the originator.
....If a truly original technique is taught or published in a magazine, etc., it would not be ethical to teach or otherwise make money from that until it's been around long enough to have entered the public domain clay-wsie and many clayers know about it and use it.

There's a lot of gray area in all these things though, particularly ethically... so the best idea (aside from strictly legal considerations) would be to do yourself only what you wouldn't mind others doing to you, or follow the wishes of most of the clay community. DB
(see also Attribution just below)

A few days ago, I read a long article about (this) in a quilt magazine. I thought that this particular scenario (of several) applied to the discussion..:
"Gloria takes a class from a famous teacher on a new method for sewing right-angle triangles. In her own words, Gloria summarizes the new method she learned in the class in an e-mail message and sends it to the entire mailing list. In this situation, Gloria has not infringed on the teacher's copyright.
.....Methods and procedures themselves are not protected by copyright; only the tangible expression explaining the method can be protected.
.... If, on the other hand, Gloria had copied the teacher's written instructions verbatim, she would have been guilty of infringing the teacher's exclusive right of reproduction. If she made minor changes to the original instructions, she would have infringed on the teacher's right of adaptation." Randi

A long time ago several clay artists developed a way of doing pieces that incorporated optical illusions. They wanted to copywrite the technique but found that they couldn't. They could, however, copywrite the individual pieces they designed which used this technique.
... So the design of a piece of jewelry that someone else has made is off limits, but the surface technique isn't. That's why Judith Skinner's color blend technique can be used (with Judith's blessings by the way) by everyone, but the design of pieces of jewelry that Judith makes, can't be. DottyinCA

Don't even think about copywrite (even when you can do it, and when you can afford to legally pursue copiers).... it will keep you a small, unknown, bitter artist. Rather, you should be reinventing yourself all the time. When too many people are making stuff like yours, so what - you have a new line coming out. You will grow as an artist and a person. Karen H.

Donna Kato's blog entry on what's right and what's not re techniques ... giving classes on others' techniques, and attribution, etc.

At the (NPCG?) Teacher's Conference this last August this point was discussed and it was generally agreed on that once a class is taught, an article written, a video made, a post made to a newsgroup the original instructor has no control over the information anymore.
....Consequently, the instructor has to be aware that this may not be their bread and butter for very long and will have to develop other curricula to continue making a living teaching at all. Having others teach the techniques that others originated can be a sticky problem. As an instructor, I understand the desire to share with friends, practice a thing, get good at it and want to go teach it to others - however, be aware that it might step on the originator's toes.
There are different sensitivities in this area. I, for one, would take into account how long the originator has been teaching the technique. Has it been a week? A year? Five years? If it has been a very long time, then the originator is probably on to teaching newer material and it would be fine to teach their thing. After awhile, the originator is no longer teaching "that old technique" as they are bored with it or whatever and it would be fine for someone else to pick up the gauntlet, so to speak. But, if you begin teaching a technique at the same time as the originator is teaching that very same material then there is the problem of cutting into someone's livelihood. Teaching is a stable income, whereas, selling your work can be feast or famine. So teaching has become a staple for many. Obviously, not every originator will teach their newest technique in every town, city or backwater in the country, either. Meredith

We are such a sharing, giving community and that is so very rare in the art world. I'm not sure how/why (polymer clay) is different from other media. I think that the internet and all our forums have something to do with it.
.... But sometimes it's hard to realize just how different we are from some of the cut-throat mentalities in other fields. Fortunately, I don't think the above sentiment of "do it yourself... I had to" occurs too much among pc-ers.
...But it is present in lots of other areas. I've seen it way too much in university academics. I think the root of such sentiment is jealousy, insecurity, and even plain meanness. I've seen art professors trash gifted students because the teacher is jealous and is caught in the university system (too much time in committees, not enough time for artwork for him/herself, as well as getting schmucked by the tenure-track treadmill). I've seen research professors withhold info from grad students about previous existing research just to make more work for the student or to "test" them and see if they will "come up with it" on their own. And not for the student's own good, just out of spite. I have more stories, but I've left that world, thank goodness. There are too many people there who have no business teaching.
Anyway, I think that in our own community of pc artists, there are a couple of reasons why that sentiment crops up... Being such a young medium, there are innovations/inventions/discoveries happening all the time. Who doesn't want to come up with a technique and have everyone call it "Kimle Beads..." or whatever. And what if it's all discovered before I can do it.... There's a sense of urgency.... In apparel design, we used to say, "there's nothing TRULY new under the sun or on 7th Avenue." But in polymer clay, it all feels so new and exciting. We have a danger of being too technique driven.
Heard about the watercolorists developing new brushstrokes lately? We have to remember that new ideas/techniques are fun, but ultimately our work should come back to addressing what one wants to express, and technique is only the means to the expression. We should love to teach each other our techniques freely in order to celebrate the wider array of expressions that will be made
IMO, teachers who do so while maintaining a spirit of stinginess don't truly understand and feel connected to their own creativity. If you believe creativity is a pie and once you cut your own up and share it, it's gone, then why would you do so?
....I believe creativity is a limitless experience. Sure being blocked is difficult and painful, and I am that way lots of times, too. But I understand where my own creativity comes from and I believe that it will always serve me. I've learned to work with it and find ways through the blocks. I think the truly good teachers are so free with their techniques because they trust that as they share and give away ideas, there will always be more ideas coming to them. Just my 2 cents. Patti K

The one thing we sometimes forget is that a person with incredible talent and skill isn't always a good teacher. And some people with only fair talent and skill can often be fabulous teachers.
The best teachers are those who have an intense desire to pass on to others some of the things they learned and love to do. Too often some of the famous artists are only teaching because it's a way to make money. And they sometimes don't "tell it all" that may or may not be intentional. Overheard from one of these after a student said she thought something was left out of the instructions the teacher said "Find out for yourself, the way I had to."

One of the problems is just that poly clay teachers are frequently asked to teach based on their work or techniques. We don't begin as teachers, we find ourselves placed in that position. Many of us don't begin with the desire to teach - having acquired vital teaching skills. When I began to teach, I had to think long and hard about what separated my best instructors from those that were mediocre. I think a giving spirit and genuine concern for one's students is first and foremost. You just have to give up the competitive thing, or else you shouldn't teach at all. I agree about the "technique" issue. Technique is just technique! It's what you do with what you know that matters. Donna Kato

I agree that a good teacher loves to teach. Whether it is polymer clay, or algebra, or astro-physics. You have to love teaching just as much as you love your subject.

coincidence, synchronicity, etc.
(discovery or development of an idea by independent persons or groups, unaware of each other)

How do we know that OUR idea has never been done by someone else in the world?, even before we did it?
....I thought I'd invented the idea of using clay to imitate rolled paper beads. I planned an article and everything. Then I went to a clay event in New Jersey and I think it was Kathleen Amt who had already used that technique, brand new.
... I also make a type of little person with twisted wire arms and legs. I thought of it myself, but at a retreat I saw a lady with similar work. She talked about getting a patent.
.... Likewise, I blended clay before I heard of Skinner. . . GCivy

>Kathy Amt originated embossing powder inclusions and applique (in polymer clay), as she comes from a book arts background . . . <
....Well... may I gently point out... not in the UK... :*) People started to stamp clay as soon as rubber stamps appeared - and the embossing powders soon appeared right next to the stamps! And probably not in Germany, Holland, or many other countries where people have been using polymer clay for many years.
....This applies to many, many, polyclay techniques and variations of them. (I have to pop up occasionally to say this!;*) Here in Europe, I often find polyclayers who have no idea what is happening outside their country, or even within their own country - it is fascinating to find how often they are using a wonderful twist on techniques that are sometimes considered in the US to "belong" to a particular individual, when they have never heard of them. Remember it is a big world out here!
....Please have a look at the British Polymer Clay Guild Website
http://www.bpcg.org.uk - much of the work there is by people who have developed their own techniques without any idea of what was going on elsewhere. Any comments from other countries? :*) There must be so much more that we would all enjoy, that has not come to the fore yet. Techniques not yet shared... Holland, in particular has some fantastic polyclay sculptors... I've seen the work in books, but cannot read them! French miniaturists are superb... Sue

At NPCG's conference at Arrowmont someone commented on the earrings I was wearing by saying, "Oh, a knock off of City Zen Cane, huh?". While I had used a shading technique that is universally associated with David and Steven, the actual style and design was mine alone -- or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when, 6 mos later, I saw a pin they had done that was eerily similar to my earrings. It was different from anything I had seen from them in their previous work and I was dumbfounded.
...Not to say that my talents are on par with these two -- or even in the same universe -- but it certainly gave me pause.
....I will admit that the comment caused a little resentment on my part. It seemed very unfair that the more *famous* clayers appear to have the upper hand when credit is being attributed. .....I have since come to the conclusion that because the "big names" are more visible, this is just a natural conclusion. It does not mean that those of us who are not in the public eye do not have equally wonderful ideas and abilities -- we're just kinda hidin 'em under a bushel (as my grandma says).
.... If we want to be recognized, we need to take a page from Emma's book and start submitting our designs for publication . . . . Linda in W TX

I haven't said much about this but this has been the story of my life, every time I come up with an idea, it is either out there already or soon there after, I thought my mind was being tapped...lol..I know this is serious matter, I personally wouldn't sell anything that was not of my own making, but where technique is the issue, well I think that is still a very Gray area
...Let's face it, we would all like to be the "inventors" of one thing or another...as long as there is no ill intent, in my opinion, I think it's OK...with exceptions of course
...Just follow the golden rule and we should all be all right... Anyway that's my take...oh and one more thing...if I ever got anything in a swap, it would stay with me or if someone close to me wanted it really badly, I would GIVE it to them...never sell it... Joy :)

First of all I am now mostly speaking about myself. I know only few Finns who have used polyclay, and have talked long enough with only one to really know something about the working habits etc.
Anyway, before I found you and was living at total PC desert, I was doing lots of things myself even though I had no idea what should or should not be done with PC . . for example.
... I remember baking beads in bead-racks (which is one habit I am not carrying any more because it is is unnecessary. I just bake my beads in folded (WWW) papers. )... I also had made some accidental newspaper transfers, made several faux stones, added glass and wood to my pieces etc. I made my first millefiori items before I knew that I was doing millefiori. I just noticed that some things (pictures) kept "the same in the snakes". I used this with animal skin made by marbling some earthly colours and then cutting slices from the roll (= 3Dcane). ....I also used tools that I only later discovered to be "common knowledge" like printers brayer etc. I never warmed clay inside my bra (what bra ? Before the baby I hardly had any. LOL !) but know few people in here who have done that. I conditioned my Cernit very well even before I knew I had to do that. I just noticed from my own experience that Cernit gets very much better to work with if you "roll and smash" it more than needed for getting moldable material. ...I also made "beehive beads" long before Mike Buessler discovered them. I only did not use Skinners Blend in my sheets, but other than that the idea is pretty much the same. In same time I discovered the turned narrow strips (as used in leather work pictured in Dec (?) Crafts report cover) that MB has used in his late work. Both ideas I got from trying to figure some better use for the noodle makers in my pastamachine ... And so on. Nowadays I can not always tell exactly where I have learned some techniques or got ideas. ...I never have clayed with a real people, so my "ergonomics" might turn out to be techniques (wishful thinking...). Sometimes I really have to wonder if a design I come up is really mine or something I have unintentionally borrowed from somewhere. Some ideas are obviously coming from other medias (I love glass-, metal- and jewellery books and borrow lot's of them from library) and some are coming from nature / life situations / customers needs. PoRRo


(see also Possible Guidelines above)

Since I do not make a project from a book or video and I don't follow directions for techniques, most of the times I don't even remember who may have done something that "sparked" an idea. Jeanne

...When I explain my work to other people, I try to tell them whose techniques I am using. But, honestly, I sometimes find that frustrating too. When talking with people who are polyclayers themself I think it is really necessary (and inspiring & interesting) to tell where the techniques have came, but with people who know nothing about polyclay the explaining is sometimes both useless and boring for the person who is listening. I try to cut short if the reciever is bored, just tell that the design is mine and that I learned the tehnique from somewhere and did not invent it myself. Hmm... Do painters have these moral dilemmas when they imitate Picassos colours, Monet's point- technique and varnish like Dali ? Here, people who study art history or art theory (semiotics, esthetics etc.) seem to be the people who are most interested in such matters. And maybe some artists themself too. But other people just take the paintings as they are and judge them by the looks and the idea, not thinking where they have come... PoRRo

My biggest problem with trying to credit people with techniques is that I have often been doing a technique for years and then I see it named after someone.... Sometimes there may be variations in small steps, but the end result is the same. Jeanne

. . . You were purely being scrupulous about attributing stuff which is utterly totally admirable! I was just beating my tomtom about all those unacknowledged innovators everywhere. But I agree - it is so hard to walk that line. I think, as you say, the safest way to do it is to just say where you personally first heard how something was done... that way, hopefully, rocks don't get thrown and if anyone reading considers it came from somewhere else, they can speak if they wish. Sue

stop and think about inspiration, techniques taught, and artists/artisans in other media.
Picassso learned techniques from fellow artists yet i don't remember him crediting anyone else once.
basic techniques
are learned for every medium, painting - glass blowing - dance - metalsmithing - etc, and we do not credit the artists/artisans who originated the techniques. shucks, some of the techniques are so old the originator is lost in obscurity.
nuances and techniques, once taught, are released into the general public for the artists/artisans to do as they wish.
i feel today's techniques taught by people we have names for fall under the same category. but - since those artists/artisans are still living, it is only proper, IMHO, we acknowledge the inventor when we teach the technique or write an article explaining the technique.
but the general public - nonclayers - are clueless as to who the gods and goddesses are in the polymer clay community and couldn't care less. so attributing a technique used on an item for sale to the inventor is pretty much just hot air. . . . the buyer of your goods wants to know about what YOU put into the piece, what it means to YOU. they want a story to go with it that personalizes it for them!
so i do not credit the inventor of all the different techniques i use on my artwork. just my two cents. --sunni

I agree with you. When someone agrees to teach a technique, I feel that the person does not have exclusive right to the technique. One of the instructors was mentioning that she wouldn't like to see "her designs" made and sold by another, but her "designs" mimicked a technique that quilters have been using for several years. So who's copying who?
Many artists throughout the ages have learned from the masters by copying their works and then have branched off with their own styles. I'm sure they also sold these copies for income. I feel that as long as you don't sell it, saying it is by the master when you actually made it, then you are not infringing on the right of the designer. However, you might want to include a note on the source of the design/technique..
We all get our inspiration from something: nature, books, artwork, and other such things from our environment, so we are all, in a way, copying from somebody or something. Real genius come from combining those elements into something new. We all gotta start somewhere. PlaysClay

In general I aggree with Irene that one should never sell projects straight from the book and develop their own style....However this can lead to the point where artist who first publishes "spiral cane" can claim others "stealing" his or her design etc. . . . t also has an impliment of everyone needing to be truly original, which I think is impossible....If we take painting, for instance, there are plenty of Impressionist painters and they have hugely similar style and even hugely similar paintings there. There are plenty of markets for three colour marbled polyclay beads even though they are not so original.. . .I know this is splitting the hair, but I myself have read some of the copyright statements on some polyclay books thinking "what the duck, with this copyright statement they claim the desing of "marbled beads on chord" to be theirs". It is ridicilous sometimes. The worst copyright statement I have seen actually prevented anyone doing projects from the book for any use... Go figure...PoRRo

Please feel free to post the cane (I showed you in a class) and thanks for asking...I'm very pleased to know that people are interested in knowing the technique. You know, I have this philosophy, once I show a technique, I've let it go...then, the biggest charge is seeing how it's used and adapted. Go for it! Donna Kato

The technique in the plastic arts of using symmetry to achieve appealing or esthetically useful effects is an old one; the ancient Egyptians and Romans used it (Roche N, The New Clay, Rockville, Maryland, Flower Valley Press, 1991, p.5).  With polymer clay, I called a method of slicing a ball of mixed colors of clay in half and using the cut edges to form a symmetrical design the "Rorshach Technique," after the psychological test [Edwards D, The Rorshach technique, Polyinformer 1992;2(3):7-8].  Jamey Allen (personal communication, 1992) carried this further, forming canes that were sliced across their axes and reassembled so that slices produced symmetric designs of considerable complexity; he called these "geometric canes," if I recall.

  Similar and closely related polymer clay techniques have commonly been used, as in Lindly Haunani's leaf canes [Haunani L, The leaf cane, Polyinformer 1992;2(3):8-9], City Zen Cane's superb butterflies, and the intricate mosaic designs of Pier Voulkos.  Recently Natasha Flechsig described a Rorshach variation that exploits another orthogonal plane; she called this "The Magic Bead" [Flechsig N, The magic bead, Polyinformer 1995;5(3):19], although it is commonly discussed and described on the Internet as the "Natasha bead."  Beads so constructed preserve symmetry over their entire surface, and they can be quite appealing.

It is clear that many polymer clay techniques, even those that seem most innovative, often have a surprisingly rich and elaborate history.  I hope that someone, somewhere (not me), is keeping track of this history; it is seldom that an entirely new art form arises.  When polymer clay artistry becomes widely established, and is an accepted part of the artist's armamentarium, it would be interesting to know the people and pathways by which this came about. The days of the pioneers are just about over. David Edwards

What really torques my jaws, however, is the growing number of people who take ancient images and make them into stamps or drawings and are offended that someone copies "their" work when the original was done by an Anasazi artist or Egyptian craftsman or a cavedweller in ancient pre-Europe.<<
Beautifully put! I've thought the same thing more than once...J

I think we do get a little carried away sometimes with the attribution thing - I was talking to a couple Brits and Aussies in an online chat & mentioned a couple of people's techniques, and (big surprise) some other Brit and Aussie people had invented several of the same techniques over there. Sue Heaser was one of them. I believe she said even the Skinner blend had been discovered before ... and it really is more of a "discovery" than an "invention" - not to take anything away from Judith Skinner - it was a really great idea, even if somebody else had it too. LynelleV

. . . I suspect most of us feel people should either credit the original author of a technique or so improve/extend it that it becomes something new. But suppose you *do* stumble upon someone else's technique on your own? I discovered (after reading the "Modern Clay" insert in _Jewelry Crafts_) that one of my favorite mokume gane techniques was credited to Kathleen Amt in _The New Clay II_. Funny . . . I thought that I found it by running it through the pasta machine. Which begs the question--to what extent does someone "own" a technique if it is fairly easy for someone else to discover it for themselves?
...Remember Mike Buessler's article on Mobius beads? I noticed that he didn't take credit for the "discovery," even though many people attribute the beads to him. Triche

But no amount of flattery can repair the flattening of the pocketbook. If you make a (direct) copy for yourself that is flattery. If you make copies for sale that is theft. Lysle

As far as copying, original idea, and "owning" an idea, that's a whole different thing. I'm relatively certain that none of us, working with polymer on a daily basis, have a problem with giving credit where credit is due - in fact, we tend to get over-concerned about attribution, in my humble opinion. I know I do, because I described a piece I made recently to some else thus:"It's a Skinner blend with Kato's embossing powder thingy blended in, carved and backfilled a la Nan Roche and it's kind of a Tory-ish arrowhead shape and strung on Pier's telephone wire." You know, I DID design and make this piece, using my own interpretation of what I have learned from my teachers! Canebake

So, while I am certainly in agreement that people's designs and techniques shouldn't be COPIED, they ARE putting these ideas out there for our consumption, no?... I think we do have a responsibility to seize this info and make it our own, and I think a lot of artists overestimate their impact..... You know, it IS a medium like any other, and it can only do certain things, and after all, how many original ideas could there possibly BE?? Where would we be if Picasso's teachers had said to him, "OK, I'm showing you my technique, but the blue-on-blue thing is MINE so don't copy"? LOL!!

My feeling now is that it isn't the students who are in error MOST of the time. It is the teachers who, like Ro said, want the money and recognition that comes with teaching, but are not willing to give up control of "their" baby. And, stealing IS a whole different subject - having been the "victim" of a design thief just recently, I definitely understand the difference more than I ever wanted to!! Canebake??

I am of the firm belief that when someone imitates another's artwork it is the highest form of flattery. I ALWAYS take it as a warm hug! It helps to keep my artwork fresh because I have to keep expanding my own talents to keep up with those who want to imitate me. It is a challenge not an insult. I don't own my ideas or techniques --- I own the result of my work for only as long as it takes someone else to copy it freehand. However, I would get very upset if they purchased a piece of mine and molded it for resale under their own name. That is completely a different issue and very clearly wrong! Even then, my reaction would be tempered with how far I had chosen to protected myself legally with copyrights, etc. If I am not willing to pay the price in advance for that legal protection -- it seems to me I have less reason to be angry with someone else. Ksmith1231

Since I am a relative newcomer to polymer clay, I just have to point out that almost every technique I try is someone else's technique! <vbg I agree that there must be a distinction between copying "work" and copying "technique," however.
As for the sharing of ideas and techniques, I just have to say that I have NEVER been involved with a group of artists more willing to share with and support each other in all creative endeavors. Maybe it's because everyone senses that there are such unlimited ways to express with this clay, or maybe polymer artists are just a talkative bunch. But having discovered the polymer community, I can't help but feel there's some sense of camaraderie missing in other artist's groups. I'm in a weaver's guild, and much of the technique and ideas seem very "exclusive." People are not just delighted to share a new technique like polymer folk. Here, "owning" a technique does not come across as so vital--a technique is only a springboard for more techniques, and as long as everyone remains so willing to share ideas and bounce them off of each other, then everyone benefits. . . .. Every expert had to start where I am--just soaking up ideas and information until it just comes flowing out again with an individual voice. KleeBug

Perhaps separating the components of this would help some.
Methods and procedures cannot be copyrighted (in manufacturing they can be patented, however. So...the method or procedure taught is not covered by copyright law.
The actual presentation (words used, graphics presented, order of description, etc) IS covered by copyright so you couldn't take your notes from a workshop and publish a book on the subject using those properties to do so.
But see above...your own presentation of the method, using your own words, photos, etc. would be acceptable from a legal perspective, if not a bit tacky from the perspective of the clay community. . . . .The actual piece created, however, is also copyrighted so if you were to make an exact duplicate of piece presented by the person doing the workshop (and sell it) you would be in direct violation of copyright.
.....On the other hand, if you were to use the methods to produce a piece that was not identical (differed in size, shape, colors, textures or whatever) there should not be a problem.
> What about internet tutorials?
...I think if you look at all this stuff by asking the question "Am I making a direct copy of the piece I'm looking at" (or not), the gray areas start to become more black and white. Copying is copying. Learning something and applying it to the production of your own stuff isn't, whether you're learning a caning technique or how to write books.
...One last opinion. Much of this has to do with who you're trying to please. If it's the legal system you'd best consult a lawyer but truth is, the legal system would allow more than the clay community would condone. For instance, my bet is that if someone develops a new hot technique, teaches it at a workshop, and you run out and start selling pieces that use the technique and look similar, people within the community just might see that as very different from you taking a class in faux turquoise which you turn into pieces for sale. . . . In short, things other than legalese affect some of this stuff and within-community acceptance is more about 'fair play' than legality.--- Larry Marshall

Even if you are willing to pay to have a creation copyrighted, how much are you willing to pay to protect that copyright? $ to sue for infringement....it's sad but people know the chances of them getting sued by *small* business people like us are slim.... AlBehnen1

It is somewhat flattering that someone wants to "mimic" your work...it's amazing to me how far people will go...has anyone noticed how at the majority of craft shows, especially wholesale shows, that cameras are not allowed...you can't copyright an idea...but now that people can't take photos to use as a guide, they buy the real thing...and even tho they are buying it, that is not considered, to me, buying a right to copy that item.

......We have a huge 3 day show after Thanksgiving. There is a artisan that makes "dolls" out of cloth...like snowmen dressed in a long coat and snowwomen in dresses and aprons..she sells out everyday of that show, and replenishes her booth with something completely different for the next day. I asked her if she was going to bring any of the dolls back next year (had only gotten a couple and waited too long to get more). She said "No, by next year many people would have taken the doll they bought, tore it apart, used it as a pattern and sell it themselves...not unique or mine anymore and what am I going to do? Sue all these people...I'd be spending all my time in court.... So I came up with new designs every year..."

The second story...this is in re: to teaching classes..I was giving one of my few classes to a group that belong to a craft guild. They do as a group hold a big craft show downtown right before Christmas. I had brought a couple of ornaments I had designed (for my shows) to show them examples of what one can do with polymer clay. With wide eyes, one person said, "Wow, we can makes these and sell them at our show. How did you make this?" I was a little taken back cause I had just said I had these for my next show...so, as politely as possible I repeated..."this is what I'm making for my next show....let me show you how to make other things." They took it well and I made sure I showed them techniques and designs that were for the taking...

We can be a territorial and possessive breed...wanting to protect what is ours...and want to have the freedom to give up what I what, when I want . . . ALBehnen1??

Because I was not able to go to Arrowmont (if I could have, I certainly would have spent my money to get there), I feel that those not posting (about it) are not really promoting the medium as they should----I recall a recent post "after all I spent money to go".....which made it seem like those not going to Arrowmont just wanted to "cadge" ideas off of the paying attendees.
As long as an artist is credited with his/her process and hasn't said "don't tell anyone about this" . . .it certainly would be nice to let those of us unfortunate souls who could not go know what is "Happening" out there. Thanks, in advance, to those of you who SHARE! After all, describing a technique is much different than actually "seeing" it done in person. However, it does give us an extra direction or an inspiration from which to continue on the polymer pathways....Mamadude

. . at Arrowmont were pretty much direct copies of Pier Voulkos's flower necklaces - not only was the design and construction very obviously Pier's, but the canes, the colors, etc. Whoever made these two pieces didn't just adapt some ideas into her own design - she copied, bead for bead and wire for wire, necklaces that have been photographed and published a dozen times. OK, now I am willing to consider this possibility: this person saw and copied the necklaces on a whim without realizing that she was doing something "wrong" (possibly a hobbyist who mastered this for her own amusement) - and being justifiably proud of her beautiful pieces, she submitted them and against all odds, they were accepted. OR, she may have been aiming for the "wrong" goal, possibly thinking people would recognize the time and effort she put into her exceptionally accurate reproduction and thinking that this would be a fitting tribute to her "guru" Pier. We don't know, and it would be foolish of us to speculate, so let's give her that. The thing that made people angry wasn't so much the copying, although several people got uptight about that, too. But let's be sensible, if she were in her right mind and thinking about what she was doing at all, she would hardly have deliberately set herself up for THAT kind of criticism!! What disturbed people is that these pieces got past a juror - who, to be fair, had very little exposure to polymer clay art and the artists who create it prior to this event. But even given THAT - the juror had help at some stage - someone helped him go through the submissions, someone helped him with his notes, someone set up the displays after...quite a few people saw this piece BEFORE the gallery was complete, and at some point, someone should have said, "Hey, how did THIS get in here?" Canebake

I know what you mean. For instance, a local artist friend of mine was alarmed that I had shared my raku recipe online instead of publishing it; I felt that it was one of those things that someone else could develop if they sat down and looked at a piece anyway. This is a difficult issue because there *is* more at stake here than friendliness and willingness to share. At the heart of this (as in the recent discussion in the P-clay Web site folder), we're talking intellectual property, copyrights, and the ability to make a living from your work. But does sharing technique eliminate or severely limit that ability? Do we really have to lose our friendliness and willingness to share to produce marketable work? As polymer clay gains recognition in the art community, I'm afraid those questions will haunt us more and more. I sincerely hope we retain that friendliness and desire to share that distinguishes us now. Triche

I majored in Art and the Great Masters all copied each other like crazy! In fact, it was a part of their training. In one of my classes, I saw a long (I mean LONG) series of slides. It was a picture of St. John on the Island of Patimous (I think). He had a certain pose, the rocks were just so, the waves hitting the rocks had a pattern, there was a fish off to the side. The first artist was around the year 800 (it was a mosaic from Byzantine), the second artist (ame picture, same pose, same rocks, waves and fish) was about a hundred years later. The slides kept on going. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo, did the same picture. Tinteretto, Rembrandt, and on and on. Something like thirty artists, all told. Same exact picture. et each one looked different, because THEY were different, different tools, different visions.
If you have any qualms, then give credit: "Piece inspired by . . ." I have a picture that I did in Polymer clay that I took from Van Gogh's "Starry Night" (I just thought it would look so great in clay) I named it "Ode to Vincent" No one would ever think it was a Van Gogh, yet you can't miss the similarities.

(re instructions for techniques, designs, etc.)As sparkle has posted, I believe it is ONLY the WORDING that can be copyrighted, the ideas themselves are pretty much easy prey SHOULD someone decide to publish them. I have also seen various articles, not necessarily in Polymer clay, that do overlap on ideas, so of them quite geniunely and others..well! In reality, if someone WERE for example, to take my ideas or anyone elses to another magazine or book, I think it unlikely that any publisher would check validity....- I certainly have never seen that idea before and feel therefore that I have every right to Publish it. But like any idea, I could never GUAREENTEE that no-one else on this lovely planet of ours has not made something similar... very much with ideas we are in a goldrush situation, the first over the frontier can claim their land!
But the discussion really was about how we FEEL about these ideas. Regardless of law, I FEEL it is okay for others to make and sell things based on my Published articles, although I would be a bit miffed if they just copied work that I had displayed rather than writing up into an article, I would feel damn PO'ed if I ever saw my ideas published elsewhere, even though as far as I know, the law would not be that useful unless they had copied my writing word for word. Still, I also FEEL that chocolate should be free for women and that cats should stay kittens for a lot longer than a few weeks. Life dont always deliver what we FEEL it should! ;-) take care Emma

I understand someone wanting to keep a tight rein on information that they make money from teaching, but the best way to do this is to write a book -that way you can legally prosecute anyone who is fast and free with your ideas.
The more people you teach the more likely somebody, somewhere will "spill the beans". Especially if they have no idea that your information is a closely guarded secret. Do people explain to their classees that even though you have paid to do a class and have access to these techniques that you must not share them (for those people who do not want their techniques widely known yet), use them commercially etc etc. Just wondering how much might be actually spelled out to students. . .
But if we really think about all the creative things we do, how much is a compilation of other things? That is, that bit of it from that project I did in primary school, that colour combination that so-and-so gave me by email, then I added that bit because I saw something similar in a magazine, and that part that I saw on somebody's project at that fair last year, ...after all that, how much of it is left that is really ME? If the answer is LOTS, then hold onto it, if only a little then it's really not yours anyway.
My thoughts are this. If you master a new technique that no one else has done before, make lots and lots of things with it and sell them 'till you can't stand to make any more, then teach it until it starts to leak out, and then send it to a magazine before somebody else beats you to it (or write a book if you have the stamina), and then sit back and enjoy everyone else's copies of your stuff and bask in the limelight until you think of something else equally as amazing.
Although I have occasionally tried other people's techniques, I prefer to work things out myself, experiment, experiment, experiment,add certain things and see what happens, try this and see how it looks, have a go at that and see if it works. I have had a few notable failures-... If you work this way, by trial and error, you discover a lot of what other people have discovered anyway. Then you find to your amazement that somebody has a copyright on something that you thought was your own (easy to do if you live so far away from the crafting community), oh well, back to the drawing board to think of something else...It isn't hard if you are creative.
But some things should be kept and enjoyed for a while by the people who thought of them, and if people want to savour the discovery for a while before allowing it to become general knowledge, then good on them! They are entitled to it. Robin

When you put a tutorial on the web, I think you have to be willing to let it go and let it take care of itself. ...also, if you don't want people linking to your tutorials, you probably shouldn't put them up ...there's nothing wrong with linking to someone else's website.
...If you don't want them changing your technique by using products, tools and techniques different than the ones you used, don't put up a tute.... personally, I can rarely follow directions exactly as they are offered - I usually think of something different that I want to try and I want to use the materials that I have on hand, if I can.
...If you don't want people using your tutorials to make items for sale, don't put them up .... it's going to happen.
...If you don't want people printing your web pages and passing them out to friends and guild meetings, don't put them up. ...this will happen too.
People will dissect your technique and come up with their own twists and turns - that's just the nature of the beast.
All of those situations and more will come up eventually if you put up something that interests people. Elizabeth


(see also Business)

…you'all may already know this, but I didn't. Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion magazine recently had a small article on finding copyright-free images. In recommending using your public library, they said: "The U.S. Copyright Office tells us, 'If it was published before the year 1923 - that is, everything until 1922 - then it is no longer protected in the U.S. and has reached the fullest extension of its copyright. You can search government records to see whether a registration was made or has expired.' "Take note: 'No copyrights will expire for another 20 years.' What about when a pre-1923 image is reprinted in a later book? 'The copyright clock is activated by the first publication of the work.' " Pat

Copyright is a legal construct . . .
...Ethics is a matter of whether you care if you break the law or not, sort of.
People have copied art work for the purpose of learning technique forever, but ethics becomes a part of the equation when you sell things that are somebody else's original designs.
....people will assume, if you sell something, that YOU designed the thing.... if you did not, that clearly (to me) is unethical.
......(maybe if they knew somebody else designed the work, they wouldn't be willing to pay you what you ask for the work. Maybe they would think the original artist does it better and they would want their version. Whatever.)
......It's a type of lie, in my opinion, to give the impression you are the crafter AND the designer if that isn't true.
...Yes, everyone copies or is inspired by other artists... however, what you SELL especially, should be your own work.
......or it should be tagged "designed by Dinko, executed by Sherry," or words to that effect. Sherry B.

Does everyone understand the difference between a registered copyright and a natural copyright?
....If a person writes something, and it is finished and afixed (ink on paper, or bites in a file) they have a natural copyright, and if someone steals it and causes actual damages, they can be sued --but only for actual damages.
... If it is registered, you can also get punitive fines. Patricia TX

Regardless of whether you teach something that has been done before or not, the written notes and handouts you use for it DO fall under copyright law. It's YOUR way of explaining the technique, in your own words, and that, by definition, comes under the copyright statutes. Now, if you do not put Copyright 2002 by Cyberartist (AND use both the copyright SYMBOL and have a postmarked copy of your notes mailed to yourself on hand), then you may not have a leg to stand on in court.
Those of you who teach classes and value your written handouts should ALWAYS mail a copy of them to yourself before publicly presenting them. Don't open this, the postmark on it is invaluable, and the letter will ONLY be opened in a court of law should it ever need to come to pass. That postmark is your PROOF of exactly when that copyright took effect. Sunny
....I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, but: mailing a copy of material to yourself IS NOT a legally binding or even reasonably accurate method of proving your copyright. .....Your best protection is a $30 check, mailed to the copyright office of the US Government. Any good library or bookstore can provide you with forms for the price of a photocopy (and its legal! :-)). Gillian
...Interesting...yet this is the information I got long ago from a lawyer... He called it the "poor man's copyright protection", and I have seen this info in many places on the internet, too. Hmmm...Sunny
...You can't just mail a copy to yourself. You have to send it registered mail. The envelope is hand dated and has the seal on it which must be broken in order to open the envelope. This is what makes it acceptable in court. You can't tamper with the seal without destroying it. This information comes from a friend of the family who is knowledgeable in copyright law. Charlene

I alway have © Jody Bishel 2002 on my class handouts ... and from time to time, people will ask me if it's OK to share them. I usually say that I don't mind if they're claying with a friend and teach her how to do my technique, but that the class materials are mine and they may not use them to teach all their friends. If they're going to teach, the least they can do is write their own materials! I suppose I'm splitting hairs, but once I start teaching something, it's not in my control anymore, like it or not. I suppose we're on the honor system and have to just try to make people understand that passing around class materials undercuts their future opportunities to learn from us. Jody B.

I'll take a stab at (explaining copyrights & patents), and yes, I am not a lawyer. I have been hearing these complaints circulating for some time, and I believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of terminology at the heart of them. Though I'm not an artist, I have bumped up against the same misunderstanding in my former life, so learned a little about the subject for self-preservation. Here is the problem as I see it.

U.S. Copyright laws protect a person's work product automatically, so long as the creator can demonstrate his/her product predates a copy cat's, and the copy is shown to be derived from the originator's work, not just a coincidence.
....The key here is that the "final work product" is copyrighted, not necessarily the process by which it was created.
......Example: If I write a nifty story using a new-fangled invention also of my making, the story is copyrighted. If somebody claims the story as their own, I can rightfully charge that my copyright has been violated...... However, if somebody uses my new-fangled invention to write their own story, that is NOT a copyright infraction.
....that is a patent issue. So, if I failed to apply for a Patent for my new "process", shame on me. The infringement, however, is not a copyright violation.

One last thing about this before I shut up. If you invent a new process or device and then tell somebody about it before applying for a Patent, then it is in the public domain.
....If somebody wants to apply for a patent, they may, unless you have done so already.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is:
If you discover a new method or process and really want to safeguard it rather than share it, keep your trap shut and apply for a Patent!.
... Most of us realize it is impractical and counterintuitive to patent every idea we have, so we live with the loss and move on. Leo

Too many artists in this business are concerned with "copyrighting their designs"
. . . .The truth is, you cannot copyright your "design" unless you are doing something SO amazingly different than putting beads on a string, People have been stringing necklaces and wrapping wire for thousands of years. Just because you put the beads in a certain way, or use a certain technique to make a pendant doesn't mean that you are the first person to have thought of it.
..But, for arguments sake, let's say you do go ahead and decide to somehow copywrite your "design".
...... Are you then prepared to take legal action when (notice, I'm not saying "if") someone copies it?
.......Are you willing to spend thousands of dollars (and loads of time and frustration) going after the person who has a necklace that looks like yours?
.........And suppose someone decides to do a knockoff line of your work and have it made in China or India where they often make bulk jewelry. International laws are different, and a copyright here doesn't mean squat there. All you'd be doing is spinning your wheels and giving yourself an ulcer.
....The very best that you can do, is to put your work out there and promote your work. There are a lot of people that might make your design, but it is up to you to make them want a "Karen" necklace over a cheap knockoff.
....Don't even think about copywrite - it will keep you a small, unknown, bitter artist.... rather, you should be reinventing yourself all the time... and then you will grow as an artist and a person. ...when too many people are making stuff like yours, so what - you have a new line coming out. Karen H.

May 2000: There's an interesting article in the new issue of Lapidary Journal about protecting your work from copies…. A couple of good points:

1. marking your designs isn't necessary, BUT it's very important in proving a copyright violation
2. Just because a piece resembles yours doesn't mean it's in violation.
...... (I've read over and over online that a design has to be changed 10%,20% etc to be "legal") Not true! There's no black and white definition..but the "test" for infrigment is simple.."is the accused design SUBSTANTIALLY similar in apprearance to the ordinary observer?"
3. As long as the person has merely appropriated the idea..and not the embodiment of the idea..it's not a violation.
...This is just a tiny part of the article.. Many of us get our ideas from other pieces of art..and even study certain designs and artists..then expand on that idea. I guess that's how it's been from the beginning of time..JAN

I also can see the artist's need to control his or her images. It is exactly the same as our desire to control our images. If I painted a picture and someone transferred it onto a pin (think Kathleen Dustin's work) and sold it as their original work, I'd be angry. I'd want a part of the sale price and credit.
However, I don't understand the artist not giving permission. I've purchased the rubber stamps for Chinese characters and Native American Petroglyphs, and I e-mailed the publishing company, Chronicle Books, for permission to use the stamps on handmade objects. They said flat out no. So I'm just going to build my own stamps from polymer clay.
I've had the same problem with Alexander Henry Fabrics. I asked permission to transfer their fabric image onto polymer clay, and they said no. They said that it would cost me several thousand dollars to purchase their permission, and when I told them I would be using the image on limited edition pins (100 maximum), they still said no. Then the guy I was talking to said if I was just going to do one, maybe they would have given me permission, but it's either one or mass production of thousands and thousands to pay for the copyright. Yuck.
I also contacted Hoffman Fabric about the same thing, and they want to see a picture of the item before they give permission. I think that is wonderful! There are some beautiful prints out there which would make wonderful backgrounds for so many kinds of projects. Deirdre

I have a page with copyright info and also some links..I've done a lot of looking-up and talking with lawyers on this issue

Here is more info on artists' copyrights, written simply and in categories

Here's a link to US copyright information:

"10 big myths about copyright":
more on copyright (from some lawyers):

I found a WHOLE lot of sites on copyright. If you are like me reading leagilize is annoying at the best times but I figured in general it gives everyone a few easy resources to check into
www.benedict.com/lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/fairuse.stanford.edu/ --(NF)

Here is a sample of a "Copyright Release" form (needs Adobe Acrobat Reader to see and print)

As I understand it, techniques cannot be copyrighted. Only specific designs and artwork can be copyrighted. A very innovative technique might possibly be patentable, but I've always heard that this is unlikely.
However, the name of a recognizable technique or style can be trademarked, if it can be proven that the product is used in interstate commerce. (All my info applies just to the United States.) A copyright notice can help establish the date artwork was made, and certainly is worth putting on both artwork, photographs of artwork, publicity, and websites. Without a notice, it might be ambiguous about whether or not permission to use was implied. (Who knows, what I just said might be one of those ten myths in the website above.)
It can also be worthwhile to register copyrights. The cost can be lowered by putting a lot of artwork on the same CDROM or videotape and registering it as a group. The difference is, that then a court case against a copyright violator can result in damages being paid over and above the actual loss of revenue. If you sue someone for copyright violation and haven't already registered the copyright, all you can get is reimbursement for lost income (eg the sales the violator made, that you might have made instead) and you have to be able to prove that you lost $X of income as a result of the violation.) If you've registered the copyright, you have less to prove. And going to court isn't the only benefit. A stern "cease and desist" letter from a lawyer can often be enough to stop the violation. Cathy  

First you must understand what a trademark is. From my recent research on this topic I found that It gives you the exclusive right to use a word, series of words or a logo to identify you, your company, your product or all three. Depending on what state you are in, I'm in Ohio, I can apply for a trademark here for $125.00. I dont' know whether each state has the option of a state only trademark but its worth looking into. A simple form that can be filled out and sent with a check to the state department. The protects the NAME and/or LOGO only in the state you apply for it. It does NOT protect the actual item that you make. That would be protected under a copyright OR a Patent. Example would be Nabisco sells OREO cookies. That doesn't stop other cookie companies from selling chocolate cookies with white cream in the middle. It does however prevent those companies from calling their cookie an "Oreo".
A trademark with the US government protects the name/logo in the entire US and the cost is $325.00 which is good for a 10 year period, as of my last search on this topic. So the costs actually come out to $32.50 per year, not all that expensive.
The form is relatively simple and you don't need an attorney, you can do it without one. I incorporated my business and applied for trademarks all WITHOUT an attorney. You just need to do the research and make sure you take your time to fill out forms completely and accurately . . .
A patent is a long and difficult process, not too mention the costs. You first my get a patent for your process and then if you have say 10 different types you need a design patent for each one of those in addition. After reviewing the costs for what I wanted to patent...I also said "forget it"! In addition with a Patent, you will basically need an attorney to do it for you. After looking though about 50 pages in the US Patent area web site, I was exhausted and decided that for the costs to receive one and the attorney costs to apply for it, my venture would not be worth all the work. . .
I hope that helps a little and here are a few web sites I found on this information if you want to do some of your own research...
/ All About Trademarks
(http://www.uspto.gov/ US Patent & Trademark Office) . . .
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/tac/doc/basic/ ...trademark info at USP&T Office
http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html Myths about copyrights
Tamila Darling

I had made an ornament the very first year I was selling that included a reference to the local university - I DID NOT use their logo....did not copy any type of design as a matter of fact I created my own and thought I was pretty clever doing it! ....but come to find out they have copyrights out of all kinds of color combinations and letters so that people can't use the university to make money without going through the licensing process. A lady came up to me at a craft show and told me that the university agressively goes after copyright infringement - I WAS MORTIFIED!!! I removed all of the items from my display immediately. I am now going through the licensing process (red tape, red tape, red tape) and will only do those designs if approved and licensed. But the point is....I didn't KNOW!! Of course I know more now....but still.
If someone was to "borrow" a design from me and was making money from it and I knew it.....I think I would talk to the individual about the origin of the design..... I certainly would hope that if there is anyone out there that may think I've "borrowed" a design from them....call me on it!!! I was told that my elves look like the elf from the claymation Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer show....I personally don't see it....didn't even think of him (the guy that wants to be a dentist) but who knows if back in my subliminal brain I pulled on that show as a "model" for my elves??! Jan

...the rubber stamp "angel (companies)" policies have a wide range of restrictions some have limits say you can use the impression say 10 times, others for gifts only, others say not reproducing the images etc... instead of worrying about copywrite infringement i just carve my own…
me putting a restriction that you can't use a stamp for what ever you want is like saying here buy my expensive paint but you can't use it for anythng to sell might as well go back to grinding pigment and egg yolks…
Now not remaking the stamps and selling them seems like a given, but this selling a stamp at $25 and not being able to use them for personal gain its like cutting the head off the horse so you don't have to feed it …faun

Dover Publications is even getting on line soon! They were just sold--... However, the Dover Pictorial Archive rules are still up to 10 images used copyright free in any one project. Don't let anyone tell you that's changed--I checked specially; a rubberstamp store owner tried to tell me that Dover had changed and were now charging for each used image. That is NOT true. Sarajane

as least here in the States...you might find some VERY FINE, FINE, tiny print about what (magazine/publisher) is allowed to do once they 'accept' and print your article...well...at least from what I have 'learned'. . . . submitting something does not mean that they will print this in your original wording, and/or not change 'what they see "FIT" to change... sad to say... (i'm sure not ALL mags, publications, allow tactics like these...this is 'hypothetical' only!) . . . once you 'hand over' what you have created, you are in a sense, giving away ANY RIGHT to this 'said' article/technique etc... Kim

(see Creativity/Inspiration/Art, Business and Teaching for more)