I guess as a designer you get used to the big guys (large chain and department stores) swooping in on a product at a market or trade show. You feel powerless to do anything about it. Or an image swiped off your website. The silly thing is these companies name their IP addresses so you can see who and when the image was downloaded or what pages they viewed. You maybe used to it, but it still makes you angry especially when you see one of your designs end up in a chain store that mass manufactures in China and sells it for next to nothing.
Why so cheap? Well for starters they are not employing designers and they are sending all work off shore.
I know when I had my studio open to the public I had a few unwelcome visitors with their phones out sapping images of my fabrics. When approached they ran the hell out of there. I do know who you work for.
But fighting the big guys is practically impossible, unless you have loads of cash and lots of time to spend in long drawn out deliberations.
I know when I have spoken to my solicitor about such matters In the past I had to weigh up the financial cost. I don't have a spare $$$ to get the ball rolling, so you put it down to experience and move on.
However, there is a more gloomy side to this post. My heart breaks when I see one small business copying another small business. Or when one independent designer copies another. The world is too small now for these things to go unnoticed.
And if the victim speaks up about it the ensuing social media war is torrid. I have read through many a she said he said social media stream only to be left exhausted.
But the thing to remember here is breaching copyright is breaking the law. Taking another persons product, concept or idea and passing it off as your own is theft. Worse when its done for financial gain. You might as well just walk up to the originator of the design and take a $50 out of their wallet.
Little things like distributing a pattern that is sold to you is another breach. Again, take that $14.95 out of the designers wallet. Every time that pattern is shared or put up on a group forum that designer is losing out.
Copyright is there for a reason. It protects us. It protects the designer or originator but it also protects you as a consumer. If you like to have a choice in the things you enjoy then opt for a world without copyright theft. Why…if companies continually copy each other we no longer have choices, it all starts to look the same. The more small independents get ripped off the less likely they will continue to create interesting products for you to enjoy. The smaller makers will not be able to continue to produce product as they will not be able to compete with the big guys and mass market production. The flow on effect, less jobs, less skills, less opportunities.
It's time to have a few more conversations that are constructive about copyright issues, especially in design based small business that don't turn into heated arguments. It's time to educate students about the implications of copyright and to get them to understand what is right and wrong when entering the work force. Just because a buyer tells you to copy another product does not make it right, it is very wrong. Or if you are given a brief and you are told to copy the image that was stripped from the internet. There are so many bad practices out there that we are too scared to speak about so they are shied away from and therefore the thief gets away with it and the victim suffers a loss. We need to be conversing about these issues in a positive way to change and educate and to police ourselves in our own practices.
So if you have been wondering what I will do next since I gave up commercial design work, this is it.
I am going back to Uni to study Law. Yep, long hard dry Law. Why, because I want to become an IP specialist and work with creatives to protect them from the people who copy them. To protect the little guy from the people who steal ideas and concepts, who stalk other businesses web sites and steal content, all those things that copy rats seem to think are ok….well, it's not.
I'm going to embark on a journey of creative advocacy….I'll be hitting the books in a big way, but I will still be running my studio as normal.