Monday, August 11


I want to discuss copyright.
On some blogs I see the copyright sign – how does this protect your work – be it words, photos and images or your craftwork?
I would like to open this discussion up as I think we all need to know about this subject.
From my research (Googling Copyright, enforcing copyright, copyright and craft) I don’t think I (Gigibird) can do much if I discover Miss Bitchface copying my felt corsages or anything else I make.

This is a photo of my door cushion. I haven’t found anything like it on Flickr or Etsy or in any craft books (not that I have everyone ever published ) but in another 6 months how many will I find?
Of course a device to stop a door catching in the wind has been around probably as long as doors have – indeed I can remember (very vaguely) seeing one somewhere, some when and my neighbour even thinks there is a name for them but try as I might I haven’t found one.

Apparently you can’t copyright recipes. And I find that very interesting. And it makes sense. I think we need to be sensible about what we make craft-wise.
A door stop, a tote bag is honestly the material equivalent of a sponge or a scone.
If we got the idea to make say a pincushion from a Japanese craft book then we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist if, shock horror someone else produces a very similar facsimile of our own.

Of course there are people who see someone’s work and copy it almost stitch for stitch…and that is wrong but what can any of us do about it?


  1. Coincidentally the same topic has just been raised in a flickr group I belong to.Also I know that wee wonderfuls had a copyright issue with someone making her toys as their own and a store selling them.
    There's inspiration and stealing and there lies the rub.

  2. Interesting points. Copyright is a tricky issue - in photography it's cut and dried as it is obvious if an image is re-used. In crafting? Tough one - I think so much of what we see in blogland and magazines inspires us, but so does the natural world (for example) and then suddenly you have lots of versions of seedheads. When did the rice-filled doorstop arrive - I remember a company in London (DWCD) producing them years ago, along with lavender hearts with a 'with love' name tag on, and now you see interpretations of these everywhere. I don't think much is really new these days, but out and out copies are fairly transparent - didn't Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits find exact copies of her bunnies in Russia or something? Anyway, I've rambled long enough. I love the door closer (yes, I've seen something similar in my grandmother's house many years ago but it was different).
    Ps is the house still tidy?!

  3. Lol at Miss Bitchface :) How timely this subject is for me as I have just made a corsage out of recycled fabric to give as a gift -I then spent til quarter to 2 sunday am (!) trawling etsy in case there was 1 the same (how little faith I have in my own creativity). As being quite new to crafting I'm struggling with that line between inspiration and plagarism. (I didn't find 1 the same btw!!)

  4. mmmmmm... not sure where to start!
    i saw someone selling a similar item to yours on Not On The Highstreet about a year and a half ago - it was made from fabric and had the ties like yours but not with the pinking edges.
    i LOVED the idea and like you could not see it anywhere else at the time - i made quite a few for my home and two for my shop doors - from these i made a few for customers, but felt uncomfortable making any to sell via NOTHS.
    the trouble with craft nowadays is that there are very few new ideas - we all make similar items with our own twist.
    i have tried to stop worrying about folk copying as it was stopping me putting any items on my blog.
    it makes you feel sick to the stomach when you see a copy of your item but i guess we have to grin and bear it :(
    i have no idea how copyright works - who governs it and decides what is a downright copy of a new and unique idea?
    ack - sometimes it feels pointless crafting at all!!

    on a positive note - LOVE your door cushion - they are such a great item - hope you sell lots x
    t x

  5. It can be very frustrating indeed when you work so long and hard on a new idea or creation only to have someone else come along and duplicate your idea. On the other hand I am always wondering when I make something new if anyone else is making the same thing. I don't think there is any easy answer to this dilemma.

  6. Door cushion ....brilliant ..... personally I have not seen anything like these and I think they are spot on. Great work.

    We are all searching for that exclusive, elusive design that will be unique and original, so difficult. My take on this is that all we can do is endeavour to make the items that personally excite us and our own style will shine through. The big problem is, as you say, when bitch face does her stuff.
    It is perhaps a good idea to make sure you keep a photographic record and date, a log almost, at least you can then prove your originality.

  7. I have never seen a door cushion before, it's a brilliant product - could have done with one on my frontdoor which slammed in the wind smashing several of the stained glass panes.
    I think blatant copying is is very different to finding inspiration in someone's work and giving it your own interpretation - so many of us make the same things ( brooches/doorstops/lavender hearts/pencil rolls etc) but in our own way.Copying is stealing and some people seem to have no problem with it
    Have you Googled Creative Commons? I remember reading something about it on a blog a while back.

  8. A couple of months ago I found that someone had apparently 'taken inspiration' from a certain type of my felt toys. Not only that but she had more or less copied her Etsy shop entry from mine and tweaked the title of her version. I am not normally paranoid as I have know that there are few new ideas under the sun, but there were so many similar if not downright identical points of design, that I knew it was so - and it was a client of mine who alerted me to it, she had seen the pictures and thought they were mine. Added to which this person was a previous contact of mine of Flickr and had one of my toys favourited. (Needless to say I have now blocked her). I had a series of 'interesting 'email exchanges with her - she tried to claim innocence (although she says she is a designer, so she should know about these things, as I pointed out) and tried to make me out to be the bad guy for getting so het up about it. But I am a tough cookie - she did change the title of her piece, but is still touting her plagiarised toys in her shop. Cleverly she did not take an entire design, just ripped off my style (she has no clear identifiable style of her own)and design features, which I have created from my 20 odd years of being an illustrator. Etsy were worse than useless, and just pointed me to their copyright page - but it is nigh on impossible to get someone for plagiarism. I know that my own toy designs are pretty unique, and as they are sculpted entirely by hand, my designs are clearly identifiable - there is nothing quite like them as far I know. My toy characters come from years of painting and illustration work. I was absolutely furious, and now I have clear and tough copyright declarations on every single toy picture I place on Flickr, Etsy, blog and everywhere else. It will not stop people who are determined to steal idea, but it makes the point to those who would otherwise claim innocence. My reponse has been that I am looking at other, more up market venues than Etsy for my work - I have already secured 6 toy orders for a Scottish Gallery - I am simply going to make MY designs so wide spread and well known that if anyone does imitate them, people will know it is still my design.
    Little Cotton Rabbits did get an apology from the people concerned, they appear to have been unaware that they were doing anything wrong. However, I've seen other rabbits around which are incredibly similar to hers - but the good thing is that she has made her name with those patterns and people do recognise them as hers.

    So in short, (LOL) a strong brand identity at least establishes your work, (think Janet Bolton, Kaffe Fassett).

    I almost wrote about it on my blog, but decided to take the High Road and rise above it. I'm glad I did.

  9. been there sent postcard10:50 AM

    Take a look at Creative Commons Licence.

  10. So very interesting: lots to think about. Will email.

  11. Another thing you can do in this case, if you really think this is a truly unique design, is apply for a patent. It would cost, but at least it would give you full legal rights - real ones - over your door cushions.

  12. I think ist very tricky..and that is sucha good idea all I can say is 'Brace yourself'.

  13. Really interesting post. This is something that I think about quite a lot. It is a real pain in the back side when you see makers copying either your own or other makers style/work/colour schemes and trying to say that their work is so "totally original and there's nothing else out there like it". Clearly, if you do the blog/etsy thing you will get caught out in the end, so why even try and pretend?
    For example, one person does badge making from vintage books then everyone is doing it, while the actual individual product is different, the idea is the same. Does the original maker get p'd off or is it just their tough luck that others have cottoned on to a good idea, although that probably isn't the greatest example as it doesn't involve sewing, but you get my drift?!?
    On the flip side of the coin though you have a wonderful maker like Poppy Treffry who sells all over the world, her work is really quirky and eyecatching ( how does she manage to do it all hreself?) But the minute someone else does a bit of applique and stitched writing they are described as being very "Poppy Treffry". Understandably, if it was a complete rip-off of a design you could see the point, but does that now mean that nobody else can apply that technique to their work in fear of being compared?
    As others have said there are very few true "original" pieces of work out there now, it's makers interpretation/style/influences that make us all individual. But I totally agree that stitch for stitch copying is totally out of order, some people just have no imagination.

    Hope this all makes sense, I am by no means sticking up for Miss Bitchface!!

    Love the door cushion.

    L x

  14. Hi Gigi,
    this is a very interesting post and the comments are great too.
    Have you heard of ACID?
    It stands for anti copying in design and many artists and craftspeople use them. You can register your designs and they will help with legal advice etc if you are copied, plus lots of other services. It does cost to join. Hope this info is useful to some of your readers.

    Copyright is a difficult thing... as you know we have just written a craft book (out in September!) and hope that it will inspire folk to want to sew and make up the projects we have designed. It was, however a big decision to add certain designs (ones we still make to sell) as even though the book clearly states 'the designs in this book are copyright and must not be made for resale', we know that it will happen. We wait to see!
    The comment which says to photograph your work is good. We have always done this. Every now and then, copy your photos to disc and then post them to yourself registered post(this will be dated) but don't open them. This will provide proof of the date that you were making/designing certain products. hope this helps.
    i look forward to reading more comments on this one.
    have a great day x
    ginny x

  15. copyright is a very tricky area, i have a creative commons license on my blog, but if truth be known, there is no real way of enforcing it. it only works as a deterrent for people with morals, but has no effect on those without.

    i had my owls copied, they were up for sale on etsy. i approached the person in question (she was my 'miss bitchface'!) and learnt a lot from the experience. in this case, it was not worth me bothering, she was never going to admit she had copied, and just turned on me instead! i walked away and left her to it, the quality of work spoke volumes, she could neither draw nor sew, and it showed, quite laughable really!. at the time i blogged about it, but in the end removed the post as i didn't want my space tainted with the whole unpleasant experience.

    as a designer, it is your intellectual property that you need to protect, but how do you do this? if there is one specific design that goes well for you, it may be worth taking out a patent on it, but if you have a range of designs, which are also constantly evolving, you can't patent everything, it would cost too much. but i do think that the constantly evolving side of a true designer is what sets you apart from others, and keeps you moving forward.

    before working for myself, i worked in the textile industry for 11 years, and have to say i have not personally come across your door cushion idea before. in the design studio i was based in we had a lot of old craft books, copies of golden hands (remember them?!), and i don't remember anything similar. now, something like that may well be worth looking into patenting as it has a specific use rather than being purely decorative.

  16. Thanks for e-mailing me about this post Lynn - you are right that I find it interesting, especially the comments.
    My own view is that it is pretty impossible to stop people copying objects - the earliest patterns that I have for the rice filled doorstops are in Golden Hands Encyclopedia of Crafts a part work from 1975 (which someone else has mentioned) - and I remember a couple of versions (brick and pyramid) in a needlepoint book of about the same date. There may be, for all I know, Victorian versions.
    When there are style issues it is a bit more complicated.
    I completely changed my style early last year because I wanted to be more creative and because I got fed up with low level copying. I thought that if I upped the skill level required to make things then they would be less likely to be copied.
    I started to work in monochrome, buying a Bernina machine with BSR so that I could produce freehand embroidery. About March this year I discovered Janet Clare's lovely blog - and there she is also working in monochrome, embroidering on old Scottish blankets. So there you have it, two unconnected women, doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.
    Fortunately our subject matter, style and products are different (she comes from the Janet Bolton direction; I was looking more at 1950s etchings and woodcuts). But still . . .it was spooky.
    I also think it interesting that PG (whose work is fantastic) was alterted to imitation by a client. This is what I find tends to happen; other people look out for you.

  17. You really have hit a nerve here haven't you! Copyright is such a difficult thing to enforce in the area of craft. As Diana says with photographs/art it is much easier to spot and enforce (I deal with this alot in my line of work!)
    The problem is that many people do make the same sort of items, for example corsages - it is the way in which the designer works with their materials, puts colour together, embellishes their work etc that sets it apart and marks it as their own. I wrote a post ages ago about how I had made some cushion covers whose design was inspired by a card that someone had sent me only to find that a similar idea had been produced in a book that I had subsequently bought. I was gutted and was totally paranoid that people would think that I had copied it! I have also experienced someone in America taking my text and images to use on their own blog as a post! The person in question had been a regular commenter so it was an incredibly stupid thing to do - I just stopped replying and she moved on.
    I think at the end of the day we all have to hope that a persons innate decency will not allow them to knowingly rip off someone elses' designs/copy their style. Unfortunately there are some people out there who will continue to do so no matter what you try and do to dissuade them. It would be incredibly sad if people stopped blogging their new creations for fear of being ripped off.
    Door closer is great by the way!

  18. so interesting reading all the comments on this post lynn. i feel pretty naive when it comes to this area...i haven't got anything on my blog to state please don't copy me. but then again i don't make much these days either! i've never really looked into whether there are any other bookmarks out there like mine or cat quilts : )

    you've developed a really strong handwriting with your latest fh work so it would be very obvious if copies were made...why someone would do such a thing is beyond me though. i could never be satisfied with a piece of work that i knew was stolen at it's creative root.

  19. Thanks for bring this very important issue up...
    Unfortunatly , there`s not much I can say... Rather then, how upset I would be if someone was to copy any of my artwork!
    Kisses Kisses
    Debbie Moss

    P.S - I LOVE your blog!

  20. My mum once taped a disposable nappy over the corner of the door to stop it slamming - my sisters were very little and we didn't have much money, I think your cushion is much more stylish!

    Really interesting to read these, I'm half thinking of trying to design some simple knitted baby hats and things to sell but am worried about accidentally ripping someone off. Even if I write the pattern from scratch, what happens if I subsequently discover someone else has done something that looks the same? Difficult, isn't it?

  21. Your hand made creations would need to be pattented, not copyrighted and you would have a hard time proving you are the only one in history who ever made them.

    I believe crafting would be very hard to claim as exclusive to only one person.

    A lawyer commented on this subject on Yahoo answers. It might help you here:
    Three different issues - Copyright, Trademark, and Patent.

    Copyright first........
    Depends on how much you change it.

    Generally, if you buy a paper pattern, it gives you the license to make a single copy of that item. Once you've made it, you can sell it as you choose. If you want to make and sell more, you have to buy more copies of the pattern.

    But if you start with someone else's pattern and modify it, you've made a "derivative work", which is still a violation of copyright, UNLESS the amount of change you do makes it a new piece.

    In the real world, it pretty much depends on what the item is. If you make a knock-off of an expensive designer dress then you'd better make sure your design clearly ISN'T the designers own dress if you don't want to be sued for copyright infringement. If you buy a pattern for a generic "Mans shirt" you can make as many as you want and no-one's going to say anything - a shirt is a shirt.

    Second... Trademarks.

    You cannot use someone else's trademark, or something that could be confused as their trademark, under any circumstances, unless you have their license to do so. So if you make that knock-off Armani dress, changed enough to no longer be a copyright infringement, but you put a label in it that has the Armani trademark on it, that's illegal.

    Third - Patents.

    There's no patent on clothing, other than in VERY unusual circumstances. Patents protect *inventions*. No-one 'invented' the dress, or the shirt, or gloves - they've been in use for ever.

  22. Anonymous6:04 PM

    Don't forget imitation is the sincerest form of flattery :)

  23. I have this terrible feeling that 'Cath' has 'copied' our anenome corsages (page 10 Autumn brochure), dare you to ring up their legal department;)Sx

  24. and that's not the worst of it.....she is only charging £6.50
    cheap mare.

  25. Ahhhhh copyright is such a sore subject! When I was in art school (that was a while ago - but to spare divulging my age, I won't say when! lol), our professor told us that any painted or sketched (ie drawn) artwork (as well as photography) was automatically copyrighted. All the artist had to do was put their name and date on the piece. I don't know how that applies to today's age of the internet!

    Someone once bought something from my shop and resold it in their own shop! There's sadly not much one can do. Small claims cases can end up costing more in court than what the item is worth (except you can't put a price on "principle").

    I'd love to purchase one of your totes as a special order if possible... is a giraffe possible? (For a book bag/tote for my baby nephew's birthday -- giraffes reign in his little world!) =)

  26. Anonymous7:42 PM

    Many, many years ago my mum used to stuff an old stocking with rags and hang it on the door knob to stop door slamming. Yours are much nicer!!

  27. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Sorry but copyright & the theft of is stealing... try it with Walt Disney designs & there would be a swift ride to the law courts.
    Inspiration... taking ideas, layouts & twirling the edges or lifting a project straight from a magazine involves 2 lots of entities.. magazine company & the original designer.
    It is difficult for people who derive their creative energy from others' work to comprehend it is not a good moral practice & just because you whack it on paper & put a copyright sign on it doesn't make it yours. It also is noted in the retail & design community ... so not also a wise move. Copyright stretches international waters & ignorance of the law may not be an out.
    Would one expect to take a person's dairy herd, milk them & sell the milk as one's own & expect to be allowed to continue this practice... well same goes for copyright. Don't touch in the design sense what isn't yours.

  28. Hi, I've just discovered your blog via 'snapdragon's garden' and found my way to this entry about copyright. I can only echo what other people have said about there being some kind of shared sub-conscious thing going on when 2 people create a similar thing but each person has no knowledge of the other. Now, as for your hanging door stops, well, here I have a tale to tell. Back in the Spring I was busy sewing standard doorstops for a show, and whilst browsing online shops one day, I came across hanging doorstops on 2 different websites, namely: Morello Living and Rosablue. Until that point I'd not seen them for sale, but had seen plenty of the standard floor door stops. Go take a look at these 2 websites to see what I mean. So, whatever we make, it seems, has been made or is being made elsewhere!! All I can say is, imagine being the person who had a patent for lavender filled fabric hearts - that person would be mega rich!!!!!! Happy Autumn to you, and yours is a lovely interesting blog! Denise

  29. This made me guffaw aloud!
    I made a few what I call "slamstops" a good while ago and was thinking of selling them, (I had listed one on Etsy way back when I first joined, but I didn't bother to relist it when it expired)I decided that the way I make them, it just wasn't going to be financially viable as one of my componants was too expensive. So when I saw your similar idea doorstops,plus the discussion on copyright, I did find it quite funny.
    Yours are very cute and in a different style to mine. Mine were much more utilitarian - yours have much more appeal. I'll send you a picture if you are interested.

  30. I forgot to tell you where I got my idea for my slampstop. Years ago, when my Aunt was still alive, she used a sanitary towel on one of her doors , so as not to bang the door to wake the baby. Does anyone remember seeing the old fashioned sanitary towels that had loops and no adhesive? It was that long ago!!


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