Copyrights And Wrongs

posted: Friday, 19 April 2013

Note that there is a follow-up to this blog here.

This blog post has been at least a week in the writing plus 12 years of beading time contemplating such things.

Before I begin let me be clear that it is my opinion- just that. Make of it what you will. Other people have other opinions and that's great. I absolutely respect their right to have a different opinion but I have long felt there needed to be a look at the direction some designer and publication demands are going in and that's what this is about.

If you think I am wrong then please do contact me. I would love to hear the other side of the argument. In fact I would love hear any opinions on this at all. This blog isn't set up to take comments but you can contact me and I can add what you have written to future blogs on the subject (if you want to keep your communication private or anonymous just let me know) and you can also discuss it openly on my Facebook page on a dedicated post right here.

I make my sole living from my designs, whether that is through writing or teaching and I love to do so. I have to say I earn how a third of what I did when I was employed in the NHS and now work at least seventy hours a week (more like 100 most weeks) but I love beading and spreading beading joy and knowledge, as crazy or stupid as that sounds! I get a lot of pleasure when I teach as I know how much I like to learn and hope that I express at least some of that when I teach.

I feel truly privilieged that people spend their time and money to buy what I sell or come to a class with me.

Maybe it is because of this, or due to spending so much time teaching and talking to students and anyone who purchases from me, that I feel they are often not given the respect they are due or given what they have actually paid for. Again that may not make much sense now but I hope by the time you read this very long post I will have made myself clear- if not then sorry!

I very rarely read beading magazines, books, forums etc, not because I don't love them (because I surely do) but partly becase I just don't have the time to keep up but also because I never want there to be any question in peoples' minds that my work is not my own. I like to create and design safe in the knowledge that I do so with as little influence as possible - which of course is impossible when you love to look at beadwork and beads. I have previously written about the idea of being 'self-taught' and not being influenced in any way so don't worry this isn't venturing down that path.

I also don't want someone else's interpretation of an idea of technique to steer my off my path when I'm busy trying to create something. I already have too much on my 'to bead' list without being inspired to add too much more to it!

But, whilst in Florida I saw the cover of the February 2013 issue of Bead & Button magazine and 2 of the taglines of the cover caught my eye: "Create Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina necklace in beads!" and "Bead true to yourself. 4 top designers explain why copyright matters".

Right away I was intrigued by the justaposition of two seemingly opposing articles so bought a copy.

I read it that night and had to put it down it riled me up so much.

Since then I have pondered writing this and who it is aimed at. So rest assured whilst it may seem off the cuff a lot of thought has gone into this :)

I have also thought long and hard about how opinions can change over time and of course words may mean one thing to the writer and something different to the reader.

I also know that sometimes space and time contraints mean that a magazine may have to cut out some information. With that in mind before writing this I emailed both the magazine and Maxine Henry, who designed the project in the magazine.

I heard back from both and having read the reply from Julia Gerlach, Editor of the magazine, I have no doubt it was written with good intentions and may not have meant to come off how it did. But reading the article filled me with sadness and I am writing this as a counter to the article as I believe, or at least hope, not all designers think as quoted in the article.

Also, before reading this remember there is sometimes a big difference between what is legal and what is ethical, and what you or I think is ethical may not be the same thing. Or what is the law.

I am not an expert on the law, and laws vary from country to country. but why not start your reading here on the US Copyright Offices FAQ page, especially the answer:

"Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work".

Or maybe here for a more bluntly written piece.

As always remember that anyone can put anything on the internet so if you want cold hard legal facts engage a lawyer.

Added to that consider that whilst it may be legal to copy something it may not mean it would be ethical to do so. A designer may not legally have a right to tell you not to sell work you have created using their instructions or kit but if they ask you to not do so that's an ethical dilemma for you to consider. Do you respect the wishes of the designer and not use what they have taught you again? Or do you respect the fact you have paid to learn something and feel you should be entitled to use that knowledge.

It's that quandry that this blog post is about. What I am mainly interested in is the ethics of designers expecting students/ purchasers of designs to not use that new knowledge after class. Is it ethical (or legal) to ask such a thing?

But first up I'm going to start at the end- typical!

This is a serious subject but if this does not raise a smile (or at least a grimace) then it might just raise a tear: The second to last sentence of the article in the magazine is: "But if the opportunity presents itself to sell, teach or otherwise profit from someone else's work, ask the designer first and respect the answer".

Nice, simple, 'ethical' advice surely?

Well flip over 13 pages and you are presented with...'Stitch a reproduction of Elizabeth Taylor's most famous necklace'.

It was seeing that for the first time that made me put the magazine down in disgust.

I have since emailed both the designer and the magazine and learnt that neither contacted the individual designer, or design house (Cartier) and certainly never asked for permission and therefore didn't respect whatever answer they may have been given. Not only that but the magazine never even credits the original necklace designer, Al Durante. Not once is his name mentioned.

So despite the designer and the magazine 'profiting from someone else's work' the basic advice laid down only pages before, supposedly for everyone to follow, was not followed and this designer not given the same respect.

Right there the article loses me. If you cannot follow through on your own advice then I really don't see how you feel qualified to give me and others that same advice.

When I decided I wanted to write this blog post I emailed the magazine simply asking if they had contacted Cartier or the designer. I got a long reply back, which I have replied to (this I will quote at the end of this post). In her reply to me Julia wrote:

"We saw the La Peregrina piece as being something else entirely because it was clearly stated that it was an interpretation of the piece in a completely different medium than the original. We disclosed where the design came from (though, yes, we could have mentioned Al Durante as the actual designer). So to answer your question, no, we didn't contact Cartier to find out if it was OK to publish this. In retrospect, I suppose it wouldn't have hurt to do so, though it seems rather silly as there is no way anyone would ever mistake Ms. Henry's piece for the original and I really can't imagine how Cartier could possible feel "ripped off" as the reader will not learn to make a multi-million dollar necklace set with diamonds, rubies, and pearls but rather a seed bead and crystal necklace. There is no real parallel. But maybe we should have contacted them anyway. That I didn't think to do that was perhaps short-sighted on my part but again, I saw these two issues as being quite different".

Well there we go. I read into this that Julia feels a designer should only be contacted if there is a danger of them feeling 'ripped off' and if the work deviates in any way- tough. As long as you state it's in a different medium you can copy it. So what if I don't have the same quality of beads or level of skills as any of the designers quoted in the copyright article? Does that mean they shouldn't feel 'ripped off'?

But wait a minute, her email to me states just 2 paragraphs before:

"The intent of the article was simply to highlight the human side of the issue, regardless of what the law might or might not say and suggest that readers should find out what the original designer thinks if they are interested in selling or teaching exact copies of their work. After all, everyday we see examples of people making or teaching pieces from the magazines and selling them without even crediting the original designer. It is a problem that causes a lot of anger and hurt feelings and we hoped our article would help people see that there are actual human beings on the other side of the equation and that it does affect them."

Good job Al Durante isn't human then...oh wait.

I appreciate that the necklace isn't an exact copy but then the original article never once mentions anything about 'exact copies'. That phrase, and using it as an excuse to not follow the given advice, or at least do the decent thing and credit the designer, is a new development. Plus Julia, writing on page 6 of the magazine says:

" which four top designers explain why imitation isn't always the highest form of flattery".

Anyone care to ask Al Durante if he's flattered? When is imitation not imitation? The project says "Stitch a reproduction" and yet imitation is not flattering?

I guess it must only be certain imitation or maybe this all falls into the 'gray area' the article mentions in which case they advise you to 'ask one more question: What's the most loving thing to do - for the designer, for the designer's family, and for your own future as a beader?"

Surely mentioning Al Durante would have been the 'loving thing' to do?

I'm not sure quite why we have to bring loving into the equation? Or even why love is in the title of the article? Respect, a word used numerous times in the article, is surely all that's asked for and is exactly what was missing in this case.

Phew- side rant aside it's time to get down to the serious stuff!

Once again I guess it all comes down to respect. I have read so many articles on copyright (who remembers when Bead & Button said you could get around copyright by altering something 10%...?) but I have never read anything about designers and writers giving beaders respect, or at least what they have actually paid for.

I sadly feel there is a huge discrepancy between what designers and publications demand from their readers/ students and what they willing give in return.

Hold onto your hats, this is where it gets personal and this is the stuff that riled me up so much.

Back to respect.

Respect is nice, of course, but I personally feel I get that each and every time someone pays their hard earned money to buy a pattern, kit or book from me. Or when they spend not just money but time to come and do a class with me. In return I give them knowledge, and the ability to use that knowledge once we part. I feel I respect them by giving them what they have paid for, and more if I can, and letting them use that knowledge to create further work to keep, give away or sell.

How could I not? The thought of doing anything else seems disrespectful, unethical and downright shameful.

Imagine if you took a lesson with a driving instructor who told you that you couldn't drive after the lesson or you could only drive on roads they specified and to do errands they were happy with. Or said they didn't think you respected their teaching enough.

How long do you think their business would last? Yet some designers, and many publications, feel fully entitled to do that with their teaching whether that be in person or through written instructions.

I'm not talking about copying instructions or illegally sharing photocopies of handouts - that's the legal equivlent of you paying for a driving lesson and someone else demanding to sit on your lap and get a lesson at the same. Not just unfair on the teacher who lost out on that second class fee but also unfair on the person who did pay.

I'm talking about simply letting someone sell something they have learnt from a designer. I feel if someone has paid to learn from me how to do that, and then put in all that time that beading so often takes, then they are perfectly entitled to do exactly what they want with it. I cannot think of one good reason why they shouldn't be and reading the article has thrown up no good reasons either.

As I said before please do contact me if you know of any good arguments as I would love to hear them and see things from another point of view.

In the article the designers use arguments about others selling their work meaning they lose money if they want to sell the same work. But I feel that the designer has already been paid for the instructions/ class etc and whilst of course they are entitled to sell their finished work so is the student/ beader. The designer has already asked them for money and I think asking for more through limits and controls is unethical.

The article states that the designers have bills to pay and families to feed, as we all do, and I think as designers we need to remember that purchasers/ students have just spent their money they could have spent on those things by giving it to us. I truly feel that then saying that's not enough or that you want more, or more respect, is asking to be paid twice when you already cashed your cheque.

I'm trying hard not to bring up specific things the individual designers said in that article because, as I said before, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, and let's face it, who am I to disagree with them? In addition I don't want this to be thought of as a 'Jean said so and so was wrong' when that's not what I mean at all and not the point of this writing.

However, when someone mentions the time it takes to develop an idea and all the knowledge and work that has to be brought to that idea for it to work and then says "It's all seems for nothing if my role isn't respected" (Anna Elizabeth Draeger) then I want to refer them to my previous statement about people showing you respect when they pay to learn that from you.

It may just be me, but I genuinely don't expect any more respect than that.

Being a designer is a job, and a job of choice, and we get paid for that job. To ask for respect on top and to lay down 'laws' when you feel you don't get that respect, and yet have still been paid, in my opinion makes a designer seem selfish and out of touch with reality.

Imagine anyone in any other profession saying to their boss or customer "Yes, I know you've paid me but because you didn't give me the respect I think I'm due you can no longer use that service or have that item".

In my mind the fair thing in that situation is to give your boss, or customer, the respect they deserve and let them use that knowledge/ item etc as they wish.

I feel our designs and written instructions are the equivalent of instruction manuals. If I buy one of them to learn a new skill I don't expect the author to put any limitations onto how I use that skill and if they did I would certainly expect it to be in big letters on the cover!

When I first mentioned I was going to write this blog I was asked about my policy and was pleased to be able to openly state my policy on this is not only on every single pattern I sell but also right there on the page selling that pattern- I don't hide it away. I am proud to say you can make things from my instructions and sell them as I not only believe that's exactly what you are legally entitled to do but I also want you to know you do it with my encouragement behind you. Selling beadwork is hard, getting people to appreciate hand work is hard, so if you can do either then good on you!

As customers I feel you have the right to demand that you are treatedly not only fairly and legally but also transparently. The same issue of Bead & Button I am talking about waits until page 6 to tell you "The designs in Bead & Button are for your personal enjoyment. The designs may not be taugh or sold without permission".

Ignoring whether or not that is even legal, I think if you're going to have a policy like this on what is in essence an instruction manual then you need to state it loud and clear, not hiden in underneath all the information on where the magazine was printed or how much overseas subscriptions cost.

As designers we have an excuse to bead. We need to make samples and create new work all the time. We can justify the expense and time, as well as the space this work takes up. Not only that but we get paid to do that when we sell our instructions, kits and classes. Do we really expect people who buy from us to stock-pile beadwork and not sell it? Should all their money and time be only going in one directon without them being able to earn money from their hard work or recoup the money they have spent? Not only do I think that is unfair it seems counter-productive to me. I mean, give a beader money and everyone knows what they'll spend it on! :)

If you are reading this as someone who buys patterns, magazines or books or attends classes do you care if you are expected to not sell or repeat that work after the class etc? Remember it's your money and you get to choose where you spend it. I just think it's fair that you know right from the start what you can expect in return and what is expected of you too.

I would love to know what you think. Do you think it's fair for a magazine or designer to put limitations on how you use what you have paid for when you purchased it? Do you have an opinion on Bead & Button's article or use of a design based on someone else's work? If so contact me, or even better you can contact them here.

Well, it's taken me nearly 5 hours to write this and maybe that long for you to read this far!

I'm sure it needs editing, I hate reading and writing on a screen, so I apologise for any errors. Also it may not come across how I intend it. I could probably say it in fewer words and more succinctly but I'm not very good at that (the evidence is right before your eyes!).

Also it may come across differently than if we were sitting together chatting light-heartedly and openly about the subject. Unfortunately me writing this is a one-way communication and that always leaves things open to different interpretation and that's a hazard. So if you feel strongly about what I have written feel free to contact me or comment on the Facebook post but remembering this is my opinion and your opinion of it may change on further reading or it may not- that's your right.

I will end by saying my intent in writing this is an attempt to show that not all designers think the same way or feel that it should be a one-way street. It is also an attempt to open communication about using the work of others that helps the beading world and stops these conversations being so necessary.

If you're interested this is my reply to Julia Gerlach:


Many thanks for your reply- I wasn’t really expecting one and certainly not such an in-depth one so thank you!

I have many concerns with the content of the article which is mixed between what the designers have said and the advice given.

I have addressed these concerns in detail in a post on my blog which you can see here: /blog/2013/04/19/ if you are interested.

My main concerns were what I see as the unfairness in asking for money for passing on knowledge, such as through a class or the selling of instructions or magazine, and then expecting to be able to place demands on how this is used. Regardless of what anyone things the law is on the matter, and I personally think it is very clear, I think there are ethical consequences of taking money from someone and then demanding to place limits on what you have given them in return. Asking for extra respect seems to show a forgetting of the receiving of payment as the form of respect it is.

However, what riled me up more than anything was what I saw as the hypocrisy of the article and the standpoint of the magazine along with the advice given versus the publication of the La Peregrina piece and not crediting the designer of the original necklace.

You state in your reply to me that contacting the designer ‘seems rather silly’ and yet on page 28 tell others to do just that!

The words you published were: "But if the opportunity presents itself to sell, teach or otherwise profit from someone else's work, ask the designer first and respect the answer"

How is printing this design not “otherwise profiting” from someone else’s original work? The clause “otherwise profit” protected you in the article but I’m afraid hangs you when combined with the project.

I know you’ve now used, in your reply to me, the words “…suggest that readers should find out what the original designer thinks if they are interested in selling or teaching exact copies of their work” to try and cover the situation but whether it is an exact copy or not is not the issue. You sold the magazine on readers being able to “stitch a reproduction” and “create Elizabeth Taylor’s La Peregrina necklace in beads” you didn’t use the tagline “create an inexact copy” for a good reason.

You also say in your email “We wanted simply to remind readers that it takes many many hours to design a piece and that the original designer deserves the respect of a conversation or an email before their work is reproduced and sold for profit”

Yet neither you nor the magazine contacted Mr Durant and he wasn’t even credited or mentioned.

Nowhere does your advice to readers say “if it wouldn’t hurt to do so” or “even if it seems rather silly”. You didn’t give Al Durante the opportunity to even decide if he felt “ripped off” (even if you can’t imagine he could feel that) because you had made the judgment call it wasn’t necessary. For all you know he may have been delighted or couldn’t have cared less but that is his right.

You also state on page 6 that “imitation is not flattery” yet publish a pattern which you sell with the tagline ‘Stitch a reproduction…”

Perhaps next time you find yourself in a gray area you’ll “…ask one more question: What's the most loving thing to do - for the designer, for the designer's family, and for your own future as a beader?” but add in “as a magazine” at the end.

Personally I love seeing work beaded from my instructions and love to encourage others to sell their work. Not everyone does and that’s their right but you took that right from Mr Durante which condemning others for doing the same.

Perhaps the magazine needs to consider not only issuing an apology to Al Durante- and one which doesn’t say sorry “But maybe we should have contacted them anyway” or “In retrospect, I suppose it wouldn't have hurt to do so, though it seems rather silly” but also an article which shows the other side and that not all designers have the viewpoints stated. It could also show the readers and purchasers respect and encourage them to be creative, however they can and whether or not that involves using the designs of others they have legally purchased.

The beading World should be a supportive one and we all need to remember that without customers a business cannot survive. Putting limits onto those customers, or hiding the expectation you have of those customers in small font on page 6 isn’t “the most loving thing to do” for anyone

Maybe there could even be a future in indicating which projects are from a designer who “actively encourages the selling or reproduction of this project” or words to that effect? I have that on all my patterns and would love to see more designers do so.

Best wishes and ignoring my gripes keep up the good work!


Now I need a lie down and if you have read this far then the least you deserve is a photo of me dressed as a witch or pretending to be a giant.