Thursday, 23 May 2013

Warning - a rant!

Guess what? 

Copyright and design right are not the same!

 Whoda thunk it eh?

For my sins, I'm a regular contributor to a certain UK-based crafts forum.
There are endless, often-ridiculous discussions and questions about copyright, design right and other forms of IP.  Some aspects of IP law are, to say the least, fluid, as it is a growing and fast-flowing area of law. However, some aspects of it are stable, have remained stable and will remain stable. Copyright is automatic, free and lasts for many years in all forms of publication or broadcast. Design Right is also automatic and free, but doesn't last for as long. No one can protect a mere idea or concept, and to gain protection, a 'work' must have a high degree of originality. 

It is really not at all difficult to understand the four basic types of protection available for what is known as Intellectual Property, and the types of work to which they apply. However, some people seem to have brains made of barium concrete ...

A recent example started with a member who was genuinely ignorant of such matters, and concerned because someone had accused her of 'breaching copyright' - apparently some of the member's designs were similar to those of the accuser's. The design being referred to was a wooden plaque which is commercially available and is decorated with commercially-available transfers and stylised, generic designs. 

It was perfectly clear that the accuser did not know what s/he was talking about, as s/he was referring to 'copyright' and not 'design right', although in relation to the plaque, not to any wording or illustration thereon.

A brief discussion ensued; links to the plaques were provided. Some sensible and pertinent advice was given, together with a brief explanation of the different types of IP, and links to authoritative sites were posted . The member who originally posed the question was reassured that she was not, in fact, in breach of anything at all. 

Then the odd-bods started coming out of the woodwork with their bizarre  claims about IP law in the UK, and even opinions based on foreign laws  from far-off lands. 

It's an indication of intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity about the world which I fear affects all too many people. It also demonstrates a profound and disturbing arrogance when people prefer to disseminate their misguided opinions as if they were fact, despite being provided with clear and indisputable evidence to the contrary.

My cat has more common-sense than that. No wonder I prefer my cat to a great many people ...

End of rant!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Absence and catch-up

I've been away. Nowhere  exotic - just away from my blog, I didn't have internet access for a few weeks - that's what happens sometimes when you live in the sticks - so I got out of the habit of blogging (not that I've ever really got into it). 

Well, I'm back, and I need to sum up the relevance of the two preceding posts about IP to UK crafters.

First of all, the good news – you have a considerable degree of free and automatic protection for your work, be it 2D or 3D, as long as it is original. Copyright and design right both come into play automatically and work in your favour.

HOWEVER, the emphasis is, quite rightly, on originality.

You do not have protection for your work from either copyright or design right if it is not original, and design right offers no protection for a 3-d article which is 'commonplace, everyday or ordinary'.

If an item is 'commonplace, everyday or ordinary' it cannot, by definition, be original.

In other words, you'd better be very sure indeed of your having something really original and 'different' before you try to stop other people making something similar – whether from a pattern you've published or not. Anyway, isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Much better-informed minds than mine have debated at length in courts of law, and elsewhere, as to whether the use of a pattern -without specific permission to do so - for the production of items for sale is permissible or not. Consensus seems to be that it might be, or it might not be. Helpful, no?

There are  endless debates on t'internet regarding 'originality'. It is perfectly acceptable – indeed common practice and considered polite – to acknowledge that inspiration from a designer or a specific design has been the foundation of your design. 

So, some people ask, if they change an existing pattern so the finished item is not the same, how much do they have to change for it to be considered 'original' and hence 'their own work' ?

If someone (you?) is capable of changing a pattern or plan sufficiently that it results in a different design, you are surely capable of making your own pattern or template after looking at the design you like instead of blatantly copying!

As ever, I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be one. If you have queries, contact a suitably qualified person and/or do your own research. I am in the UK and my posts can only be considered relevant only to the law in England and Wales.