By Judi Tompkins
(Note: This is NOT intended to be legal advice…. you should seek legal counsel if you seek redress in your country’s legal system)
Recent weeks has seen an increased number of blogs, posts and emails about copyright infringement across all platforms and countries and it is clear that crafters, artists and designers are angry and frustrated beyond belief trying to address the online theft of their images, ideas, and designs.
We here at the Global Textile Hub and also on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/GlobalTextileHub/ have had several discussions about this issue and how we plan to address it.
First, keep in mind that each country has copyright legislation that applies (or perhaps doesn’t apply) to written, graphic and audio materials. These laws apply within the boundaries of the particular country.
Second, some countries (not all) have international agreements and legislation that protects (to varying degrees) intellectual property rights on written, graphic and audio materials.
Third, the Internet, is a global platform that encourages and facilitates the sharing of information across international boundaries, so you can understand why it is virtually impossible to keep up with where your information is going, who has it and how it is being used.
All of this made even more complex when some countries do not feel constrained by intellectual property or copyright ownership – anywhere. Pursuing many overseas countries for copyright infringement is prohibitively expensive and ultimately futile with international non-enforcement.
So…. what can an artist (or anyone) do in the current environment?
A few suggestions:
- Don’t share photos of people (children particularly) or designs or whatever else you don’t want shared or copied. Don’t even share these with a friend online because once they enter cyberspace they will “escape”.
- ALWAYS give credit and attribution to the people or sources for your own design ideas. “Based on a design by X..” Most artists really just want to be recognised for their creative designs … give credit where credit is due.
- Whenever possible – and do make an effort here, contact the original maker/designer for permission to use their work.
- Put copyright information on your works as a signal to others that the design is copyrighted. This sends a signal to the honest folk and is your first line of defence with regard to your “duty of care” to protect your works. (An unscrupulous person could Photoshop your copyright information out of a picture, but you will hold the original photo with the information as proof of ownership).
- Fully document your own design process. From your first sketches, through the creative process, to the completed project. Take photos of your work. This (along with the copyright symbol on your photos) helps to demonstrate that you own the process and the product if you are ever challenged about having stolen a design, that is actually yours. This happens, a good example is the video below and how she is handling it.)
- If you are in business and selling your designs online you will have to decide whether or not it is financially, emotionally and psychologically worth your time to pursue an individual or business for copyright infringement. If you are incurring huge financial losses it may be worth pursuing in the courts – or not. You decide.
- DON’T copy and share “old” designs under the impression that copyright doesn’t apply. In general, in Australia, copyright for design work is in effect for 75 years after the death of the creator…. don’t guess about this timeline. Find out and either get permission and at the very least provide attribution, if you don’t’… YOU are stealing, no matter how you try to rationalise it.
Here at the Global Textile Hub we will not knowingly take credit for designs or images that do not belong to us. We will always try to acknowledge and attribute designs and ideas to the maker or the creative behind it. If we get it wrong, please let us know so we can correct errors.
Please keep sharing your great ideas, designs and images, they serve to provoke ideas, change perspectives and help us see the world a bit differently. This is what creatives eat for breakfast!