Over the last few years, I have been privy to multiple online conversations about copying, copyright, patents, stealing, etc. Some of them are constructive, with discussions of what to do should x, y, or z happen, and others can be pretty unpleasant, accusing others of copying, or spreading rumors. To a newcomer in the world of Etsy and social media, it's easy to jump on the bashing bandwagon and go with it. However, here are a few things I have learned over the years:
1. We, as artists, do not have any claims or exclusive rights to materials or processes.
Can you imagine? No material or process is sacred! (Unless, of course, you have invented a new material/process and have it patented, etc.) As artists, we are EXPLORERS...it is how we explore our world and our creativity.
How else will we know what we like, don't like, or are good/bad at if we don't try everything?! I have tried almost every process I can think of from soldering, to hollow forming, to casting and enamel. Some of them I love, some of them I find frustrating to no end. And materials! Ha! If I had to stop doing piercing work because another artist was doing it, or stop using a Ocean Jasper because another artist used it, or placed a stone similarly to another artist, or used a similar shape as another artist (leaves, anyone?!), I'd be screwed....hell, we'd ALL be screwed! No one would create anything!
2. We, as artists, do have copyright over our work and should protect it.
If I see someone copying my work, even if it's unintentional, the FIRST thing I do is go directly to that other artist and.....talk to them. But even before you do that, make sure you know your copyright laws. If someone makes something similar to you, they can still get away with it if it has been changed by a certain percentage from your original design. I have had multiple people come up to me at shows or even when I'm wearing my own jewelry, and ask if I'm so-and-so, and I say "no, but I know who you're talking about. Her work is definitely similar, but this is mine."
3. If you don't want your work to look like another artist's work, change it. Rise above.
I have been told multiple times that certain aspects of my work look like so-and-so's work. Some of it I have left as-is, because I know that I came up with that design on my own way before I even knew about the other artist, and some of it I've changed. Some of my work uses similar processes, but the actual shape or design is mine. And always, always have drawings. And if another artist is copying you, the best thing you can do (aside from confronting them) is to rise above. Evolve. I have only seen success come from those actions.
4. Talk to each other! We are all real people.
One of the worst things about selling online is the constant scrutiny from other artists. And the barrage of images of other peoples' work! I love seeing what other people are making but sometimes I feel like my creativity becomes muddled with other influences, and that I have to take a break in order to re-group and get back to my roots. Like I said above...if you have an issue with another artist, talk to them. DO NOT SPREAD RUMORS. First of all, let's all remember the Golden Rule:
Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You
Treat Others as You Want To Be Treated
And legally, not only is it a nasty, ugly and disrespectful habit to be a gossip and spread rumors, it can land you in a shit load of trouble. Ever heard of slander? If those rumors you are spreading can cause someone to lose business, you will be held liable.
There is a strange disconnect that happens when you communicate with people online for the most part. People tend to say things that they would never say to you in person, which can be a good thing if what they want to say is positive, but it can also lead to breeding a lot of unnecessary negativity.
We as artists need to stick together. We need to help each other, build positive connections, and share the lessons we have learned.
I definitely welcome any *CONSTRUCTIVE* discussion on this topic!