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Copyright Guidelines for Crafters and Hobbyists

Copyright is arguably a most confusing term for many creative people. Copyright is not a trademark, logo or patent but intellectual property.  We are all inspired by other works.  But where is the line drawn between an original work and a derivative?

This excellent infographic and article by Ginger Davis Allman explains all.  The infographic is the same as what she wrote for polymer clay artists - just the title is different. It gives a clear overview on what is fair use, when copyright is applied and what is unethical practice. The flow chart design helps you decide.

The guidelines helps those who design and those who teach.  And also to bloggers like me!

The two main issues to consider are who owns the intellectual property and whether or not someone's sales (designs and tutorials) will be impacted.

Fair use is applied when I write about other designers and their tutorials or about products and books in my own words.  I do use their images. Proper credit and link backs are always included.  It is not necessary to ask beforehand but I think it is polite to do so.

Bloggers who share their free tutorials own the copyright. It is okay to tell others and write about it so long as proper credit and links are given (fair use).  It is also okay to use these tutorials for your personal use unless stated otherwise.  You do have ask if you wish to sell items made with the instructions.  Or if the tutorial is going to be distributed and used offline. It's better to use these tutorials to learn the basics and to create your own interpretations.

Remember Yael's unique wire knit technique?  While the technique cannot be copyrighted, her tutorials and  designs are. You cannot purchase a tutorial and teach it to others.  The derivative design I created and showed on that post is very different from her original and combines other wire techniques . This is why I am allowed to sell it if I wish.

Dori Csengri was the original creator of the soutache jewelry technique (see my post here).  As mentioned above, the technique cannot be copyrighted. Yet virtually no one credits her with the innovation. Probably mostly due to ignorance.  She told me in an email how this saddens her.  A citation is, as the guideline says, "kind, thoughtful and helpful but not legally necessary."

Social media is where images get shared.  This is a good thing as promotion is key for most. I often come across Pinterest pins with no links at all.  So make sure there are links or link paths so people can trace back to the origin.

One of the topics I cover in my jewelry photography webinar is on watermarks. These don't just demarcate your originality.  Having your brand name on the design photography means if someone shared your photo without a link, people can still figure out how to contact you by googling your shop name.  If you do NOT want your designs shared, then don't post them anywhere on the internet!!

One thing the infographic does not cover is how long copyright lasts.  This varies from country to country.  Ginger's article has links to international copyright. In the US, all works before 1923 are in the public domain.  For works created after 1977, copyright lasts the life of the author plus 70 years. More here. In Canada, copyright covers the life of the author plus 50 years except for photography and performance.

Do you have any other concerns?

Before You Go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. Social media has changed everything for artists hasn't it?

    I remember when I designed and created children's sweaters. At venues I'd have women standing in front of my booth sketching. They even had the nerve to ask me how many stitches it took to create the designs. I used to get quite upset about it and then just put it down to total ignorance.

    Sometimes - just sometimes - imitation is a form of flattery. Other times though - it's simple thievery.

  2. After more thought on today's post I find I have more to say about it (of course).

    I had just commented about buying a tutorial from Adriana Allen. I wanted to learn how to make the type of bibs that were shown on CraftArtEdu because I admired Adriana's skill and the beauty of her results.

    I took that lesson and immediately made a bib and then made a bracelet and earrings to go with it. However - I did not - and refuse to - copy Adriana's exact designs. I wanted to put my own spin on it because otherwise it wouldn't be my own creation.

    I don't recall seeing anywhere in the tutorial that you were not allowed to copy the designs if you were so inclined or if you could sell those designs either.

    I am of course going to sell the pieces as that is what I do - but I had to learn how to make it in the first place.

    This becomes a quandary for many.

    Are they copying or creating their own if they make something even remotely similar? Can they sell it in good conscience or not?

    Having taught previously I totally understand the frustration that results from someone copying your work. There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes into creating a design - making a tutorial out of it - and actually putting it into play.

    I think we all expect that people won't just blatantly copy our designs for the simple reason that we wonder where the creativity exists in the person who copies - and it is simply something we would never do.

    However. For the people who do copy and then put the item out as if it were their own design - well - simply put - Shame on Them!!

    At least have the downhearted goodness to attribute your design to the person you learned it from or copied it from!

    That being said - we all know that there are many out there that would never admit to outright copying and basically plagiarism.

    This is something that is talked about everywhere. At least accord the original creator the due they deserve instead of taking the kudos for yourself.

  3. The tutorials are indeed meant to teach techniques. So by all means use them to learn. Exact copies can still be worn or given away. But if one wants to sell, then with one's new found skills, create something that isn't like the original. Put something of yourself in that piece. You cannot call yourself an artist if there is nothing different!!

    If you wish copies to be made to be sold, check with the designer to ask. Sometimes if it is for charity, the answer may be yes. Maybe in some circumstances, the designer might ask you credit them. So the bottom line is to ask if it is not your own.

  4. thanks for posting this Pearl

  5. Here it is a couple of days later and I'm still thinking about this issue.

    I'm wondering how people can copy something exactly and then put claim to it. Maybe I'm too honest of a person. I know I personally would say I learned this from 'so and so' and decided to make one for myself (if I had copied it exactly)

    So here is a question. If you DO copy someone's work and then put it up for sale - how would you even label that product? (to me that idea is mind-boggling but this is a what if question)....

    With all the millions of people out there creating jewelry I'm sure there are more than 2 of us who have a comment on this problem.


    This has even made me look at the rest of the world.

    Let's look at one of the original creations. The wheel. I'd bet dollars to donuts that tire manufacturers have no idea where to credit the original idea... :0) So then what?

    Just sayin'.....It's certainly a crazy mixed-up type of problem.


You're AWESOME! Thanks for the comment and feedback. You do make a difference on my blog!

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