billyO

Taking others' ideas...is it OK?

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Hello all.  I tried a search for this topic, but didn't come up with anything although I'm sure it's been discussed. This treads closely to the trade secret discussion,  but is different enough for me to start a new topic. If this has been already discussed, please point me in the right direction, if not, I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts. 

 

I'm wondering what the consensus is on selling items you forge that are based on designs that found here on IFI or other places.  I know of at least one printed discussion involving one highly successful professional smith who feels that if you didn't come up with the design, you shouldn't try selling it, and another professional smith who says it's OK as long as you don't claim that you came up with the idea and don't try to pass it off as your idea. 

 

I tend to fall on the side that if I made it, I should be able to sell it as a hand-forged object, made by me, which is the truth.  Where the idea came from is, well a non-issue.  I'm pretty sure someone smarter than me was once quoted as saying something to the effect that, "There are no new ideas anymore."

 

What got me thinking about this is the bottle opener thread.  I'm a part-time (read:hobby) smith who does demos at the state fair and am allowed to sell items that I forge, both during demos and while working in my own shop.  And I'd like to sell as much stuff as possible to pay for my addiction.  Bottle openers seems to be good sale items, relatively inexpensive and easier to carry around the fair than, say, andirons.  They are also relatively quick and easy to make, and make for good demo items.  Is it OK to use ideas found on the web?  By OK, I mean ethically, not legally.

   

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I figure I do not try to copy a design, meaning I wont attempt to make my product look like yours.   But I admit it is hard to re design a tent stake or tongs.  Get the idea?  When you make them I suggest you be honest, and dont do anything that would offend you if you found another smith doing it to you.

 

golden rule.

 

As for legality if it is a copy righted item, like  for my blades, being asked to make Lord Of The Rings blades,  I said no. but I did offer a design inspired with the feelings of the blades,  but not any copy.

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Imitation is a great form of flattery !  That said, will you be taking food off someone's table? If NO then don't give it a second thought.

 

Ian

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When some one claims they have invented a new item or style just spend a little time digging through history books or over the internet. I think you will find most things have already been made before. Most historical items or styles are free to be made by anyone.


If you can not find a previous example of a item or style then it may be possible the person has something truly new.

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Greetings Billyo,

 

Daaa...  Just think of all the giving blacksmiths on this forum..   Just think of all the smiths that willing go out of their way to do demos for others..  I think that tells the story.  Smiths are proud of their work and I am sure it would be just fine if you duplicated a few things for profit..  I have watched when the first wizard heads from rail road spikes and split crosses were made ..  Just think how far that has traveled and how many were sold..  Just my 2c 

 

Forge on and make beautiful things

Jim

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Maybe a wizard head on a rail road spike may be new but smiths have been carving heads and faces of all kinds on iron bars for hundreds of years. That's really not new ether.

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Stealing "ideas" is like saying because i sang a song with the word "it" i stole the word from all these other "artists" singers.

The item is made by you. You fired the forge. You bought the metal. you hammered the iron.

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Good Morning,

 

As Jim says "Forge on and make Beautiful Things".

 

There is an unspoken/spoken agreement between Blacksmith Newsletter Editors, "If you reprint an article from somebody else's newsletter, print from where/which/when Blacksmith Association Newsletter it was from". NOT NECESSARY TO ASK PERMISSION unless it has a copyright tag. I have seen articles go from the West Coast, to the East Coast, to somewhere in between, to anywhere else. I think that there are enough people doing different things, that putting another spin on something is wonderful.

 

If you don't build the Box, you NEVER have to think outside the box!! :) :)

 

Neil

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I get an idea of what to make but make it my way, I made bottle openers recently because I seen them here but mine are done differently and are much cruder and uglier but the work, anyone wants to copy them im happy with that and am happy for you to make your own ideas too.

 

I would not exactly copy things others make unless invited to like when black frog recently did a thread about his bottle openers but would not sell them

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One has to be a pretty good smith to make an "exact" copy of someone else's work.  I know I would spend more time trying to copy something exactly than just making my own in the "spirit" of the original.   Go on and make your items as your own details emerge.

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For a generic idea like a bottle opener, I would not sweat it. If I make a Moran or Scagel style blade and put my name on it, no problem. If someone asks you to copy the work of a current mass producer and you can't do it better for more money, then why bother? 

 

The real ethical no-no's are making whole copies or missing parts of historical items, and NOT putting your touchmark and date on the item. That is intent to defraud, and is a major problem in antique dealer realms.

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Several years ago I started making bottle openers and searched around looking at as many pictures as I could so as not to directly copy anything. Made a bunch, each slightly different of course. In the last year mainly noticed a number of others of the same pattern and after going around with myself decided not to worry too much. Pretty much all seem to be some variation of a loop, hook, or question mark. I'm sure the same basic things get created in different places independently. You can pull your hair trying to come up with something new then see someone else has done it but who knows when??

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Levels of complexity do play a part----if you do an exact duplicate of a Paley gate you are stealing.  If you do say an art nouveau gate that has a few similarities not a problem.  If you make an S hook I don't see an issue up until you stamp another smith's touchmark on it...

 

As mentioned there are a lot of things in the history of smithing that we still do today.  I try  never to claim to be *first* rather *best*.  Now there are also local ethics.  When we go to the State Fair as a club, in general we don't compete against each other in items that are "signature pieces" for the smiths in the club. So I don't make metal dice and others don't make rasptlesnakes the way I do.  Now that I'm not going to the fair as I moved about 250 miles away from it; I'd expect another club member to start making similar rasptlesnakes as they were a good seller.

 

I try not to undercut the prices of folks trying to make a living at this craft too.

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Copies have been made of art since probably the beginning of, well art. You can pay homage to another artist (blacksmith) as Thomas eluded above; using elements that they are known for. And if you are really good, make an exact copy of their work. The key is to give that artist(smith) credit for their work. If you copied, say so. If you are inspired enough to develop a design solely on the idea of another, say so. As someone has already suggested, this is the information age, If you put something up, and don't copyright it, plan on it being copied. Hope you get credit. If you copy, give credit where credit is due. I think the later is most common, however. As my mother used to say "There is nothing new under the sun" and I'm sure that phrase was not her original idea :D

 

My 2¢,

Scott

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When it comes to Bottle Openers from RR Spikes I doubt anybody owns the rights to it.  15 yrs. ago we, my brother in law and I made and sold many RR spike bottle openers.  The idea is the same as today but we did them on a Bridgeport and sold them to the Model Railroad crowd.  The market finally got full of them and when we cleaned out the company last spring we found 400 still boxed in inventory.  On day we will find a place for them.  If someone else makes a  opener from a spike did they steal our idea or did we by accident steal someone else's?????  We in fact made a number of items from RR Spikes.

 

I doubt anything made by hand, one at a time, without a die of some sort can be made exactly the same.  Without a copyright I believe legally it's fair game.  Even if copyrighted at what level of sales can a blacksmith afford the legal costs of fighting the infringement?  Starbuck we are not!

 

I would hope if your neighbor or club member has made something you like you would have the decency of not copying and making money on it, if your 100's of miles away that's another story. 

 

I think the majority of smiths on IFI who might see an idea they like here, believe they can do a better job of making it so they make a change or changes.  With that in mind what constitutes a copy?      

 

I don't make or sell anything from my shop for profit, I don't have a horse in this race, I don't have an axe to grind.  Will the waters ever clear on this matter, NOPE!  Just try not to through more mud into it!

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I believe style comes from the Author. Lets say we all make a screw driver. The design is straightforward enough and hopefully it works for the intended purpose. What about the fit and the finish or the handle? The later components are all part of styling and that's the authors input. Craftsman or a Snap On, different authors and decidedly different pricing yet they are both screwdrivers.

 

The debate will continue to rage.

 

Peter

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There are many parts of this I don't understand. Can you elucidate?


I think the one word response was all that this question deserved. Ideas are sacred, push yourself to do your own work. I think we all know where the line is. So easy to steal when it's only an idea, right? Or so easy Not to? When Brazeal style horse head openers show up on Etsy, as they have, it's profoundly uncool. Guess what, it's going to happen, you have to stay one step ahead of the fly skimmers.

Oh yeah, I take issue with the statement "there's nothing new under the sun" as it nullifies much of my time spent, one of the other few sacred things.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They're more clear and complete than a monosyllabic.

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so nuge the best way to protect your ideas is to not put them on the internet, not sell them and even not make them, just keep them in your head.

there are those on here sharing their ideas to help others like the small detail tool thread from yesterday but you think no one else should be allowed to make that tool?

if there was to be only 1 maker in the world of power hammers because everyone else would be copying the idea it would lead to very high prices and no incentive to improve the design, likewise with cars would you like to only have the choice of a trabant and nothing else.

 

unless people are 'passing off' their work as that of another which is a different matter

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Hello all.  Thanks for all the responses, and I appreciate all the opinions. 
 
As I read all of the above responses, I noticed that I agreed with pretty much every one of them, even though some are contradictory.  As I thought about how could that be, I realized my initial question was a bit too open and general, and could be interpreted different ways.  So perhaps a clarification of my question and summary of the opinions will do more to help clarify rather than muddy the topic.
 
Like I referenced in the original post, bottle openers are what prompted this discussion.  I saw the guitar bottle opener and thought it was neat and a great idea.  I spent a few hours of my time, my fuel, my steel and my brain power (such as it is :wacko: ), to figure out how to make one.  The first one looked more like a mandolin, the second more like a violin, the 3rd and the 4th ones looked, to my eyes, just like a guitar.  I'm not trying to reproduce someone else's guitar bottle opener and/or undercut their ability to make a living, and there's no copyright (although I'd like to keep lawyers as far away from this as possible, no offense to the lawyers in the group), so this "taking of an idea" is OK.
 
On the other hand, the Smith who we could consider my main mentor as well as one of my best friends, makes bottle openers with a ram's head that look very much like the steer's head opener I posted in the above mentioned thread.   The main differences are that he curls the horns into a ram's horn shape and does a simple twist of the handle, because more elaborate handles take much more time and won't get any increased return on his investment (time).  He showed me the process, and when I showed him my first steer's head he thought it was good idea, and if I remember correctly he indicated that was an idea he didn't think of doing.  He's encouraged me to make some to sell at the fair with him, but I don't do this.  There's not enough of a difference in the shape/form (shaping the horns differently and adding a few chisel marks indicating the long hair of my highlanders would not hold up as a significant difference in a copyright trial.  I guess I can't keep the lawyers aren't as far away as I'd like, :(  sorry), I'm not sure I would have been able to come up with the steps to reproduce one on my own, and he's trying to make a living out of smithing, and the ram's head openers are part of his 'product line'.  So this "taking of an idea" is NOT OK.

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The word "ethical" was used in the original question. If we cause harm, we may be accused of being unethical. If we cause no harm, we might claim we are not unethical.

Harm can, of course, be in the eye of the beholder.

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One tangent of this discussion. If you are a hobby guy or in the early -mid stages of learning the craft you want some evidence of progress, you want some projects to come out good, something to be proud of. Thing is you are still learning skills so composition and design are on the back burner as you learn technique. As in all craft this (technique) is everything, it's your vocabulary. So you take on others' designs and knock some things out. Totally o.k. And natural. I think what I am trying to get at is that a lot of folks try to sell work too early as if that is the most important measure of success, making $$$$. I really don't think it is, people will buy anything. It may be better to learn an arsenal of technique until you have a foundation of skills and then proffer your own version of all this, your style.

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so nuge the best way to protect your ideas is to not put them on the internet, not sell them and even not make them, just keep them in your head.
there are those on here sharing their ideas to help others like the small detail tool thread from yesterday but you think no one else should be allowed to make that tool?
if there was to be only 1 maker in the world of power hammers because everyone else would be copying the idea it would lead to very high prices and no incentive to improve the design, likewise with cars would you like to only have the choice of a trabant and nothing else.
 
unless people are 'passing off' their work as that of another which is a different matter


I post ideas here, photos, techniques. You can't contribute without putting yourself out there a bit. Amazing metalwork abounds in pictures on the internet. Look around, digest, do your own thing. That's all I am saying.

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