billyO

Taking others' ideas...is it OK?

Recommended Posts

I find I have to agree with all the replies above, which is a little strange until one realises not all are deliberating exactly the same points. I would never deliberately set out to replicate anothers work (even if I did have the skill ) but certainly have taken inspiration from others example, One thing I had never considered until I read a few of the threads elsewhere on these boards was a makers mark, Pondering on it I realise I already have the materials and the tools, will shortly have the facilities and hopefully have the skills to produce myself at least one usable punch and use it with pride, Should I ever have an original idea, then if others "borrowed" it, as a hobby smith I would only be flattered, but I would expect to see their mark on it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whenever you monetize a craft, unless it is a craft that you alone have developed (like induction ice sculpturing), this question comes up.

Whether it is writing a thesis, quoting statistics, creating a painting from a reference piece or creating a bottle opener, the footnotes count.
When someone says they do a Merritt, Braseal, or Reinhart  Style ______, they are giving credit to the author of their inspiration; which is right and fair.  This gives someone, who wants to search out the origin of that inspiration, a trail to follow.  If you do not, then it steals the opportunity from the client to follow the origin and path of a derivative work.  It steals from the inspiring the honor of that inspiration, and it steals the dignity of the one who claims it to be their own.

Copyright laws were intended to foster innovation by allowing someone to create something and gain profit from it without fear of someone capitalizing on their hard work to make that idea a reality.  Making a bottle opener is not a money maker.  It's a way to pay for your gas as you evangelize the virtues of blacksmithing.  If you develop a way of making that bottle maker, document it in a book and sell that book to blacksmiths, then the book is copyrighted.  If someone wants to get a copy, they need to just buy a copy.  Innovation, however, is not fostered when fear of retribution raises its head for those trying to learn a craft.  This is why we have created fair-use laws.  

I will copy another's work to gain inspiration.  The process of figuring it out is a particular challenge that I thoroughly enjoy.  I will be found at a demo, however, selling nothing but a few spoons.  Those smiths that are teaching me their different forgings are often with me, and they are selling those items they have taught me to make.  Nothing even similar will be on my table.  My works that I copy for inspiration will go to family and friends while I learn my trade.  I will  not take money away from those who are teaching me, and I am unlikely to make money smithing.  I am okay with that because that's not why I am there.  When I learn enough techniques to create my own non-derivative works, they will show up on my table and I will be proud to show any of the other smiths how I came up with it and puff my chest with pride.

Etsy is the same.  I won't put something on the Etsy table that I derived directly from another's work... but I sure as shootin' will copy their work to figure out how to do something cool and neat.  With those ideas storming around in my head, maybe someday I will make some mind blowing works.  Until then I will create my utensils... they are all that I have really created by myself... and even that was with the help of concepts taught to me by others.

Just my take,
/\/\  - Redbeard The Grey

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

some things qualify as common knowledge.  Some things are intellectual property.  As an admin on a blacksmithing page on Facebook, I will say this.  We take a dim view on stealing someone's intellectual property, and if caught, we oust them with immediacy.  Many times, the difference between bankruptcy in this craft is the tenuous hold on one's intellectual property.  Copying someone's work to increase skill set is one thing, but vending someone else's intellectual property constitutes theft

That being said, if you forge something someone else designed, at least have the common decency to attribute the concept to the originator of it

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've run across a couple of instances where a fellow claimed he originated something I could prove had been done 500+ years earlier---usually not maliciously; but they just didn't have the research library or travel to various museums in Europe to have seen the earlier "originals".  

I remember one fellow at the Knifemakers Guild Show 30 + years ago who was going to do a knife where the centerline was a gun barrel and shot the tip; he was quite surprised when I said "like the renaissance wheellock one from the Court of the Medici?..." (Arms & Armor Annual; Vol 1).  A lot of good ideas/designs have been explored over the 2000+ years of blacksmithing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

this analogy is apt  Many years ago, when Woody Allen was first starting out, in his stand up routine, he had this joke.  "A bullet once saved my life.  Someone threw a book at me, and the bullet stopped it in my top pocket".  Myron Handelmann, another stand up comic, pawned Woody's joke off as his own on the Ed Sullivan Show.  The reason nobody knows who Myron Handelmann was is that after that, he was blacklisted from ever doing comedy again.  The same goes for stealing blacksmithing intellectual property

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever made your own fire? Did you discover it on your own, we use a lot of others ideas.  The big thing to remember is that if you have seen someone else do it befor you give them the respect and don't claim it as your own.  Or learn something from it and make it better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever made your own fire? Did you discover it on your own, we use a lot of others ideas

lets see, how about hammers, tongs, hammer handles, screw drivers, forges, anvils and the beat goes on.  if it isn't patented or copyrighted it's fair game, not necessarily to me but to the world.  If you want to protect your ideas do it correctly and completely or don't show it off.     

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you had better look into copyrights here in the USA You don't need to do anything to copyright an item save defend it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel that this profession has been around for ages, and how many people have worked in the craft, and how many things have they made? its so old that I feel its very rare for anyone to come up with something that is 100% original. so if you make something you didn't come up w yourself at least give credit to where it is deserved 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hans138, I agree. It is hard to sell S hooks of your own design today. That said there is some stuff that I would recommend the average smith be aware of when they sell "original crafts." 

I was approached by a customer going to a harry potter get together and they asked me to forge an iron wand. Pretty much nothing more than a bit of 3/8 tapered off with a twist and a crystal held by some prongs. Apparently when she got to the party another individual was there with a similar wand and was mad because they thought that I had copied it off of their website. I got a call from this irate individual because I was encroaching on their customer base and they did not like it. We calmed the situation down and the conversation ended with both of us talking about doing some skyrim stuff together. I had the same experience from the other end when I saw one of the styles of rings I make regularly on a youtube video that I did not make. The assault in this case was directed at my shop and the person ended by saying how simple the rings were to make on your own and that you should probably make one yourself rather than buy it anywhere. (I personally know this individual and they were not happy when I told them I was making rings.) The moral here is original is so hard to claim and even in the engineering and product development legal world it's a mess. Just don't be a Troll about it. We live in a time where forums like this exist because the idea of trade secrets is lost out in favor of freedom of information and a sense of comradery. I go all over the united states and run into other smiths that get excited when a fellow klanginsmith walks through their door. We talk and teach and learn from one another and we (forgive the obvious pun) forge a bond of friendship that benefits both. I love adding the nails of other smiths to my post outside my door. Be courteous. Give credit where it is due. Tell your viewers and customers where you learned to make the item and how you adapted it to your style. People love stories and will probably buy more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you don't want your work to be copied, don't put it on display or post it on the internet. You can attempt protecting it with copyrights if you have the money to go to court each time to protect the intellectual property. Worth while with things like music that sell millions. Hardly the case with a trinket that is only valuable in your own mind. 

The ethics of "inspiration" vs "copying" can be debated and the obligation of giving credit thrown in for good measure, but the reality is that if I make a gate and post it, I know I have given away my right to the design if I ever had one. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/9/2018 at 10:07 PM, hans138 said:

I feel that this profession has been around for ages, and how many people have worked in the craft, and how many things have they made? its so old that I feel its very rare for anyone to come up with something that is 100% original. so if you make something you didn't come up w yourself at least give credit to where it is deserved 

The trouble with that, is I would have to put a disclaimer on everything I make. 

I don't take others design ideas, but then I also believe very few ideas I see on the internet are original.  I used to work of a guy, that after twenty years of making architectural ironwork, had a shelf full of binders with photographs of his work.  Less then 1% were ever posted on his web page.  I know a lot of smiths like that, they don't post more then a sample of what they've done.  What we see on the internet, is a very small fraction of the work that has been done.  Form, function, price, experience and the tools on hand will greatly dictate the end result.    And at the end of the day, smiths/artists working independently, will come up with remarkably similar ideas and designs

One thing I see that does mildly irritates me, is the credit I see some on this forum giving to someone for "original idea", for no other reason that this was the first place they saw it.  Facebook and Etsy posters are equally guilty.  I know one guy so upset, because people were "copying his work", he shut down his Etsy page, .  One of the items in question, was his copy (took inspiration from) of a 1000 year old piece at the museum of history in Stockholm.  He never acknowledged that he was copying someone else's work.  In his mind, because he was the first to put it on Etsy, then all others were copying him. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Way back when the Knifemaker's Guild Show was still in Kansas City, I met a fellow there who had an idea he was really proud of he was going to make a knife where the center ridge was actually a gun barrel and shoot the tip of the blade out----"Oh like the one shown in Arms and Armor Annual in the article "A Wheellock Dagger from the Court of the Medici"...He was really bummed out that "his" idea had already been done several centuries earlier.

What I try to tell folks is "Don't worry about being first, worry about being *best*!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Too many become complicit and expect a one time successful design to survive in a world market by doing the same thing over and over.
You constantly need to innovate and re-invent... improving your processes and tooling to become more efficient or cheaper, or adding a new twist to an old design to stand out from the crowd.

If you don't, someone else will build on the back of your success and surpass you. Not their fault you stood still.

Unrelated to blacksmithing, but we have 10% of our working week dedicated to un-managed R&D to make sure we can stay competitive, and have opportunity for new ideas to become realised as product innovations over time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, JustAnotherViking said:

Too many become complicit and expect a one time successful design to survive in a world market by doing the same thing over and over.

Yep, the first year I was on Etsy, I sold over 3000 RR spike bottle openers for $35 each.  When I started, I was the only one selling that flavor, now lots are and they're down to $15 each.  I won't go that low and moved on to making other items.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If no Smith ever copied another's design there would be no smiths. Some items there is just no way to no copy RR spike knife. RR bottle opener. Coat hooks, corbels, drawer pulls, nail, rose, ....... ect. I make whatever the customer asked for. If they show me a design they like I will make it. Any Smith that says he has never copied another Smith's design is delusional or a liar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed, we're a thousand + years past original ideas in iron. I believe I said it earlier but the thread is older than my  memory. It's not using someone else's design that's wrong, misrepresenting your work is where dishonesty lays.

Ignorance is no excuse either, whether you made it or only sell it. Don't call it something unless you KNOW it is or tell the buyer you don't.

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the problems is parallel evolution.  That is, one smith has an idea of how to make an item and a second smith has a very similar idea of how to make the same type of item.  As David stated there are only so many ways to make many particular items.  In my example the second smith is not pirating the first smith's design because he was in ignorance of it and there were only a limited number of ways to make the item. 

This is why in copyright and patent law there has to be some sort of publication of an idea to prove that a person had it first.  If someone came up with the idea of a light bulb 10 years before Thomas Edison but just did it as an exercise and didn't do anything else with it he couldn't have claimed that Edison was pirating his idea or design.  If a smith has a unique idea or design and wants to protect it he should file a copyright on it.  This is particularly true if the design is unique and is making him or her money and anyone else doing it would diminish his or her income.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heres my view on this topic.

There are no absolutes. What about restoration work? The best restoration work is he who can emulate the original exactly. In Europe, the restoration business covers iron made in the Gothic era, 9th century, to present.  And they call this work "forgeries". You must  have the original smiths skill level and recognize both his strengths and weakness. Then be able to physically produce the piece. Sometimes they even do chem analysis of the original materials and must match it!  

As for the rest, never forget, one of the best forms of flattery is from he who "steals your design".

To me a poor mans copyright (circled 'C') on the drawings, and your touchmark on the piece, basically identifies the piece as yours and and dates it. This is all that is important to me. When a job is done and out the door, its no longer my issue. It may be copied, stolen, modified, or survive as one piece for a 1000 years. Alas, we are not in a craft where every time someone goes up or down your forged stairway, we get a penny. 

Legal actions are a choice. However a legal action calls for a court deal and lawyers. Never forget as a strong generality the best well paid lawyer will win the case, not the smith who's work is plagiarized.  I dont need to repeat that lesson twice.  I would much rather be in my shop working on my next piece that will not only make me a living, but give others ideas to "Forge" for their own work. Much better than sitting in a court room, gathering "evidence" for your lawyer, and paying a lot of money, win or lose. Of course, thats a personal choice.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The largest consideration for deciding on legal action, insurance, copy rights, etc. is how much skin do you have in the game.  It has to be worth your while to pursue any of these. As Anvil points out, every hour spent on legal considerations is an hour not spent at the forge.  As an attorney and a blacksmith it is probably a closer call for me as to which is more fun.  Most people would not choose to be away from their shop.  Also, you have to decide if you are spending time and resources protecting or pursuing something that is worth it to you.  Very often the answer is that the game is not worth the candle.

Another thing to consider is that in most cases the US courts follow the "American Rule" where in litigation each party pays its own fees and legal expenses.  There are a few situations where the law allows for the  "British Rule" where the losing party pays, in addition to any damages, the winning party's attorney's fees.  The commonest of these situations is a civil rights case where the Plaintiff might only be granted nominal damages (like one dollar) but the losing party, usually a governmental entity, has to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Plaintiff's legal fees.  In private cases the legal costs are a big piece of the Plaintiff's skin in the game and a large part of the decision of whether to litigate or not.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr.  George N.M.,

The legal doctrine that you call "British Rule", is known in Commonwealth countries as the law of costs. (including Canada). It is not a rule nor a child of legislation, it is a long body of jurisprudence that goes back many centuries, and is still good law today.

The rewards are are up to the sole discretion of the judge in that case.

It includes far more than the court costs. Some of that component is the actual lawyers fees of the winning party.

Costs are rarely successfully appealed. (in those rare cases, the judge's conduct or award is for an  egregious award or outrageous facts of that case).

Costs can be awarded at several levels. Starting from the lowest to the highest are  : party-party costs  solicitor-client costs, or the very rare level of total indemnity. The last category awards all the costs of the trial. Sometimes the judge orders that the lawyer pay those costs.

This doctrine tends to stop rich plaintiffs from swamping the other party with spurious cases and excessive costs. That is;  the party with the deepest pockets litigates the other side into the ground. That can often happen long before the case even goes to trial. Such activity could affect free speech. The complaint is often spurious. (with little chance of prevailing at court).

I believe the "SLAPP" suit activity that stifle public participation, and free speech, are proscribed in many U. S. jurisdictions as an abuse of the law and the rule of law. 

SLAG.

Retired Canadian and U.S. attorney,  (Ont.  &  N.Y.S.)

I hope this missive is more helpful than obfuscation.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Slag,

In all the cases that I have read regarding costs the Appellate Courts have used the "American Rule/British Rule" terminology.  "The law of costs" may be a more precise term of art but the shorthand commonly used in my experience has been" American Rule/British Rule."  That said, I have seen judges depart from the American Rule and award attorney's fees as well as costs if they find that a case or a motion or other conduct was frivolous and groundless.  I have seen these awarded against both the litigant and the attorney.

My point for the general IFI readership is that legal/court costs can be an overlooked consideration in decisions regarding legal matters.'  Sometimes a person is in an absolutely correct legal position and may decide not to litigate because the costs in time and money would be too high when compared with the amount and likelihood of recovery.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Father told me "Never sue anyone that doesn't have any money."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/26/2019 at 5:52 PM, George N. M. said:

As an attorney and a blacksmith it is probably a closer call for me as to which is more fun.

Dang, Now thats the answer!  Absolutely brilliant.  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.