Archive for February, 2009

09th Feb 2009

Unrealistic Possessiveness

Hi. Remember me? I still make stuff, really, but a lot more of it has been digital lately.

And, wow, I really need to upgrade this site. But whatever.

So what moves me to write today? Selfishness. No, not mine, but the kind of selfishness meant to stifle others’ creativity for the sake of your own.

If your business is to make and sell art supplies, like, say, beautiful ribbons like these, you simply must learn to let go of them. It’s none of your business what people do with them once they have purchased them, unless someone sets themselves up as a reseller, claiming the designs as their own.

Imagine my dismay when I saw this wonderful collection, immediately started imagining a line of contemporary crazy-quilt postcards or wallhangings, or any number of other ideas, only to find this statement on the supplier’s homepage:

Please note that all Douglas Paquette ribbon designs are the exclusive property of Douglas Paquette Inc. These ribbons are original, copyrighted designs and may not be reproduced under any circumstances. Commercial use of these ribbons is prohibited with out [sic] written consent from Douglas Paquette Inc. Commercial use includes reselling any item with the ribbon as part of its design. (emphasis mine)

Now, some context. Douglas Paquette Inc. makes some really neat things with their ribbons, like belts, flip-flops, keychains and pet accessories. The “Ally’s Bazaar” site is where they sell ribbons in designs that they’re no longer using for new products. I can certainly understand that they don’t want anyone selling products similar to theirs using their own ribbon designs. But, there are a thousand other uses for ribbons like these that artists who make work for sale could dream up that wouldn’t be in any kind of direct competition with their products.

Legally speaking, Fair Use practices seem to suggest that the kind of statement made on the Ally’s Bazaar website is unenforceable with the exception of direct copying or reselling.

The same kind of issues come up with rubber stamp designs. Many designers claim that their copyright on the image made by a stamp prevents any artist from using the stamp on a work for sale, and many of these designers take this position very seriously, to the point of legal action.

Most artists, like me, don’t want to fight with suppliers for the rights to use art supplies and tools in work for sale, even when the law is on our side with respect to Fair Use. So, rather than spending my money on a product that has the potential to cause me a legal headache, I’m more likely to go find something else.

Which is a shame, because these suppliers who choose to operate with such unrealistic possessiveness limit themselves to the home hobbyist market, and miss out on possible wider exposure if an artist’s client asks, “Where did you get that beautiful ribbon?”

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