Wednesday, 8 February 2012

FAQS: What do you do when your work gets copied?

Finding your designs and ideas appearing on other websites and fanpages uncredited, or worse, passed off as someone else's idea is an infuriating, upsetting and often bewildering experience.  But what do you do when it happens? What can you do? This post gives my guide on what to do when you believe you have been copied.

♥ Take a break
It's tempting to want to go wild online when you've found a copy cat, but it's important to address them in a cool and professional manner.  Shut down the computer, make a tea, sleep on it if you have to. Re-adress when you have had time to cool off.

♥ Don't get into a public fisticuff
You're going to be angry but airing dirty laundry will do nothing for your online persona.  Don't be a keyboard warrior and don't be aggressive.  Humiliating them isn't going to help resolve the situation. Take this up privately, perhaps by email.

♥ Get the opinions of others from your creative area
If the copy isn't a 100% replica it can be a good idea to post the offending item in a forum of trusted contacts.  Their objective thoughts can put your mind at rest that you're not claiming all rights to the style or medium you work with but that they have take your design ideas too.  It's important you ask trusted contacts rather than friends, as friends can often say what you want to hear just to be nice, or may not understand that some techniques aren't 100% original to you.

♥ Making contact:
Write a firm but friendly email that states clearly the following:
How you found out about it (might stop them doing it again if they know it's easy to get caught!)
When you came up with the idea, how long you have been selling it, how many have sold (will reinforce you were there first, and if it's your identifying/classic design they'll know it needs dropping, pronto)
Unique identifiers of your work - this is so important.  By listing every identifying aspect of the piece of work and pointing out that each aspect has been reproduced, it really does explicitly point out that you work has been copied, and not just 'inspired'.
Why you don't want to be copied - I know this is obvious, however, I think it is important to point out to someone that you have developed an original idea so that you can gain top gallery exposure, high end stockists etc, and by others copying your work it waters down its originality. That, and you're working hard for someone else to just... steal!
You won't take this any further if they play ball - wish them well with their creative venture and state that if they remove the offending pieces that you will draw a line under it.

What can I do to stop copying?
Not a great deal.  There is such thing as Design Registration, I have taken it out on some my designs.  But really, it gives a tiny bit of protection if you had the financial means to take someone to court over copying.

♥ Can't I get my designs patented?
No. A patent is a type of registration that covers how things work - mainly science and technology. Like a Dyson!

♥ What now?
If the copier doesn't stop when you ask politely, it might be time to play dirty.  I have never been copied by a high street giant but have read cases of those who have.  Hidden Eloise started an awesome social media campaign against Paperchase which gripped the nation and had the company trending nationally.  Paperchase eventually stopped selling the design.

I hope these tips address concerns in regards to copying. As always, these are my own suggestions from my own experiences - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Got a question? Why not Tweet me and I'll put your tweet directly into the blog post - you might get some new followers!  Alternatively you can email me, if you'd prefer :)


Colourful Kitschy Funky Fun...

Add me on Twitter
Add me on Facebook


Anonymous said...

What a fab blog. I have recently been under attack of copying... But not through the internet. It was actually someone IN my workshop! Someone I shared ideas with who then just made them.... herself....badly.... it has really upset me, its just so blatant.
My issue being, I hadn't yet made the design, it was just a sketch in a book. Do I approach her or not and forget I ever had the design and weep when ever I see her bad rip off?

NOfkantsCurios said...

Thank you for sharing, it has been a very worthwhile read, I often see people coming to craft fairs, who are obviously fishing for how things are made and some even say they will go home and make their own, I am super polite but am either flailing between amused or seething, but never show it.

Natalie x

Sixes and Sevens said...

This has happened to me, it was bought to my attention by other craft sellers that 2 different people had copied and were selling versions of my pin cushion. One of them had even copied and pasted my description!

I tried everything you suggest, one of them said she hadn't copied me but would stop selling out of the goodness of her heart, the other said that she had come up with the design years before, which I know isn't true and she had no proof of. She refused to stop selling it and there was nothing I could do. It is very upsetting and disheartening to think that people can do that.

Tracy said...

Great blog & info ... I have had this happen to me by someone quite blatantly copying my whole concept & creating a whole website identical to me through to the odd occasional copy/design. People have made comments to me "be flattered they have copied you & think of it as a complement" NO ... to me this is not a complement, I work hard to create unique designs & I think it is wrong to do, but sadly there will always be people who think it is OK to do this !!! Sadly this is the side effect of online selling/design & creating .... makes me quite sad & frustrated, but like you said in your blog, there is very limited amount that can be done.

hlimbrick said...

This is a fab post. If I was ever copied I'd have to remember your tip about switching the computer off and making a cuppa..I think my rage might take over otherwise! Hx

Lady Luck Jewellery said...

Brilliant blog post - I've seen too many people copy others work, either directly or by making a very very similar piece. There's no creative satisfaction to be had from copying others work, I get satisfaction from coming up with new ideas of my own!

Michele said...

Great, helpful post. I would like to add that in the UK you do not need to 'register' a design for it to be protected under what is called 'intellectual copyright'. Basically as soon as you create something original (art, song, writing) it is automatically protected and those who copy you break the law. Success in a court however would come down to your ability to prove that it was your design, and that you made it first. Michele x

Terri said...

I posted a similar thing to this when I first started blogging, I'm not sure mine was as useful though!