Art. When is it copying?

Posted by Barbara Tilley on 8/9/2017 to News
Am I copying or not?  You would think this is a straight forward question, but sometimes the lines can get a little blurry.

My best friend Jackie Monticup, bought me a book for my birthday.  I was very excited to receive it.

I want to highly recommend this book.  It has great step by step instructions and lots of inspiration.
But, what does this have to do with copying?

The author clearly wants us to try some of her designs to get the idea of the technique.  But is that copying?
Yes it is, but with implied permission.  If I, as a teacher, give out step by step instructions on how to make my designs, I have given you implied permission to go forth and make my design.  Some instructors/authors include limitations in their instructions.  They put something in along the lines that you can make this item for your own use, but not for sale.  You should follow the instructors/authors directives in this case.  

But what if they don't say anything?  Are you allowed to copy the designs and sell them?

I'm not a copyright lawyer, and I can not give you any legal advice.  But I can tell you how to avoid the problem all together.  

I copy the designs to learn a technique.  Yes, I do.  We have enough to figure out when learning a new technique, we don't need to come up with a brand new design also.  

For example, when I first opened Roxan's book, I just followed the instructions.  I came up with these pieces.

If you compare them to some samples in Roxan's book, they are very similar is design and style.  Sort of....
They are more her style than my normal style.

But I was learning the technique.  This items will not be for sale.  They will be samples or gifts.  And that should be okay.  Even if I made something exactly like Roxan's designs, it would still be okay.  I'm not mass producing them.  I am only using her design to learn the technique.  Then it becomes time to let your inner artist out.  Time to produce your designs using the new technique that you learned.

I decided to focus on my corgi jewelry.  Here are a couple of pieces that I am still working on.  
They use the techniques that I learned, but will be my original designs.  I will incorporate them into a necklace.

These pieces use the techniques involved in applying colored pencil onto copper.  They do not, however copy Roxan's designs.  

I appreciate artists that share their techniques and their designs for us to learn and grow.  

If you are ever in doubt about using a design, please contact the artist and ask them if it is okay.  It is shocking to come across your design on the web when you haven't given permission.  

Copyright is a touchy subject with artists.  Some artists do not understand that you can not copyright a technique.  There are many limitations to copyright laws and it is a hard issue to litigate.  The only winners are usually the lawyers.  Let's all play fair and always check if you are unsure.  It's better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness.