Copyright, Trademark, Ethics, And Crafts.

Q: I am interested in 'Polymer' clay, and from time to time, I see heated debates on the issue of copying what is an original work of art, ethics, and the like. For some people, these issues are academic. For others, it has a direct effect on their ability to make a living.

A: I know you asked to be e-mailed personally, but as a new beader, I would like to know some of the questions & concerns of others. Please reconsider your request for private responses (unless someone can share with me why yours is a more appropriate way to handle this matter). I look forward to the outcome of your endeavor. We've recently been discussing the topic on the 'AOL' bead forum boards. I think it's a fascinating topic, and very valuable to share information on. The discussion turned into a bit of a debate, and we all ended up agreeing that there was a huge amount of grey area with regard to copyright laws. Really, there are many resources available to the public on the subject, and the more you delve into it, the muddier it seems to get. LOL What if an artist sees someone else's technique, copies it, and then produces a video (with me or someone else) to teach that technique? Do you consider that copying? Unethical? I suspect the gut reaction is "yes" to both, based on numerous discussions with artists doing videos with us (they have all been very careful to avoid that pitfall). However, consider the following: "Kris Richards" writes a book. It is used by school teachers to teach in a classroom to kids (both are true, and she is happy about it). Now, where is the distinction between that teacher, and an artist making a video and teaching? Both are being paid for their efforts (in fact the schoolroom teacher gets paid more than we are able to pay). Both teach using a technique they learned from someone else. Both spread the techniques to hundreds or thousands of others.