Extreme Plagiarism

Lots of talk these days in craft circles about copyright and intellectual property. I think it's instructive to look a bit at the world of graphic design (the most co-opted, ripped off, and reused of all the arts) as a jumping of point for a conversation about who owns what. The guys over at World Famous Design Junkies agree. Take a look at the whole gallery over there and stare in wonder at all the direct copies. Where do you fall when it comes to ownership? link


  1. Hmmm. This video - - immediately comes to mind.

    Not exactly on topic but it raises some interesting ideas about the topic.

  2. I couldn't find the link in your post

  3. felix - Great video. Thanks!

    Heather - Fixed! Thank you!!

  4. this reminds of something that happened not too recently to me and a question i posed to

    i have this relatively rare vintage book with patterns of small stuffed animals and dolls... i make them for friends on the side and for the kids and was wondering if anyone on etsy sold them... i checked and found that many different sellers were selling the exact animals/dolls from the book.

    so i asked etsy what if any policy did they have re: copyright/plagiarism... i included the book and some of the sellers who were selling the plushies... etsy basically said they don't police the sellers... the sellers should not do it but if they do, that's just bad karma on them...

    so, i still make the plushies, but i won't sell them on etsy or anywhere... i just don't think it's right...

  5. There's a lot going on in that list. Some straight cut & paste ripoff, a few homages, and a few "In the style of--".

    With crafting I think it's a bit different than design. With design of this nature you can just go to Google Images, search for what you want, cut and paste it into your design, add your own text and call it a day.

    With crafting, even if you straight up steal a pattern you still have to actually make it yourself. Usually you even have to make the pattern yourself. And quite often crafts are made for personal use (Etsy &c not withstanding) which is always fair game. If I want to hand make a Mickey Mouse plushie for my kid then I can. However if I started selling then then yes, I expect Disney would come down hard on me.

    Elsewhere... It does get gray. If you search Etsy you can find tons of stuff that infringes on various properties. Search for Nintendo or Star Wars and you'll get no end of results. Some of these are identical to real, licensed products, which means lots money for the original creator. (Or their company--not getting into that here.) Some companies don't really care much and realize going after the little guy is bad business. Others come down hard with the lawyers. In these cases, where it's someone making an identical item to something that they already sell, then I think they're in the right. But derivative works, something that shows appreciation for the source but also adds something substantially new, I feel like that should, generally be fair game. (Though I know a few intellectual property lawyers who disagree. I once worked on an advertising campaign for [giant client] and was unable to get permission to use the name of the product in the ad--even though the client was the owner of the trademark.)

  6. Hey,

    this is a really important question any crafter should ask themselves. I agree with Steve that there is a difference between design and craft. If you sell a doily made using a pattern in a book, is this stealing/plagiarism? My answer is: no. It's your skill and work that you are in fact selling. Unless the pattern creator expressly forbids this.

    I am also very much a copyleft person and I think the craft community will be much better off with sharing and exchanging patterns and ideas instead of restricting creativity. If someone takes my work and mashes it up to create something new, I can be only happy and honoured. On the other hand, I try to respect other people opinions and I am very careful when using others work.

  7. Geraly, Steve, Maria - Thanks for the great viewpoints. I agree with all of them. Like Maria, I am a copyleft sort of person and I feel fine about people using my work as a jumping off point, just as I have used others to inspire me. If you can, I think it's great to name what that inspiration is, right off the bat.I always try to name my inspirations and sources if I'm conscious of them at the time. Tends to keep the good relations going. Thanks for all the comments!

  8. While it's clear that a great deal of copying took place in the images shown in the subject website. But in many cases there was still a fair amount of creativity in the "copy". Also the form and purpose of the copy was usually different than the original. So regardless of legalities, there usually isn't any harm to the creator of the original. So while there may be a legal case against the copiers, I have a hard time seeing the moral case.

    In the case Geraly brings up, it is important to understand that copyright covers the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. So making a craft from a pattern and selling it isn't copyright infringement. It may be a violation of a contract between the seller of the pattern and the buyer (check the terms of use). Even the contract angle may be a stretch. So legally, a site like Etsy would have a hard time going after someone who was selling "their idea".

    Personally, I also fall on the copyleft side. Copyright is an artifice used to keep making money for something you did years ago, as opposed to what you are doing now. It has gotten away from its original constitutional purpose to "promote the progress of useful arts" to being a form of welfare for rights holders.

    That said, if someone doesn't want me to copy their work, I try to respect that. Life's too short to spend in legal proceedings or build bad karma, and there are plenty of great ideas to go around. Oh, and I'm not a lawyer so don't take anything I wrote above as legal advice.