1/17/12

Artist's Rights

As some of you know, I recently dealt with copyright infringement.  To the company (and owners) credit, he very kindly admitted to copying and said he wanted to do the right thing so he's stopped marketing his products.

Admittedly, when I first started out in 2007 and was figuring out if I could indeed build furniture, I made things that looked too similar to others on the market.  And I got my hand slapped and was terribly embarrassed.  I was naive to think that, like the traditional furniture market, you can build a rocker that looks like every other rocker and it's OK.  In the modern furniture world, you can't build a piece that looks like someone else's work in the least or you're ripping them off.  In my case, I built two pieces that looked too similar to other work on the market and upon realizing I messed up, took them down immediately and moved on to creating my own distinct designs like the Owyn Toy Box. I wasn't maliciously trying to rip anyone off, I was just trying to find my footing and to see if I could indeed run a furniture business from home.  I was a naive newbie and I'm not proud of that but I did immediately realize the error of my ways.  I am, after all, the woman who can't in good conscience leave the grocery cart by the car and not put it back in the cart corral. 

I'm no longer the naive newbie and now, as Mod Mom has grown and my designs have been shown on national TV,  I'm dealing with copyright infringement cases like the one I mentioned in the first paragraph.  Faith in mankind was restored after settling that case only to have a second case come to my attention and this time, I feel very disheartened because I don't believe they see anything wrong with what they're doing.  Someone created an exact copy of one of my designs back in 2011 and tried to pass it off as their own.  At that time, I sent a cease and desist.  The exact copy went away but other designs that are clearly inspired by (dimensions, function, materials, veneer, artwork concept, market segment similarities) are now up for sale.  The way I found out about it was through an international retailer who saw some of the designs and sent me an email that said, "What's wrong with these people?"  Indeed, a good question.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone I meet.  I'm learning to trust my intuition more but I am definitely a glass half full kinda person so it's hard for me to find fault sometimes where obvious fault lies.  I'll make excuses or I'll think, "Oh, they're going through a rough time and it won't happen again. Or like I was when I started, they are just naive to the laws of the design world.  Surely, when they find out they've done wrong, they'll fix it.  They'll do the right thing." In this latest case, I find I'm asking myself the same question my retailer did, "What's wrong with them?"  Why don't they see that outright copying someone's protected artwork and then proceeding to create something so similar that it causes confusion in the marketplace is just not OK?"  It's not like I'm making nondescript pieces. Sure, I'd expect this from large manufacturers overseas but not from small shops in North America.

I know I'm not the first to deal with this type of thing and I won't be the last.  But one thing is for sure, there is just no excuse for continued copyright infringement. It's just not OK.

4 comments:

Esther said...

I know you're dealing with this because just the other day someone emailed me to write about their toyboxes (selling on etsy) and I had to tell him his designs were too close to yours for my comfort.

Mod Mom Furniture said...

Esther, thank you for your comment. I have a sneaking suspicion we're talking about the same person.

Mod Mom Furniture said...

Esther, I also want to thank you for having my back. It's very much appreciated!

shelia said...

This is a tough one. We saw this often with the last company I owned, Aidan Gray Home. It was very frustrating and in the early years we had to send several cease and desist letters. We finally found ourselves chasing our tails and spending a great deal of time trying to fight those battles. We eventually decided that we couldn't stop everyone and our focus would continue to be on designing great products and providing excellent customer service. This worked for us, but we had a larger line -- made it a bit easier.
Sorry you are having to deal with this -- on a positive note it says that you have a great look and product.