Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cutting a Rug

Ok so there's this guy, he's a great woodworker. He makes all kinds of lovely things and sells them to support himself. It's a great way to make his money. He does what he loves and shares beautiful work with the world.

He makes a tutorial because he wants to help other people enjoy his craft. He does the tutorial for a small jewelry box. It's fairly easy to make, with a few instructions that may not have been intuitive. It's a nice tutorial. But its a box. Seriously. And then he says, don't use this tutorial to make your own boxes and sell them. Use it for personal use only.

Now I'm pretty sure that he's not the first person to make a box. Nor is his tutorial going to put himself out of business. And, maybe there are a few twists to it that were a little difficult to figure out, but honestly if someone took the time to sit down and really plan it, they could have done it. So why should this preclude anyone from making and selling similar jewelry boxes?

When you buy a pattern at the fabric store (excluding some indie pattern designers that have of recent started using this wording) you are not told you cannot make the items from the pattern to sell. That's up to you.

The woodworker is not real. Its an example.

I love crafting sites. I visit them frequently and have learned a ton from them. I never ever disrespect their requests when they post a tutorial. But I do feel that it's not really fair to tell people that they cannot make a tote bag, or purse, or lunch bag or pair of pants and sell them when the actual 'design' is nothing new and easy enough to figure out. Some tutorials are more complicated and really great lessons. I understand, but I still question. I don't agree with this practice because it implies exclusivity on something that is technically intellectual. Any person with enough skill and imagination could make their own and be called on a carpet that never really existed under their feet in the first place.

What do you think?

8 comments:

meno said...

Hard to tell. In the examples you give, it's hard to imagine that anyone could claim exclusivity. It seems like a futile effort to even ask.

Clowncar said...

I don't think ideas, or skills, should be owned.

Nice banner pic, by the way.

de said...

Well, for something to be patented, it has to be a "non-obvious" invention, and even then the restriction is for a limited time.

Go for it.

Dick said...

I agree with you but think also that I wouldn't try to sell that box with his original design on it. One probably could argue that the people who bought them from you really just paid you to assemble it because they didn't have the time to do it themselves. If it really is that easy to do, there might be more truth to that than not.

Gordo said...

The woodworking world is full of nonsense like this: here's this plan to build a widget, but you can't use it to build widgets to sell.

A woodworking plan has many similar elements to a cooking recipe, which numerous courts have cannot be copyrighted, because it's just a series of directions. I don't know of anyone trying to enforce those limitations, either.

Besides, even if the copyright was valid, anything you made from the plans wouldn't be identical to the original: it will have your touches on it be it stain, design, jointing, whatever. That all should qualify it as a derivative work.

jaded said...

As for legality, this is out of my league.

If someone voluntarily offers a tutorial, they are subjecting themselves to the will of others. Few are in a position to police what recipients do with said free information.

If it's so important to protect their personal market, they should probably abstain from posting instructions in the first place

jaded said...

As for legality, this is out of my league.

If someone voluntarily offers a tutorial, they are subjecting themselves to the will of others. Few are in a position to police what recipients do with said free information.

If it's so important to protect their personal market, they should probably abstain from posting instructions in the first place

Maggie said...

Meno, futile seems about right.

Clowncar, thanks! I love barns. And yeah, I think ideas are really hard to tie down like that. Though I understand on a certain level - especially if it is something highly customized or stylized by the artist.

Gordo, all excellent points. And I'm glad you've seen what I'm talking about. Sometimes it just makes me grind my teeth.

Jaded, yeah, it would seem. I just can't figure why they would care at all. I mean maybe on Etsy if they have a shop there, but still, you know the whole free market model indicates that anyone can make the same thing, but if you do it better, or price it better, or offer better service than you win out. Right?