Copyright: why copying my designs will land you in legal hotwater.

July 16, 2018

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not the original creator of the concept of wedding invitations. I did not come up with the idea of gift boxes or wedding socks with the word "groom" on the side. This is NOT what copyright covers. Copyright is the protection of a design which you created.

 

Here is an excerp from https://www.gov.uk/copyright

 

"Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission.

You get copyright protection automatically - you don’t have to apply or pay a fee.

There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK.

You automatically get copyright protection when you create:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography

  • original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases

  • sound and music recordings

  • film and television recordings

  • broadcasts

  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

Copyright prevents people from:

  • copying your work

  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale

  • renting or lending copies of your work

  • performing, showing or playing your work in public

  • making an adaptation of your work

  • putting it on the internet"

In fact: see what I did there? I found a source where someone else has written a description, and credited them. I'm not claiming the information as my own because the copyright to the text belongs to gov.co.uk.

 

The big confusion lots of people seem to have is that copyright must be registered in some way. That is incorrect. You automatically get copyright the minute you create something. What most people misunderstand to be Copyright is in fact Trademark. A trademark can be attained for a phrase which is associated with your brand - your business name, logo, image and slogan can all be trademarked. You pay for this service. In recent years, this has lead to come unusual phrases being trademarked and lots of companies infringing this - for example "Shabby Chic" which is in fact trademarked by SC Licencing. "Chalk Paint" is also a trademarked name, owned by Annie Sloan. Disney characters and titles are trademarked, whereas the images are copywrited.

 

 

Another thing you hear from those trying in vain to defend their copying activity is that "you didn't come up with the idea". This is absolutely true. The idea of wedding socks is not new. The gold foiled design, the font choices and arrangement of the design are 100% mine though. Even if you change the design a teeny tiny bit, like using a bowtie instead of a mustache, or finding a *very similar* font because you don't have the licence for the one I used, it's just not good enough. And though I may have been one of the first to bring wedding countdown cards to market, I do not own the copyright of them. I do, however, own the copywrite to the design I created and an attempt to replicate that, by using a similar style font and graphics DOES violate my copyright.

 

In the world of wedding stationery, the act of copying another's work often goes undetected. This most often occurs when a Bride or Groom present their stationer with an image they "found on the internet" and the stationer copies it identically or as close as they can manage. It goes un-noticed in these instances as it would often be a "bespoke" order so there would be no evidence online that the design was replicated (unless the Stationer in question happens to post a picture of their replica on Instagram or Facebook). I've found personally, since becoming a notonthehighstreet partner, the instances of copying like this have sharply increased. And I do find out, because even if the stationery doesn't post it on instagram or facebook, images may still find their way online via the Bride & Groom and the Wedding Photographer.

 

 

 

For those looking to financially benefit from my work on a longer timescale, they'll recreate my design and list it online. Fortunately, this is the easiest instance of copyright infringement to detect and claim against. A swift Cease and Desist is sent to them, and they are reported to their site host (be it Etsy, Ebay or their wedbsite host like BigDaddy or Woocommerce). This gives them the opportunity to do the right thing, or they face the legal repercussions. Etsy in particular takes a hard stance on copyright and if your store is suspended, they do not let you open up another, EVER.  I actively persue any instance of copying I come across and seek monetary compensation in instances where the deception has been ongoing.

 

I'm an active part of the online seller community, and have come across some shocking examples of how people have tried to benefit from other's hard work, and it's not always little shops doing to naughty deed. From Thisisnessie and their Welly Boot Prints (heavily copied across Etsy and facebook seller groups), to Alice Tams at Birds in Hats where her penguin design was stolen, put on a Christmas Jumper and sold by Sansbury's, to Elf for Christmas who's unique Elf was entirely replicated by bargain seller B&M stores.

 

So there you go! In a nutshell, if you "found it on the internet" and decided to replicate a design, it's neither big nor clever. You are basically stealing, and the law will always protect the person who can demonstrate they created the design first. Be prepared to face a legal battle where you'll not only have to cough up a significant compensation fee, but you'll also be expected to cover the legal fees of the person or company you copied from. 

 

For those who are experiencing a copywrite infringer, who need a C&D template or who want to have some expert advice on the matter, I recommend contacting ACID who can help and put you in touch with a copywrite lawyer, should the culprit ignore your C&D and you need to take further action.

 

 

 

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