Friday, August 21, 2009

Legal Issues Rant & HeHe's Future

As a jewelry artisan, I'd like to always think that no one else does what I do. Not the case.
I used to be really concerned about my work and how others imitate or whatnot, but I've come to understand that those who enjoy my work for what they are will always keep coming back, or spreading the word, whatever it is.

Ever since entering the world of blog two weeks ago, I've stumbled upon lots of jewelry makers' blogs. I've seen pieces that look identical, pieces that look similar. At first, you wonder, "are people copying each other?" and "can people press charges?" Though this may be the case, it's a hard one to argue. I've been selling my handmade jewelry online since 2005 on Soompi Forums, and I've seen numerous imitations of my exact design. At first, I was kind of angry, but I've taken a few law classes since then, and have learned about about trademark, copyrights, etc.

SWAROVSKI Crystallized elements in of themselves are identical. By choosing to work in such a field, people must understand that OF COURSE, even though they thought up of a special combination of crystals, others have the same viewpoint, same idea. Ideas can NOT be copyrighted. How many SWAROVSKI jewelry artists have HEARTS on their necklaces? Who gets to sue whom? We end up with one giant mess. Of course, the way an artist puts together a piece is a major factor with SWAROVSKI creations-- order of beads, color, other materials used, etc. And often with these crystals, it's very easy to create similar pieces among different artists. This is why I've always tried to differentiate myself from other artisans by mixing materials-- using charm / polymer clay mixed in with SWAROVSKI to set myself apart. I used to focus purely on expressing the beauty of the crystals-- but came to realize that so many other artists already have the same idea. What now?

How many SWAROVSKI jewelry makers use starfish in their jewelry? How about hearts? Teardrops? Cosmics? Snowflakes? And the newly popular Pegasus wing? How many people combine these beads in similar and identical ways? Who brings the legal battle to whom? I've pretty much come to the conclusion that it's useless for us little artisans to battle it out with each other. If we were petty about everything we make, us jewelry bloggers would already have tons of issues with each other.

I took a law/copyrights class last quarter, and had lots of interesting discussions regarding these issues with my professor, and ex private practice lawyer specializing in small claims court cases. I asked for his expertise on what I do, and how I can protect myself. There are very few ways. You can try to prove that you came up with the idea first-- but what if the "offender" came up with the idea on his own? NO ONE has the copyright, then, and it's a free-for-all. Firstly, it's very difficult to prove whose "original" idea something is. And strangely, "ideas" can't be copyrighted. For instance, my beaded turtles have no copyright because a turtle is an idea-- and there's a real life court case that revolved around such an issue, and was dismissed. In said case, a jewelry piece of a bumblebee was the issue of debate-- both artists had almost identical bumblebees in their designs, yet no one won. They ended up paying tons of money to both lose. In order to claim something as yours, you need to prove, somehow, that you came up with the idea, FIRST. So if we go back to the example of the SWAROVSKI heart necklace, TECHNICALLY, Swarovski can sue whoever decides to put a SWAROVSKI heart on a chain, since they already sell such a similar piece. But this doesn't happen.

Artists are not required to register their work, but yet can still copyright it. But with so many people in the world, so many ideas, so many similar/different points of views, we're bound to meet someone who thinks the way we do, enjoy the same things. So, I've decided that getting angry or annoyed at being copied is kind of pointless. And it's entirely possible that two people come up with very similar ideas at the same time, or a while apart, and have no idea about it until something accidentally comes up so that they meet. What then?

And what if, what if.... a larger, more popular company was the one who unknowingly did the copying, but accuses the smaller, less popular company of copying, though no one was at fault? The blame game sucks! Will more people support the larger company? Where's the justice? See, there isn't a surefire way to approach this....

BUT I will say this: When you guys see a piece that I've made, and you have seen it somewhere else, please kindly drop me an email letting me know. I NEVER purposely copy another artist's work, and that's the way it should be for everyone (though it's not, and that's reality). But at least I'm trying to do my part. Honestly, I don't have enough eyes to check whether or not I'm infringing when I make something, so I need your help. For those of you who sell small-scale on a blog or whatever, if you think I'm copying your products or whatnot, you gotta let me know-- I don't spend my life on my laptop, browsing the internet for similar designs or whatever. Especially since SWAROVSKI has a lot of "popular" elements like hearts, starfish, whatever, similar designs are bound to happen. I've come to accept that, and don't really care anymore. I'm doing what I love, and so are you. But don't take advantage of me.


So ... yea. I've been wanting to say something like that for a while now, ever since I matured a bit realized what all this SWAROVSKI jewelry stuff was about. I never had a jewelry blog, so now, this is a perfect place to say it.

What do you guys think about these small business legal battles?
Sorry, I just blah-ed all that stuff out without going back and editing, so I apologize if something sounds a bit unclear. And I'm not angry or anything, just... giving up on caring about legal stuff, and just focus on making awesome stuff.
** Edit, oh yea, did I mention I've felt guilty forever because I've made 2 "knock-offs" in "career"? Found out too late. I'm going to research customs very carefully from now on.

HeHe's Future

I'm in the process of getting my official business and resell licenses. The timing is kinda crappy because I have 2 more years of college... but this is something I really want to do, so I'm going for it, finally. That means I do have to charge CA residents the tax, though. Sorry :\. Also, HeHe is getting a name change, a new logo, and a new website. I need some help with new names..
I named my products "hehe productions" because "he" is my last name, and what I make are my "productions". I want something more mainstream and "timeless". Any ideas?
My real name is Qi He, and I go by Lisa. Qi is pronounced "Chi". SO, I was thinking ChiHe Designs? I don't know, lol. I'm kinda lost. But funnily, I do have an idea for a logo in mind, and I have a contractor who wants to make it happen for me, once I decide on my new name. I also have my domain & server stuff figured out. ALL I NEED IS A NAME! HELP!

So I guess I'll just leave you for today, with a couple of new pieces:

Pretty baroque dangle!

Dragonfly dangles!

18mm SWAROVSKI Crystal heart. FREE for the person who leaves a THOUGHTFUL reply to this post! Leave me your email in your comment for me to contact you if you believe you had a great response to my blog today. If many of you leave thoughtful comments, free small gifts for everyone!

- Lisa


Eugenia said...

I can see how you are frustrated. I am a part of many jewelry blogs, I can see similarities but also differences between all of them. As long as you make yours unique in someone thats how people will choose your designs over the imitators! Keep on making you stuff though, they are great!! :)

PS_ i love your earrings they are very unique!

Anonymous said...

I know how frustrating creating jewelry maybe; not that I would know because I don't make them. I guess I had the same experiences; it almost the same with photo shopping/photography; because of the same style/texture/colour/fonts. A lot of people copyright their photos and artwork to prevent other people from copying their idea or using their image without consent; I use to get really angry when I see someone with the same type of poster design because some people write fanfic and request for a poster to be made. I got over it after a while; I mean I was still pretty upset they made almost the exact same poster but I can't prove they copy it right? And I can't prevent everyone person from using the same image/font/texture because everyone should be able to try to create something; I guess they can see it as "inspirations" instead of copying/imitating. I usually just credit the image/texture/font/etcs source I get it from; so if they want to get the image or something they can go to the unedited one to use instead of using my images in their artwork. ^^" sorry for the long comment. I guess everyone feels like they have been cheated one way or another especially artist who create music because their is always a chance someone going to be downloading their song without paying for it or someone copy the beat etcs.

Anonymous said...

oh and when I read the "timeless" part a name popped into my head "timeless memories"

DonDon said...

hey lisa/qi ^^

i'm a new follower, but i wanted to comment on this post, cos i thought what you said was very 'thoughtful' (no pun intended) and quite thought provoking in a way. To be honest, i think it sometimes works both ways. Because although artists can copyright their work etc, who is going to argue for a small blog company selling jewellery if a big successful jewellery company decideds to steal their ideas and creations and pass it off as their own? It made me think about that...and also the fact that many people are willing to buy jewellery from someone who has maybe stolen an artist's idea and recreated it using cheaper materials and therefore charge cheaper for it. It leaves the real creator with no chance, because he will either have to stoop down to their level and cheapen his creation by doing the same as the poeple forging it, or stick to his guns and have no customers? It's kind of sad sometimes...but i'm glad you've been able to let it go, cos otherwise it'll nag at you forever. =)

And also for the name...I like Hehe sounds nice in chinese (LOL). Like something lucky...

And for some weird reason...i also really like's a cute name and reminds me of a sneeze. ^_^


do i have to leave my email? @_@

Anonymous said...

I completely see where you are coming from negative and positive. I myself am in the Web / Graphic Industry & my Boyfriend actually went through the law class himself. It's amazing the stuff you learn in there and what can and cannot help you with your business.

You're right. Many people out there have identical if not the same ideas when it comes to idea making. It's hard to claim 'something' as your own since this world is full of replicas per say. But who is one person to say "you copied me". For example - i can make a graphic consisting of text, photos, and colors. Somebody else could do the exact same thing but change a few things up (place of order, size, & colors) & that results to that becoming their "own". I have no right to go off & accuse them of stealing my idea - because great minds think a like. It takes a great mind for somebody to be creative & artistic ; and once they put that out there - showcasing it to the world, you're only bound to run into something super similar. I completely agree with you when you say it's pointless to get upset & i find you to be the bigger person when you state: "I NEVER purposely copy another artist's work, and that's the way it should be for everyone." I couldn't say it any better & nothing could be more true than that statement - but to bad everybody doesn't see it that way right?

I say you do what you do and don't mind the copy cats and biters - because they're all up on it since you got the flava. Also - if i do see anything i'll def let you know :)

ChiHe would be absolutely cute! My name is Chee :) - So i would love it! Hahaha!

DSK said...

We'll stick together babe, efff the fakers and imitators!