Friday, December 16, 2011

Stolen designs? Use Social media!

I'm involved in a few groups of highly talented jewelry designers and metalsmiths. Many of us sell our work online, or at least exhibit images of our work online. This leaves us vulnerable to be copied by big foreign "companies" that are trolling the internet and craft markets for designs to rip off. It is a big problem, for both the designer and the public who are duped by these scammers.

stop © theft in the arts!

Designers of course are being ripped off- their creativity being xeroxed and slapped on an inferior "product", which is equal to outright theft. Customers of these copycat outfits are partially to blame, because they have bought into the theft , lured by false promises and shoddy imitation. It's nothing new- Nike, Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Pucci and Fiorucci have all had their designs stolen and sold on the street. The only real difference is that now the pirates are pillaging individual artists instead of corporations (which have the power of lawyers and the money to protect their goods and ideas).

What can a single artist do? Many of us are already undervaluing our work  and so doing are under paying ourselves. Even in good times thinking of coming up with thousands to commence a legal defense is usually out of the question.
What can we do? USE SOCIAL MEDIA to spread the word!

We are freshly entering a new era- Illustrated by global changes such as the Arab Spring and protest movements such as the Occupy movement.  One person can effectively disseminate information worldwide with very little effort in very little time.

One well written blog post that is shared, one tweet re-tweeted many times, posts in all group pages, across all social media platforms with links and images and discussions can be the starting point for illumination- We as artists can shine the light on this problem, flush out the cockroaches hiding in the corners and effectively educate and warn our communities and customers. All there needs to be is a plan.

So- this is what I propose- (as a start) ......
Anytime a piece is found to be illegally copied (ripped off) GET LOUD!
Post as many specifics that you can without opening yourself up for legal problems yourself (put the spotlight on the specific company/entity.)
Let other artists know what is going on-
ask for a re-post or re-tweet.
Artists- Re-post! the longer the chain of shares and re-tweets the more information is spread through the community, which will keep the conversation going, keep the community vigilant and bring us together as a force to be reckoned with.

Above all- don't let the assholes get you down. Copycats have been around since the dawn of mankind, it's not going away. There is even a truism that says that copying is a form of flattery. (though someone who is losing business because of these rip off hyenas certainly isn't flattered, they are irate- for damn good reason!)

Power to the artists, come together as a community- let's keep this topic on the front burner and get organized to help protect our original designs!

And customers, remember- cheaper really does mean cheaper. If you value handmade, the artist has to get paid!

ciao- Maureen BZ
Founder, "Metalsmiths Unite!"


Cyndie Smith Designs said...

Well put, Maureen! I say shout it from the roof tops when someone gets ripped off!

GinnyV said...

Ditto on your comments from sunny Tucson, AZ! What is almost as bad as copying an Artist's design, is stamping the metal to be .925 sterling silver when it is NOT. China is flooding our market with base metal chains at a cheaper price than they can be sold in the US, sby counterfeiting the hallowed
stamp declaring its silver content! Carry a magnet and check for pure sterling silver! Expose the thieves!

Ajax said...

tweeted this post!!

My Art and My Soul said...

You go girl!!! This is a fabulous post and I'm re-posting right now as well as tweeting. Hope you are on the mend;o) Cheers, Sally

Marie Cramp said...

Sally Hoffman posted this on Facebook! I am so glad that someone finally put into words what I could not! Having struggled with this myself, I know first had what the damage can be! I will share this and hope others see the value in your words!

Zoe Nelson said...

This is great! I'm re-posting to

Spirited Earth said...

Having experienced a ripping off first hand ..i agree..don't be silent..and don't swallow that business about it being a form of way

My Art and My Soul said...

Do you suppose that there is an attorney out there in jewelry land that would take these people on for the pure joy of screwing them to the wall? If I were an attorney, I would take this to the limit just to protect the few that can't protect themselves.
You will love this - my word verification is - SCARE

Maureen BZ said...

thinking a bit more about the difference between corporate designs being ripped off vs from individual artists...and have come to the conclusion that us Indie artists have an advantage that the big guys don't.

We are faster- we can create new designs and get them out much faster than the big guys- Being 5'1" myself I've often used my nimbleness as an advantage.

Maybe I can't take huge steps to climb the mountain, but I can scramble up through the thick woods, fitting through openings and finding tiny footholds that are perfect for me. I can weave, scramble, pivot, squeeze, dart, and outmaneuver..leaving my big lanky friends in the dust! :-)

The Girl with the Headache said...

Even with a magnet you may not be 100% guaranteed the 925 you are checking is that.The new plated stuff out of China will not stick to a magnet because the base metals are not magnetic.They learn fast there.So only buy your 925 from someone you trust.The scratch test wont work if the plate is thick enough either.I randomly will buy pieces that are marked as genuine and cut them on the spot to check the centre of the metal.This exposes any central pieces that may not be silver.Get items tested periodically if you can even from your trusted suppliers because they might be getting duped as well and basically make sure as best you are able.I cannot stress this enough.I test mine often to make sure because there are always going to be those who want to rip you off because they can.
Hope this helps some of you somehow.I have heard enough horror stories of late about people losing bucketloads of money to Chinese when they were apparently getting Sterling and it wasnt at a cheap price either.

Maureen BZ said...

Yes, China is a big player in this game. That country is still screwed up from Mao and his crazy programs.
If you want an interesting read on the Cultural revolution (from the eyes of a woman who lived through it)I highly recommend the book "Wild Swans". It gives some perspective on how Mao really scrambled the Chinese people. It's going to take a very long time to recover from that.
Not that I am excusing anyone from unethical practices- it's just a book that I really got a lot out of and I try to share as much as possible. I have family from China so I've spent some time trying to understand a bit about their political/cultural scene.

nova by tess said...

Excellent post Maureen. I am posting this on Facebook.


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