Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Following Up With The Ethical Issue

Back again!

Thank you all so much for the thoughtful comments! I continue to be amazed by the kindness and empathy of people I have never physically met. I am grateful for the encouragement and the time it must have taken you to actually write out your thoughts. But mostly I am grateful for the other issues that came out of that original situation, and the honest questions you raised.

I first want to apologize to anyone who was suddenly thrown into a guilt-frenzy after reading that post because they might have used a photo from my site and linked to me but never asked. I'm not going to hex you. What I never knew doesn't bother me. If you've used a picture of my child, please remove it (unless I've OK-ed it). All else is negotiable and most of it is fine. I'm also sorry if I've made everyone feel like they need to walk on eggshells as a result of this issue being broached.

One thing (of many) good that came out of the post is some of you sending me email messages to ask about copyright stuff. I wish I knew enough to write about what's right and wrong. I only know what I would and wouldn't like for my blog. So I thought I'd make a hopefully helpful list or two. Some of these are rather silly and self-explanatory, but they made me laugh when I listed them, so I left them in:

Things that are perfectly OK with me; no permission needed from me:
  • Putting ikatbag in your blogroll.
  • Subscribing to ikatbag in your aggregator e.g. google reader
  • Linking to ikatbag from your blog in some list, say, in your sidebar e.g. "Bizarre Blogs By The Mentally Unsound"
  • Linking to a particular ikatbag post in some list, say, in your sidebar e.g. "Bizarre Projects That Question A Person's Sanity"
  • Linking to a particular ikatbag post in your post e.g. "ikatbag made this bizarre thing today out of chicken wire, corn starch and a plastic pollypocket doll - check it out here"
  • Using the picture of my banner (the thing that has my blog name at the top of the blog) on your site and linking to it.
  • Writing (no pictures) about ikatbag or any of my projects or posts in your blog.
  • Calling the blog ikatbag or Ikatbag or Ikat Bag or ikat bag.
  • Calling me LiEr or Lier or Li Er or Li er. Or just "she". Or "her".
Ha ha ha ha ha!

Here are things that are perfectly OK with me if you drop me an email to say so. Of course I'd prefer being asked beforehand but I also don't mind being informed after. If in the off-chance that yours is a blog I'd rather not be associated with e.g. one with adult-content, I reserve the right to ask you to remove my content.

Things that are not OK with me
  • Posting/publishing any of my pictures without informing me.
  • Posting/publishing prose I wrote without informing me.
  • Posting/publishing any portion of my tutorial instructions (including printables) without informing me.
  • Writing untrue things about the projects or my blog, e.g. "ikatbag made a butter sculpture of Malibu Barbie!" (when it was, say, made by the local confectioner down the road).
  • Suggesting in your blog that readers make stuff from my instructions to sell.

Here we enter the big fuzzy grey area: selling.
I'm going way off tangent for a while and talk a bit about ideas. The root issue (the iffy part of it anyway) of copyright, as I see it, is the idea behind a project. It is completely possible for several people to all have exactly the same idea, especially if is related to a current hot craft thing out there. We all get some of our ideas from somewhere, if we are honest enough to admit it. Sometimes we use this inspiration as is, and make the very thing we saw somewhere else. Now if that thing were copyrighted by its maker and we were to sell it, that would be wrong. That's clear enough. If we took one aspect of this inspiration and created some new version of it and sold it, that's iffy. It's hard to say how much of it is copied and how much of it is inspired, isn't it? And are all sources equal? If the idea was from a book, or a store catalog rather than the internet or someone's blog, would that be less wrong? What if the idea was from something we glanced at fleetingly in the window of an airport store as we were leaving a foreign country we never intended to revisit? The spectrum is infinite. Worse, if we had an absolutely original idea, then saw a similar thing somewhere else and realized to our horror that while we were original, we weren't that unique after all, can we still sell the thing we make from that idea?

Clear as mud, isn't it?

Now this is going to be different for each blogger/entrepreneur, so don't take my word as law. I will, however, say this for myself: when in doubt, I'll email the person whose idea it is. If that person says, "bless you for wanting to make 50 of my handbags from that pattern you bought/my tutorial, to raise funds for abused children! Yes!", everybody wins. Or maybe that person might have a special arrangement (like a seller's license) to sell things made from their pattern. And if that person says no, all I've lost is one idea that wasn't mine to start with.

Trust your instincts and conscience. Talk it over with a friend (I did - thank you, K!) and don't live in fear. When in doubt, ask. There are a lot of friendly, obliging people out there, I've found.

What I'm also going to do is link this post to my copyright notice so people can read more about what is and isn't OK with me if they want.

If you have comments on this, or if I've left out something (because I'm getting sleepy again!) that you want to add, please share it in the comments or email me!

As a last word on the circumstances that started this whole discussion - thank you all for wishing that the issue get resolved. That would be nice, wouldn't it? But you know, I don't need it to be. I spoke up and I know here's where I let go :) If some of you have found that blog, may I ask that you let it be? I mulled over posting that one sentence in case it identified the blog in a google search (but I googled it and nothing happened, phew). Again, if anyone has questions, you can comment here or email me and I might comment back or email you. I don't plan to post again on this same issue because, really, why do a pictureless, projectless post when we can all be making stuff?

And so, gentle readers, we resume Summer Skirts!


  1. OOO boy, I just know I am going to get into trouble here but I am going to be as nice as I can but still get the point across.
    Firstly, I believe someone else brought it up a little in an earlier comment, but anyone can walk into any store and see something and decide they are going to make their own version of it.
    Just like visiting your blog, seeing it, then deciding that they will make their own version, only you give them the instructions.
    Just by making your blog available to the public you have opened the invitation, ie: the contract of entry into your blog, your ideas etc etc.
    You know, saying this, I feel for you because it sucks when you see your things taken, but it's called competition. Happens in big business, happens here.
    This however differs from someone taking your tutorial and claiming it as their own for benefit or gain, like buying a simplicity pattern and re-packaging it with Joe Blogs pattern. That is not only wrong but illegal.. however, if someone were to buy that simplicity pattern and make the item and then sell the made up item, that is what the implied intent was, otherwise why else would Simplicity sell the pattern in the first place?
    Do you see the correlation to your blog issues?

    On a personal note, I like to always share the wonderful blogs I have found with my blog readers, and nothing entices them more than a picture from the blog itself..
    Usually I will take a picture and say, "do you want to know more, click here "joe blogs blog" with a link...
    To me, I thought that was a nice idea,I was promoting some ones blog for free, sending people their way...if I had to write each and every blog I do this for I would not do it, I do not have that much time in the day NOR found any blog that special to warrant it.
    In summation,I think if you don't want people to use your pictures to link back to you, use your tutorials to make things for whatever reason, you know the whole lot, just don't blog, don't do tutorials, or at the beginning of each one make it very clear of your intent. Most people would respect this.
    But as your wishes are much more strict than most, not many people would know this and some poor person typing in google for "sewing tutorial" etc and stumbles across YOUR post/tutorial etc, that person is not going to know how strict you are about things unless made clear on each and every post.
    I hope this does not seem too "in your face", But I have not seen anyone else bring up these issues and I know myself, when I get really angry about something I do not see the other side to the story.
    I am however either going to make a big note on my jotter about your rules, and if I find I forget... unsubscribe, it's hard to remember one little blog when you have over 300 in your reader.
    Anyway, I hope this gives you another way of looking at things :)

  2. Hi LiEr -- funny, I've been thinking about these very same issues over the last few weeks. (See, it's not just hot craft items that "originate" with multiple people at the same time. ha ha)

    I really agree with your followup. And while Janie brings up some interesting points, I do have to disagree with her method of using people's photo without their consent, or at least informing them. If she's spending the time FINDING the blogs and COPYING the photos and links, why doesn't she have the time to leave a super quick comment? (And since it's often so hard to discern "tone" in written format, let me just say right here, I'm trying to raise questions and find solutions, not point fingers...)

    If one is a fast typer, one could probably leave a comment saying "I'd like to use your photo and link to your post. I'll assume that's OK with you unless I hear otherwise. Thanks." in less than 30 seconds. If you had that phrase saved somewhere and then used Ctrl+c and Ctrl+V, you could probably get it down to 15 seconds or less. So even if you linked to 30 different blogs a day, it would take less than 8 minutes total to leave EACH of those 30 people a note...

    But I've digressed from what the post is about. And I have kids who want lunch. Now!

    In summation (at least for now). I don't think it's so much a problem of you being strict, LiEr, as it is a situation of people being good-intentioned and not realizing that they're maybe doing something illegal or unethical. Ethics in business is such a complex topic (my husband just took a class in it as part of his MBA and we had many interesting discussion as a result).

    I can't help but think we'll all benefit by talking through some of these things and seeing if any of our thinking or assumptions need to change (mine included!!!).

  3. P.S. I wrote the whole bit disagreeing with Janie's approach when perhaps I should have just mentioned my approach, which is what I thought of when I read LiEr's actual post. Less antagonistic maybe?

    LiEr, you did say you don't mind being told after, but "prefer being asked beforehand." In the past, I used to always ask beforehand, but then I'd have to sit and wait for a reply. Sometimes only hours, but sometimes days or more, and sometimes that reply would never come.

    So now, I just inform of my intentions and state my assumption that they're consenting unless I hear otherwise. I figure that way I can move ahead, having done my "due diligence." (Do people agree that that's enough?)

    AND I figure I'm usually saving the other person time because they usually don't mind and so can just delete my comment/email without having to follow up in any way...

    Oh, one other point:

    If you are going to use someone's photo (with their consent), from what I've gathered you should always SAVE IT TO YOUR OWN COMPUTER AND HOST IT YOURSELF, rather than quickly copying their image location and using their bandwidth. (Again, if someone has a different take on this, I'd love to hear it.)

    OK, off to clear up lunch...

  4. Janie and K: Thank you for your thoughts. One thing that I have thought about re: photos was that insertion of the blog address so people know where it's from, even if it's copied without permission. Great idea - and I'll try and make time to do that with future pictures. That way, even if people did use the pictures without asking first (which is what most people do and which in most cases is perfectly fine with me because they've linked back), it won't really matter.
    K: Good point about a non-asking way to let people know you'll be linking/ using a photo. That's really sensible, and many of the sites that have featured a photo or something about my blog do that.

  5. Karin, Your idea of having a pre made comment where you can just copy paste is a great idea.
    I must admit I did not think of that one, and am going to make one for myself now.
    When I was babbling on, I was talking about having to write and ask, then wait etc etc.
    And you are totally right Karin about the bandwidth, though I did not think people did that nowdays. That is illegal, not morally wrong or unethical.
    Lier, that is a great idea and I know lots of people do that, I remember doing it myself a long time ago, I think I used Psp and it was quick. Like you said most people have good intentions, but marking your pictures etc is a fantastic way to protect them from people who have bad ones :)

  6. Something I try to do about the whole "similar ideas" if I happen across a blog where someone has posted the same "original idea" I had for a craft, I'll often mention their blog in my post and link back to them, just as a kind of shout out that we are both geniuses :) Just a simple " sure to check this blog out too, to see another great example of this awesome homemade onion decapitator in a cute hot pink color..." This way I can still feel like I am a genius without feeling like I sub-consciously stole any ideas. Plus, we should all be happy to share at least a little credit for crafts we make.....all crafts we make are, in some way, inspired from another. I do, however, strongly agree that photos and tutorials should be respected. I know that I put in alot of work to think up, write, and create tutorials, patterns, and photos, that I would be sad if someone used them for their own gain or without permission. I don't mind if they use my pic and just write a comment to me, it's free advertising. But, to cut and paste my whole tutorial makes me sad. Or, like I mentioned in my first comment (on your first post), I was sad that someone that I KNEW got their idea from me (since I was the one who sold her the supplies), and she didn't give me credit for it in her post. To her credit, she promptly e-mailed me back about it and added a sentence and a link to me in her post. We were both very nice about it and I think I like her even more now :)

    Thanks for opening this forum and giving us all alot to think about!

  7. If you leave a sum of money where it can be removed without your knowing, together with a note asking for it be left untouched, what is most likely to happen?

    Stealing is wrong but do we live in a world without thieves? Even in less grey areas of what is right and wrong, it is not easy to set up rules and to administer them.

    If voicing your thoughts makes you feel better, by all means go ahead but be prepared there are always some who will not abide by any rules.

    My 2 Cents Worth.

  8. I have been doing research recently on copyright law and how it applies to sewing patterns and surprisingly enough, patterns are not subject to copyright. This means that the designer cannot dictate how the pattern is used once it is released for public consumption, whether for free or for purchase. This website has more detailed information:

    So, according to this information, the website mentioned in the original post is not doing anything illegal by suggesting that its readers reproduce the hair bun for selling to their clients. Now, if he/she was to copy the pattern and display it on their website as their own pattern, that would be illegal.

    Interesting discussion.