I attended a webinar with Virginie Lykins about selling on Etsy at the weekend. This webinar was a collaboration between the Made in Norway Etsy group and Handmade in Norway.
Virginie gave a very well organised presentation and covered EVERYTHING that is Etsy. I mean really EVERYTHING... And actually a lot more than that. Because she reminded me about a very important topic - Copyright.
Firstly - There is no copyright law in Norway. Instead there is;
- Opphavsrett - loven om at du har rett på det du skaper, alá moral rights på engelsk, og det vil alltid tilhøre deg som skaper.
You own, and have the rights to all that you create (as long as it does not infringe on anyone else's rights). These rights are withstanding up until 70 years after your death.
- Åndsverkloven - et sett med lover og rettigheter som beskytter din opphavsrett til ditt verk, og dette er rettigheter du kan ‘frasi deg’ ved å inngå avtaler med forlag, produsenter osv.
A set of laws that protect your exclusive rights to the work that you have created. You can give others permission, either temporary or permanent, to also use your work. For example an illustrator will give a publishers the right to use their illustrations for a fee.
If you would like to read more in depth about this you can read: https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1961-05-12-2
These laws are our friends as they protects our intellectual rights and designs. Their existence means that if someone else in the world were to copy your designs, then you do actually have a leg to stand on. You can theoretically stop that person from producing a design that is the same as, or heavily influence by your own design. I say theoretically, simply because it's not always just a case of asking someone to stop, and them actually doing so. But more on that later.
Do you know how to copyright your designs?
It's simpler than you think here in Norway. By simply creating something you own the copyright to it. IF you can prove that the design is yours.
How do you prove that a design is yours?
This is also pretty simple too. Keep your original sketches - Even better than this is to take a photo or them or scan them in addition to keeping your originals safe. The files will automatically be date stamped by your phone, camera or pc. Keep your documents together and organised. You never know when you will need them!
So, what do you do if someone pinches your design?
Don't be flattered, it's not a compliment! If someone is creating something that is essentially the same as your item, and selling it, then they are stealing potential sales - money from your pocket. They are also potentially damaging your reputation. What if a customer buys from them, thinking it's you... And they do not have the same focus on customer service as you do, or the same attention to detail and the items are poorly made.
Your first step should be to contact that person and ask them, politely but firmly, to stop using your designs. In most cases this will be enough.
Your next step would be to seek legal advice and pursue the case further. If all of your documents are organised then your case will not be a challenging one.
Mickey Mouse and Pokemon?
A word to the wise. Do not be tempted to recreate well known characters in your designs. Yes, a hand painted children's door sign with Mickey or Minnie on it would sell very well. But if you give in to this temptation, you are then infringing on the copyright laws in the country of origin, internationally with these examples. And you risk some pretty serious consequences by breaking these laws.
The designs that you sell should be your designs, original to you. We create because we love to and our ideas are our own. We are influenced by the world around us and this sparks inspiration. Let that be the basis for your creativity, not the need to sell by any means necessary.
It's important to think community in cases like these. If you see that someone is creating and selling items that are a direct copy or highly influenced by another artist that you know of, then it is important to let that artist know. We cannot have our eyes everywhere these days. I'm sure that most of us would be very grateful for help in protecting our designs. One day it could be you, or me, that is in this tricky situation and might not even know about it!
If you would like to know more you can attend a course by Patentstyret. They have offices in Oslo but some of their courses are streamed over the internet. Good if you are not local!
Happy and lawful creating!