Do you find we have access to so much information, that we aren’t quite sure what is true or not? And I am not taking about #fakenews. I am talking about what is okay and NOT okay to use in your crafts. Now you may be asking what this has to do with organizing. But I think knowing the rules and abiding by them has a lot to do with it. It helps organize your ideas, your work flow, and even your interactions with customers. Now I am not an expert or a lawyer, if you want to be 100%, sure I would contact one. But as crafters there is very basic things we can do and understand what is and isn’t allowed to be used or made.
It is your responsibility as a crafter to know the laws and guidelines regarding the Copyright and Trademark system. It is also your responsibility to uphold them. Company’s that are famous for defending their brands, even to small business or personal use crafters, are Pop-socket, Yeti, professional sports teams, college sports teams, etc. By using items that look or resemble these Patented, Copyright and Trademarked items will definitely land you in hot water.
Now I know what you are going to say, but I went on Etsy and bought the file. NOPE! Sorry, just because someone else is violating the law and selling the file or item, does not mean you then have the right to use it. I am very cautious when buying files. This is because I could be wasting my money on a Copyright or Trademarked item. But there are some bloggers, lawyers and systems in place to help you with that. From there I have learned to navigate through the TESS system.
TESS is the US Trademark Electronic Search System. It is a place where you can weed through all the current and past trademarks. It is not an easy or clear system. Using the TESS system, you need to search for the phrase and/or design you plan to use in your business. If it is trademarked, then you will need to see what it is trademarked for. Then you can see if it is usable for what you are crafting.
Copyright can be equally as important in the crafting world. We often get asked to use part of a song lyric or a quote from someone famous. However this is not allowed. The one caveat being you can use quotes prior to 1923, before the protection was in place. BUT, of course there is a but, you need to still search TESS to make sure it does not have a Trademark associated with it. You can not simply attribute something to the author and assume you are good to go. You or your business will need written permission from the author/speaker or their heirs.
There are Consequences
You can see how all of this can go into organizing your business and setting standards for what you will and won’t do. While it is a personal or business decision, remember infringing on a Copyright or Trademark is illegal. It can also be incredibly costly. I have heard of several small businesses going under and putting considerable financial strain on the owners. Simply because they did not come up with a system for checking on Copyright and Trademarks. Patents are an entire other beast, but be sure if you are selling a product it is not infringing on a patent too.
The basic process I use is this. When I come up with an idea, or a customer sends me something, I search TESS. Unless it is obvious, like Disney or a song. If I find I cannot do the item because it would be infringing on a Copyright, Trademark or Patent, I simply inform my customer of the same. Do I lose customers that way? Yes, I do. But I am okay with that. I will lose the $25 now so I don’t lose $25,000 later.
One thing I hear a lot of is “but its just for me or a gift”. Just because it is personal use and you are not profiting from it, does NOT make it okay to use. That is still a violation and the company you are infringing on, still has a right to come after you if they choose.
There is a lot to think about if you are a crafter, especially if you are turning it into a small business. I highly encourage setting up a system for doing the checks! By having a system or organized process in place, you are protecting yourself. Have you setup a system to ensure you are using items legally? Do you have a resource you use?