UPDATE: Anthropolgie’s Wooden Merit Badge Necklace Tutorial

UPDATED on 5/28 at 12:40 pm EST.

I need to get this out.

I started writing this yesterday, but wanted to take some time away and come back with a fresh mind.

Have you ever felt so misunderstood that it just made you want to cry? Hell, have you ever felt so misunderstood that you actually did cry?

Well that is exactly what I have been experiencing and feeling these last few days. It is why my stomach is churning and my mind feels like jello these last few days. The fact that anyone would think I would malicious (or even knowingly) duplicate another designer’s work or attempt to do harm to another designer’s livelihood by posting a tutorial is extremely hurtful to me, considering the amount of time and dedication I have put in to this community, over the last three years, that I love so much.

But that’s not what I want this post to be about, so I will end that there.

If you are visiting this post expecting to see a tutorial for a diy necklace from Anthropologie, I have removed it (after a great deal of thought). This was a decision that I made completely on my own.

Ultimately, now that I know that the necklace was handmade and not a mass-produced piece being churned out of the factories, I don’t feel right about showing people how to make it for less. Although, I enjoy writing tutorials here as often as possible, it is, and never will be, my intention to ever do anything to hurt the art + handmade community and the people that make this community what it is: an amazing and inspiring place.

I do not condone the copying and selling of another person’s work ever, and while I believe that creating something for personal use that is not intended for resale is a bit of a blurry line, I believe that taking down this tutorial is the right thing for me to do regardless of the original intention.

For those that have been a part of this dialogue on my blog and Ellen’s blog, I want to say thank you for sharing your thoughts on a topic like this one, which is filled with emotions and very strong varying opinions. Whether I agree with what was said or not, I respect each and every one of your opinions. BUT what I cannot respect or condone are the few hateful remarks that have popped up on my blog in the comments below, in my inbox, and on Ellen Baker of The Long Thread’s post about this controversy, who created the series I was a part of.

I have never thought that anger is a good way to get your point across. And I never will. *To everyone who has sent me a kind email or comment, I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Your words meant so much.

>>>I invite you to read Ellen’s post, entitled Shades of Gray, right here: http://thelongthread.com/?p=8064

There is now a long-running dialogue (60+ comments) about this topic on that post, filled with varying opinions. So, if you’re interested in this topic, you should pop over there and read it. The positive thing that has come out of all of this has been the dialogue that has started. You are also free to continue sharing your thoughts here in the comments below and I welcome all opinions, as I always have.

If you are confused right now, let me explain. If you already know the story, you can go ahead and skip to the end…Up until this point, I haven’t felt the need to explain myself because I know my intentions were good, but after some of the comments and mud slinging that has been going on with a small group of commenters, I now feel compelled. This is the short version of what happened…

Thursday I posted a tutorial for a look-alike Merit Badge Necklace from Anthropologie as part of Ellen Baker of The Long Thread’s May blogger series for “knock off” week (which was intended to be fun and joyful). *If you know Ellen or her site, you know that she does amazing things for the handmade and diy community. I usually post original tutorials of my own designs, but I thought it was an interesting challenge and the time frame for that week in particular (there was a different tutorial topic every week for the month of May with various bloggers) worked best for me because I was out of town earlier in the month. So, I chose a necklace from Anthro that I liked and knew I could figure out how to recreate it and I did just that. The problem is that that necklace from Anthropologie was actually handmade by a designer and then purchased by Anthro to sell in stores and online. I DID NOT KNOW THAT WHEN I CREATED THE TUTORIAL. It was an innocent mistake. When I found out that these necklaces were most likely made by Fort Standard, I contacted them immediately and received a prompt response. Gregory sent me a very professional and thoughtful email back. No name calling, just communication between one person and another. I then sent him another email and offered to take the tutorial down, out of respect for him and his business partner and their designs. And I also invited him to share his thoughts on this topic with you all in a video or audio conversation that would be posted in the place of the old tutorial. As of Saturday at noon EST, I have not heard back from him. But I decided to remove the tutorial anyway because that’s what feels right to me. I will keep you posted if I hear back.

I imagine I will receive some criticism for taking the post down as well. And maybe even some nit-picking over the words I have chosen for this post as well. And that is life.

Please visit the talented designers at Fort Standard: http://fortstandard.com/

Call to action…

I want to move on from this and get back to the positivity that I feel it is my mission to spread, and issue a call to action to anyone who is reading this…

There are a lot of great things happening around us everyday. Sure they get mentioned and casually passed around, but no where near as often (or as viral) as something that pisses someone off, which reminds me of  Stevie Koerner’s “A World of Love” series that Urban Outfitters ripped off. One tweet about that started something HUGE (1,000’s of tweets huge and a HuffPost article) and it was amazing that so many people were able to come together around the cause. So powerful!

>>> I would like to ask each of you who reads this to take a moment and think about one positive thing that is happening in the handmade community right now and tweet about that, or mention it on your blog, or whatever. Just share that good thing with someone else. Let’s see if we can turn those good and great things happening around us into something just as powerful and HUGE!

 

27 comments | Click here to reply

Congratulations! But I wonder, if you didn’t post this fresh after the wound cause by the Urban Outfitters controversy, would anyone have made a comment?Keep up the good work!

nicole

Oh, please forgive the typos in that post. You get the idea 🙂

Van

Now having just received my first hate mail and threat for Thrift Core, I feel a small degree of the frustration you must have felt with your post.

It’s clear with everything you do for this website and fort artists that you heart is in the right place and your passion for artists and their integrity is clear. It shines in everything you write and make.

All of our favorite creative publications are based on recreating ideas at their core. Whether we like it or not, its part of the creative process. We brainstorm to come up with some incredibly unqiue, only to do a quick Google Search and find out it’s been done before.

For example: I was going to do an Alphabet series- then I wrote about one here on Papernstitch. Ouch, back to square one! But when you think about it- it’s been done since we saw those charts in grade school!

You tried to give credit where it’s due and survived the onslaught. Congratulations! 🙂 But I wonder, if you didn’t post this fresh after the wound cause by the Urban Outfitters controversy, would anyone have made a comment?

Van

I’m really glad that you came up with that decision, Brittni. Knowing that you’re an artist, I was hoping you would understand, and do, what in my opinion, is the right thing.
I know this situation must have been tough for you, but all that happened and has been written is valuable to educate the public, besides, I really appreciate your courage to publicly change your opinion and write about it (not many people would have done that).
As a professional designer, I spent the last 20 years studying and discussing all that concerns design and art. During the years, I start seeing less and less shades of gray on this topic (and actually, some things really are black or white).
I won’t write my full opinion on this topic because it would be a very long comment, and most of all, it would also be beside the point, as this all was not primarily started as a discussion about the limits of copying in art and design – it would just invade your space here on the internet, and I don’t think that would be right.
Keep up the good work!

Daria

Hey there Brittni,

I too appreciate you bringing this topic up for discussion. After finding 3 bloggers in two days last week that were sharing files based on their copies my work, and losing days to addressing those infringements and looking for others, I really believe that educating the knockoff community about a few things may be a more productive approach to preventing infringement for me. So, I’m glad to see this being discussed.

In my experience, most of the copiers I have dealt with had no malicious intent and thought that they were doing something to help people. All apologized and complied with requests to stop distributing their electronic copies of my work.

It is disappointing that folks are being less than civil and less than understanding with you Brittni. I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing the anger of the segment of the public that is against knockoffs. I can get angry too. It is very upsetting to many artists to find their work copied, or to imagine it being copied when they see another’s work copied, and artists seem to come to each others’ aid when they see copies or knockoffs. I try to be civil with my copiers, but that can get tricky when one is trying to convey the seriousness of infringement.

I am also disappointed at the callousness of some of the segment of the public that sees nothing wrong with copying the work of others. In discussions I have been in, artists have been called arrogant, professionally jealous and overly proud with an overblown sense of ownership. If someone tells you they think their rights have been violated, it does not help to belittle them. You can certainly see nothing wrong with copying if you choose to, but there is no benefit to the conversation in kicking someone when they are down.

It is great to hear opinions on whether knockoffs are infringement, and if not, at what point sharing knockoffs or how to make them may be infringement. But, our opinions and what we non-lawyers think we know about copyright law are not what determines if a copy is a violation of copyright.

The holder of a copyright has the following rights regarding a copyrighted work according to copyright law:

The rights to reproduce the work in copies, prepare derivative works based upon the work, distribute copies of the work, and display the work publicly.

The creator of a copyrighted work also has the right of attribution and other rights concerning the alteration of that work.

If someone avails themselves of any of those rights without the permission of the copyright holder, they expose themselves to the risk of the copyright holder claiming infringement and the resulting penalties if it is determined that infringement occurred.

I don’t know if stating that one is copying or has copied an item, and then posting images of that item online and instructing the public how to copy the item infringes copyright of the copied item. I think it’s close enough though, so that if I am the creator of the copyrighted item I should contact the copier and let him/her know that he/she created an unauthorized copy of my work. If copies are being distributed, I have no choice but to send a cease and desist and request removal of the downloadable files and whatever other remedies I find necessary.

I have to do that to protect the rights provided by my copyright. Those rights are the basis of what allows me to make and sell reproductions of my artwork, which is how I support my family.

For me it, whether or not copies dilute my brand or offend my sensibilities or hurt my feelings does not factor into my decisions to pursue copycats. It comes down to whether or not a copy violates my rights.

I would hope for people who condone or actively participate in copying (and those who encourage others to copy another artist’s work through tutorials) to consider several things:

1) Is traffic on your website or helping others save money really worth the pain in the neck of being sued for infringement and the possibility of having to pay damages (possibly up to $30,000 per for infringement, up to $150,000 per for willful infringement)? If the argument for making the knockoff is the high cost of the original item, should you not then avoid exposing yourself to that high cost risk?

2) Though infringement is technically a violation of rights, to many artists and designers, it feels like theft. It feels like something has been taken from you. It is a troubling experience. For myself and many I know, it does not feel like flattery. It feels like someone likes your work, but not enough to obtain it through proper channels. When someone is encouraging people to make their own copy and not buy from you, it does not particularly feel like you have inspired someone. It feels like your ability to derive future income from your work is being affected. It feels a bit like someone knocked you down and took your lunch money. It feels like that person is saying, “I like what you did, but I don’t think your skill, expertise, vision, years of hard work, talent, and dedication to your craft had anything to do with how it came out. Anyone could do it.”

Please keep that in mind when you embrace an opinion that copying does not hurt anyone. You may not agree that creative people have rights, but it’s not necessary to say there is nothing new under the sun. No one would ever create anything inspiring if we all believed that. If you need to quote a bible verse while telling an artist your negative opinion of his or her rights (happened multiple times), why not: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…

3) I have never seen anything in copyright law related to art/design/craft that says that you can make one copy for personal use. But, if that is true, it may be prudent to consider whether sharing your copy online and using it to encourage others to copy goes beyond personal use. Sharing it online will likely alert the original artist of your copy, and if it’s in a post about how to copy the item, you may have to defend your actions. Hopefully, the artist will only ask that you remove the post, the images and not share or distribute the files to anyone.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on this here and for everyone’s efforts to discuss this.

John W. Golden

I think you definitely did the right thing by removing it since you didn’t hear back from them. But I don’t think you ever did anything wrong as you never claimed the design or product as your own or something that you created yourself. I didn’t see the original DIY, but I don’t see how you could have “deplored” the designers when you weren’t aware of it and you DID credit Anthro originally.

I know that when I feel extremely frustrated and have nowhere to let my frustration out I end up crying. I hope that the support helps!

Tang

@darla , sorry , I didn’t read your comment before i commented . I now see where it’s all coming from . Thanks for pointing it out .
Just my opinion on the negativity towards brittni’s intentions here .. She has always pointed out the source of images , D.I.Y’s etc . I don’t think the intention was anything else but to demonstrate how to make the necklace .
This sure is a hot topic now .. It would be wise to be mindful of the people on the other side of the screen – they do have feelings . We have to respect them .

Lakshmi
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