There is a great deal of controversy going on in the needlepoint world right now about this issue. Yes it’s true that there is plenty of illegal copying of needlepoint going around. Yes it’s true that there are plenty of canvases out there that should be licensed but are not.
It’s also true that many designers take great pains properly to license their work and many artists who make significant money from licensing their work to specific designers
But there are also folks who are taking it upon themselves selectively to police things they see as “infringements” and we are all the worse for it. The questions of copyright and licensing are complex enough that lawyers who practice this kind of law are specially trained.
If you think you know something about this, you are right to ask questions and be concerned. It’s highly unlikely that you know enough to pass judgement. You don’t.
Today we’ll use a specific case as an example. Let’s be clear from the start, I am not making a judgement about this canvas, I’m just pointing out how hard it is to tell where infringement begins.
When it comes to consumer products everybody “knows” the things associated with products and brands. That’s why we can identify items by their silhouettes. A dachshund has a different silhouette from a cat. You would not use one to be the other.
In this case it was a needlepoint of a perfume bottle. You see it at the top of the article. It’s a square bottle with a stark black and white label. The number 5 is on it.
But, in reality how close is it? You’ll find a picture of the actual bottle, from Fragrantica, below.
Looking at the two I see several differences:
- the needlepoint bottle is more square than the actual bottle
- the perfume is a different shade of gold, it’s lighter than some, but darker than others
- the label is a different shape, rectangular instead of square
- there is less writing on the needlepoint label
- the words on the needlepoint bottle are in a different order
- the seal and band is a different color
- the seal does not have the double C of the real bottle
- there is no gold in the neck or band of the needlepoint bottle
- the actual stopper is wider and more rectangular
Are these things enough to make it similar but different? I don’t know, but the important point is neither do you. It’s irresponsible of self-appointed police who have no training in these laws to make judgements.
A artist recently pointed out that if a design is licensed then the designer generally points that out or the canvas carries the artist’s name.
What can you as a needlepointer do?
- If you are in doubt about the legality of an image, don’t buy it.
- Ask at your needlepoint store about designs of concern to you.
- Shops ask the designers about these designs.
It’s up to us as stitchers to ask the questions, just as it’s up to designers to know the rules and to create properly authorized designs.