“Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Picasso

Have you experienced seeing someone at a craft fair or on the internet making stuff that is very similar to your handmade items or original design ideas? Did you see anyone setting up a shop with an almost identical name or branding to your own online handmade store?

Before anything else, I want to talk about that quote from Picasso! What does it really mean? For me, it means that a creation of art involves elements “stolen” from something else, or simple means, art came from inspiration – from other external factors.

A lovely painting steals an image of a place, person or thing, sculpture steals elements of artistic styles developed over centuries and a handmade soap steals techniques from other soap makers. The stolen elements are taken and enhanced into something better. Stealing is at the root of any innovation.

On the other hand, copying is very different from stealing. It imitates a creation not for innovation but to take advantage of a creation and duplicated it. It is also a form of stealing but without the originality implied in the Picasso quote. It is a shortcut to doing the actual work of taking an idea and making it your own.

Think about the time and effort the artist dedicated to create that stuff, the patience put into the creative process, and the joy they felt when they created something entirely unique to their style. It is very unethical and the people in the handmade world should seriously avoid doing this.

As most people know in the handmade business world, patent protection can provide a viable means of protecting the rights to designs and methods of creating handmade items. In many respects, copyright registration is the ideal means of protecting your designs from being “knocked off.”

However, you see big companies (even though they’re not handmade businesses) like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, etc. These companies can’t even stop copycats from copying their designs and selling it for a cheaper price.

So what you should know and what can you do as a handmade seller? Check this short but informative infographic from Folksy to stay protected:

Have you been accused of copying when in fact you haven’t copied their work? How have you dealt with copycats in the past? What are your questions about copyright? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to cover them in future posts.

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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