Archive | October, 2013

Intellectual Property and Copyright – are you ripping anyone off?

25 Oct

Tusken Traders on Etsy

This week, Rhianna successfully sued Top Shop for printing a photograph of her on a vest. They paid the photographer for the image, but because Rhianna is a celebrity, even though they were legally in the right, she won the case and will receive millions in compensation. This is because it looked as if they were trying to recreate official merchandise, or that in some way the singer endorsed the shop and/or vest. Yes, even though they bought the photo from the photographer, because it’s of her, she’s still entitled to say how it will be used. It’s called ‘passing off’ and is why a fake designer bag is also illegal.

I shared this blog post about the whole thing, because the tips are useful – it got me chatting with a friend about intellectual property, and how we’ve both been feeling a bit weird about it this week. As she is busier than me, and my thumb is swollen so anything I make is a bit shonky, I decided to do more research and satisfy us both on where the line is drawn, or should be drawn, and who might be on the wrong side of it.

I’m still amazed that anyone believes you can just use any image from the internet for whatever you want – this is discussed in the post I’ve linked to above, but in case you can’t be bothered reading it, just because something is online, doesn’t mean it’s free to use. If you need an image for a blogpost, for example, you should search for royalty free images.

I’m often asked why I won’t print out images myself to make into badges – and it’s because of this exact problem. If someone brings me a print out, I assume they own the right to that image, and if they don’t, it’s not me that’s done it. It’s a narrow line, but one I respect. I will NEVER print out images of a singer, actress, film scene, whatever – any that I do have are taken from recycled books and magazines. If I’m lucky enough to have an image of the singer you want in my box of circles, that’s different.

Or is it? If I use a cut out from a magazine of, say, John Taylor of Duran Duran (as I did last weekend), is that really ok? Is John Taylor going to find Sonia and make her get rid of her badge because he didn’t say I could use it?

Well, I’m not trying to pass off the badge as official merchandise, for a start. Sonia made the badge out of the circle because she liked John as a teenager. I also didn’t print it out, and the photographer got paid, in the 1980s, for the photograph by Smash Hits – they then printed it, I bought the magazine, which is now in pieces. I’m not trying to profit from the image, it was just the one she chose for her badge.

There are people online who make stuff who don’t care as much as me about this. I’m not going to name brands, but there are jewellery makers who print images from films and put them into jewellery – all the time, but especially for Hallowe’en. I’ve lost count of how many Addams Family necklaces I’ve seen on Instagram this week, and I am absolutely sure the copyright for the images belongs to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, because I’ve checked IMDB. If the jewellery maker responsible has been in touch with MGM, I would be immensely surprised.

What about jewellery, and other clothing and accessories for that matter, which is ‘inspired’ by something? This is where things start to become blurred. If you’ve heard of Black Milk Clothing, you might have seen that they made Star Wars ‘inspired’ clothing, which led to a cease and desist order from Lucas Films – luckily for them they had the money to buy the rights, and continue to make the items, and presumably haven’t been so naïve about other ‘inspired’ items such as their Tolkein leggings.

However, not every ‘kitchen’ maker can afford to just buy the rights for a film, so we have to learn how to police ourselves. Most crafters won’t make anything with images from Disney, Lego or Harry Potter, but this ought to follow for every company, and we should give consideration to everything, not just the ones we know have good legal departments.

If you want to know what I mean, go to Etsy, and search for ‘fifty shades of grey’ – I’ll give you a minute.

I’m sure it’ll look different every day, but today I can see many things with handcuffs, ties, masks, quotes and the actual book cover on them. Are they all violating the copyright of the book? I’m sure you’ll agree with me about the book cover being a breach – but the quotes from the book, terrible as they are, are also under the copyright of the author – and whilst you may argue she’s earned enough from that book, the words are still hers, and stamping them on a piece of metal and clearly advertising it as them being words from the book is surely breaching copyright.

That was a book, and until the film finally comes out, they’re aren’t any photos of the fictional characters. Now let’s try that search with, for arguments sake, Breaking Bad. As it’s a TV show, there are screencaps from the show online, and I chose this particular show because I have a particular love for it, but also a possible problem with something I’ve produced.

I’ve been drawing ‘bromance’ designs and printing them as cards for about a year now, and recently had one design based on Breaking Bad removed from somewhere because of copyright issues. Because it’s a stylised drawing I did myself, I had never considered this before, but now it makes me wonder if I’m breaking copyright rules all over the place. I thought a playful homage which doesn’t use real photographs would be ok – but it’s using someone’s likeness, and, like Rhianna, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul could in theory sue me for making it look like they endorse my greeting cards.

Let’s go back to Etsy – there are 3000 items tagged with Breaking Bad, from t-shirts and greeting cards to prop replicas and jewellery. Some of them are ridiculous, some are genius, and in my eyes, I think I know exactly which are infringements of copyright and which aren’t. The real issue is that most people will see where the line is drawn differently, and I bet every single item is a breach.

This t-shirt it’s clear to see simply cannot be endorsed by Aaron Paul. The cost alone should be enough of a clue, but the fact they have loads of t-shirts with photographs of famous people on them means they probably haven’t given a thought to who owns any of the copyright.

I can guarantee these stitch markers aren’t breaching any copyright – I’m also amazed that the maker managed to find a gas mask charm. This necklace on the other hand uses a photograph of Bryan Cranston in character, which seems unfair to the photographer, actor and the person who wrote the character to be honest.

What about this print? It’s a print of an original drawing, so it should be ok… but it still uses Bryan Cranston’s likeness, so is it a breach?

The trouble is, again, you’re probably going to say, ‘they’ve made enough money with that show, who cares?’ – and I’m inclined to agree. What I have a problem with is small designers being ripped off. We see a lot about big companies stealing independent designs, and I totally agree that needs highlighting. But what concerns me more is when small companies are ripped off by other small companies.

This theft doesn’t seem to be talked about as much. I’ve started writing blogs about 3 different independent companies in the past who I believe are the wrong side of the copyright line, both stealing from big brands and from small companies, and every time I’ve decided not to finish them. It seemed like sour grapes because they made jewellery, and I also couldn’t be sure absolutely everything I made was the right side of the copyright line and didn’t want to seem a hypocrite.

In my experience, someone who isn’t at least a little bit concerned about using a photograph of Bryan Cranston, won’t have any qualms about what they use from ANY source. They might end up using an illustration by one of my friends, or a photograph taken by one of my friends, or a photograph of one of my model friends – and not feel any remorse about it. I’m not suggesting it’s malicious at all, I merely mean I don’t think they’ll have given any consideration to it in the slightest.

I think the point of this blog has become this – just think about intellectual property rights when you’re making items. If you give it even the slightest bit of consideration and decide you’re on the right side of that blurry line, go for it – but I urge you to make sure that if you are using an image you didn’t photograph yourself that you think about the person who did.


Someone who would like to remain nameless has asked me to point out a small company who is nicking other small company designs. Funnily enough, it’s someone I nearly wrote a blog about.

This time, I feel I can easily post the links to these two items, because it’s blindingly obvious.

Berkley Illustration on Etsy have a shop full of prints of illustrations of animals with clothes on, including this cheetah one.

Cherry Loco have a shop full of varying designs using items from films and television, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Superman, Minions, Nightmare before Christmas, to name but a few, and she has recently listed this

The fact it’s named ‘leapard (sic)’ is just further proof that Berkley produced the original image.

It seems to me that the theory that someone who will steal images from big businesses will have no problem stealing from small designers holds true, in this case at least. Embarassingly for Folksy, she is a featured seller on the site – I’m not sure how that slipped through the net.


Making things with your hands, independent shop keeping, and pitfalls of both

20 Oct
In my shop, earlier this year

In my shop, earlier this year

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rethinking things, yet again. My business decisions have meant I’m interracting with yet another sort of person, and encountering more of the old problems coming up again, and some entirely new ones.

I both make and sell my own items, and I used to run a shop selling these items, as well as other items made by other people, or wholesaled from other UK companies. I think, even with my limited success with the shop, I have a good grasp of both sides of this equation.

There’s still a lot of confusion about pricing from people who have just started selling their handmade items. There are tons of great articles – I personally recommend the ones by Kim Lawler and Rowan Grant 

If you’re one of those people who can’t be bothered to read long articles about anything, then use my tip – if I’m asked by anyone if the price of their item is right, I simply ask if they’d be happy if I bought it off them for half the price they’re thinking of selling it at – if they aren’t, it’s priced wrong.

That may sound ridiculous – but it’s a really good rule of thumb! If you’re just starting out, you feel the price of stuff people make is too high and you can make it cheaper. You also think no one is ever going to pay the price which comes out when you do the equations suggested in those two above articles.

When I started out, I was underpricing. It wasn’t on purpose. I was basically selling everything at what is now my wholesale price because I was working out the cost of making it, and then doubling it, or more often than not, just adding a bit of what I considered ‘profit’.

I was asked if I wanted to sell sale or return somewhere, and they were going to take 20% of the final cost. I was totally gobsmacked. How dare they take 20%! I’d done all the making, what had they done?

Now I’ve run a shop like this, I can see that they weren’t taking enough, and that’s probably partly why they aren’t open any more as well. I used to take 40% on sale or return items, and if I was buying anything from people who made their own items, I expected wholesale to be 50% (or less) of the retail price, and most non-handmade items, I expected to only pay a third of the retail price.

There’s a lot involved in running a shop, and wholesaling items is risky for shop owners – it might be good for you as a maker, and I appreciate it’s the best way to run for the maker, but if you refuse to offer sale or return, especially to someone who has never stocked your items, then no matter how successful you are, if they’re a very small shop they probably won’t buy anything from you

Shops operate on different methods – shelf renting, commission, a combination, some ask you to work, some don’t. But the best shops which sell your items will take a decent amount off you (whether it’s a large %, rent, or a combination), and you can trust them for that. If they aren’t taking enough, they won’t have money to advertise, and their shop won’t be frequented, so you won’t sell anything.

As a shop, if you don’t do your sums properly, you’ll be the one doing all the work and not getting anything in return. That shop which only took 20% – if they spend a day in their shop, and only sold one of your items and then have to give 80% to you, they’re going to regret it, and it’ll be their fault – I know this, because I have done this.

Before I realised I wasn’t charging enough, some days I’d be really pissed off that someone else was getting the lion’s share of the takings from the day when I was the one who had spent a whole day sitting in my shop, paying for the card machine, the carrier bags, spending the day on social media imploring people to come and visit me….

So that’s why I started charging 40% – if I opened a shop now, it would be 50%. I know of some gallery shops which charge 75% of the final cost, and this is spoken about in hushed tones because it seems ridiculously high.

But when I changed my shop, I also started wholesaling items which weren’t handmade, and this is when I found out that most shops pay a quarter of the retail price – for everything they sell. This is how they manage to hire people to work behind their counters, to do their advertising, to write copy for them, take photos for them…

In order for small shops to survive they need to realise this – you need to charge enough commission from creative people without ripping yourself off, and without ripping them off.

As for creative people, you need to start charging enough that you can give more commission to these shops to keep them open, so you can keep selling in them. I’ve heard people saying they need to put their prices up in order to accomodate the 10% being charged – in my eyes, this means they really don’t understand pricing, and are surviving on passion.

So if you start stocking your handmade items somewhere which is being run by another creative person, and it seems you’re being ripped off, have a good long think. You’ll probably realise you’re really not.

Two weeks of cold turkey

10 Oct

Just a quick update as it’s World Mental Health Day

I saw my GP and was a bit disappointed in him. He asked me if I wanted to lower my dose any more, even though I’m not on anything, and asked if I wanted more ‘happy pills’ – I’m sure in my last post I said that ADs aren’t happy pills, so why is my doctor calling them that?

He also started talking about my weight, and how if I’m going to lose weight, I need to eat less. Not only would this be patronising to anyone, I found it particularly bad because I have a well documented history of eating disorders on my medical history at my surgery, and I told him last time that I didn’t want to lose weight thank you, just be healthier, and I didn’t believe that the two things were necessarily one and the same thing. I also said that I’d like to just get my withdrawal over and done with without even considering weightloss, as in I can eat what I want as long as I don’t kill myself – better fat than dead.

Now is when I usually go into stubborn mood, and prove that I can lose 3 stone, or prove that I’m not listening to him by gaining even more weight – I’m determined this won’t happen, and I’ll just become fitter by getting on the rowing machine… should my aching bones allow it.

No Bra Day

8 Oct

Yesterday, like many of you, I saw this graphic being shared online.

The first thing I thought was ‘Oh I wish I could join in, but there’s no way I’m not wearing a bra’

But then I took a second, and thought about it. I thought, oh hang on, how does this raise awareness in any way? It reminded me of those stupid things which get shared around women’s messaging system saying ‘put your bra colour as your status, let’s confuse men and raise awareness – but those things, while not useful, at least don’t do any harm.

The more I thought about this, the more I thought it’s actually harmful to women. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but there was something I didn’t like about the use of the word ‘tatas’.

This morning, I saw a link to this fantastic blogpost which is pretty much the last word on why this image doesn’t work on many levels. It points out that the wording is weird as well – ‘support breast cancer’? What does that even mean?

It got me thinking.  Who made this image anyway? Is there such a thing as ‘no bra’ day?

Well, yes there is – it was on July 9th. This post seems to add Breast Cancer as an afterthought, and sounds like ‘No Bra Day’ (NBD) is actually about celebrating women. This post about the third annual NBD is also confused as to the point of it – ‘is it a grassroots Breast Cancer Awareness program?’

I looked, and the first instance of an October NBD is here – and the copy seems to be cut and pasted from that first link above. I’ve spent a couple of hours, seriously, trying to find the origin of this October 13th NBD, and every google result is just someone saying ‘It’s No Bra Day’ and sharing the same graphic.

Unfortunately, this post shows how sexualised NOT wearing a bra becomes. As many women will already be aware, if you suggest you’re not going to wear a bra, there’s usually a man comes along and offers to support them with their hands (fourth rule of the internet or something isn’t it?). There are many posts from men saying ‘oh hell yeah, I support it’ or from women saying ‘my boyfriend is looking forward to it’.

So I pretty much agree with this post here – that image for ‘set the tatas free’ day was created by a man – the author suggests that a woman would have got the ‘support’ message correctly. I’m also sure that not many women call their breasts ‘tatas’ – correct me if I’m incorrect.

I did a bit more digging, and found this post, with what is clearly a crop of the original image, posted on October 13th 2013

So I went to that website, and found what is clearly the origin of the image at least. I translated the copy, and it roughly says the following.

Sunday is No Bra Day – what is it? A day where all women are invited to remove their bra and let their breasts free for a day.
Obviously women do not need a predefined date in the year to go without a bra . But each person participating in No Bra Day sees something else. A cause to defend , a commitment or a way to feel more free. Whether in a feminist commitment and wish to not feel constrained by your bra. Whether you just want to let your body breathe or want to support a cause , raise awareness of breast cancer. Each person sees different things in her bra during No Bra Day .

Are we getting somewhere? I feel we probably are. Everyone promoting NBD seems to do it for a different reason – and that’s great. If you want to not wear a bra for a day for any reason, brilliant. If you want to now wear a bra every day, it’s entirely up to you, they’re your breasts, it’s your life, do what you like.

What I don’t like is the attitude some people have towards NOT buying into it. Me saying I’m not getting involved made someone call me ‘miserable’ and ‘not getting into the spirit of it’, as if it meant I don’t want to support breast cancer awareness just because I will wear a bra on a particular day. If you know me at all, you’ll know my business gives a lot of money every year to Ovacome (well, a lot of money compared to my annual turnover – £120 last year) because I’m passionated about Ovarian Cancer Awareness.

I still don’t know who put those other words over the French image and reposted it this year. But I pretty much hate them. Simply not wearing a bra on a certain day doesn’t raise awareness of breast cancer – not unless you do it in conjunction with other awareness raising pursuits.

Instead of moaning though, here I present my top ten ideas for helping raise breast cancer awareness this month – I shared it early this morning on Facebook , and got such a great reaction, I thought I’d repost it here.

Better ways to help out during breast cancer awareness month than spending a day without a bra

No Bra Day - do whatever you like if it's worthwhile

No Bra Day – do whatever you like if it’s worthwhile

  1. Donating some money to a cancer charity, or if you don’t have any, by donating some stuff to a cancer charity shop – or even volunteering there
  2. Being aware that some men get breast cancer as well, so it’s not all about your boobs and bras, and definitely not all pink
  3. Learning how to properly check your breasts for lumps and actually doing it every month
  4.  Making sure your other female relatives also know how to check and do it regularly
  5.  Remembering that you are not defined by your breasts – some women don’t have mastectomies even though they’re potentially life saving because they’re sense of worth is so wrapped in up their breasts.
  6.  Call them breasts – not tatas
  7.  Go braless on that day, but tell people why when they ask, and get sponsored to do it or collect donations from people who ask why you don’t have a bra on
  8.  While we’re at it – most women know about breast cancer now don’t they? So let’s raise awareness of all female cancers – do you know the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
  9.  Remember some women have had mastectomies so posting photos of your own untouched boobs isn’t supporting them at all – it’s probably upsetting
  10.  Most importantly – sexualising breast cancer just because it involves breasts is a bit childish and trivialising so try not to do this wherever possible. It’s not really difficult

I had an anon comment I didn’t moderate asking me what I was going to do. So I put 20 Tiddles prints on eBay, with 50% going to The Breast Cancer Campaign – click here to buy one

What’s the brouhaha, Pesky?

6 Oct

By Sarah Fordham of Magasin


I’ve been busy trying to get my life into some sort of order since not having a shop.  I thought about what was important to me, and what wasn’t.


Encouraging people to be creative as a hobby and path to happiness.

Encouraging creativity as a way to help people with mental health difficulties.

Making people not feel stupid for being playful and silly

Getting experience teaching

Keeping interracting with people


Making a lot of money

Having people know who I am

Getting terribly worked up about anything which is stupid

I started looking around for things I wanted to do. Very quickly, I was told about Inkwell, and fell a bit in love with the whole idea, so much so, I became incredibly nervous because it mattered so much. I then went to see them eventually, and fell in love with them all so much I got even more nervous about starting to volunteer. Since I agreed to volunteer, I’ve been once – I really want to go more, because I enjoyed it A LOT and I can only assume I’m so nervous about going because of my meds and because GOD DAMN IT it matters to me. I still have a project to do for fundraising with them, which I don’t want to spoil just yet.

Around a similar time, I went to meet Loubie at Town Street Hub, and got myself involved in helping at a life drawing club – we didn’t have much attendance, but heck, I enjoyed the teaching bit. Now they’ve started a ‘chill and craft’ cafe on a Friday, so I’m going to start going. They actually asked me to go along and take the badge machine – the #travellingbadge is finally getting somewhere I think…. I’m even going to have craft kits and supplies on sale there

I also finally went to Handpicked Hall – I hadn’t been because of REASONS but I’m glad I finally did as I now have some stock there, and so am working there every Wednesday, either in the Bob-IN section, or as the #travellingbadge. This means I’m now in town once a week for meeting people who want to buy things, which was something I was badly missing before.

Finally, Kim is redoing my website so that the blog and the shop section etc are all in once place to better integrate the teaching/encouraging side of what I’m currently doing, as well as the selling of things I’ve crafted and drawn. Kim is an old friend, and knows me backwards, so everything she’s suggesting is hitting all my hot spots. The best thing is I should be able to eventually offer downloadable content for sale, and I’m definitely having a calendar because I’m confused myself.

So here you go, this is October

  • Wednesday 9th – 11-6 – Bob-in at Handpicked Hall
  • Thursday 10th – 3-5 – Craft Cafe at Inkwell – £3 entry (and you keep what you make)
  • Friday 11th – 11-2 – Chill and Craft at Town Street Hub
  • Saturday 12th – 1-5 – Fat Clothes Swap at Sheffield Hallam Union Hub – £1 entry – see below
  • Wednesday 16th – 11-6 – #travellingbadge at Handpicked Hall
  • Thursday 17th- 3-5 – Craft Cafe at Inkwell – £3 entry
  • Friday 18th- 11-2 – Chill and Craft at Town Street Hub
  • Saturday 19th – 10-1 – Indoor car boot at St Gemma’s Hospice – entry by donation
  • Wednesday 23rd- 11-6 – Bob-in at Handpicked Hall
  • Thursday 24th- 3-5 – Craft Cafe at Inkwell – £3 entry
  • Friday 25th- 11-2 – Chill and Craft at Town Street Hub
  • Wednesday 30th – TBC
  • Thursday 31st- 3-5 – Craft Cafe at Inkwell – £3 entry


NB You can buy a selection of my finished items from the Bob-in, and craft kits and supplies from Town Street Hub even when I’m not here