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Friday, August 30, 2013


     That got your attention, didn't it?  While we all love a freebie, I used that title to call attention to a trend that is causing all of us beadwork designers a collective headache.  No this isn't another post about the legalities of copyright law because--like you--if I have to read one more argument about copyright law (with incorrect information put forth by both sides) I will run screaming from the room.  Sometimes, though, the question is not what is legal but what is ethical?
     Now, I know that most beaders are generous and ethical people who would never think of stealing from their favorite designers anymore than they would think of walking out of a store with merchandise they hadn't paid for.  Sadly, not everyone adheres to such high standards. We designers are facing a growing trend of owners of local bead shops taking a published pattern, maybe changing the design in a superficial way, and offering it as a class at their shop without permission of said designer.  Sometimes, the owners don't even change the original name of the design!  One of my personal experiences?  Last year, I got an email from a beader who essentially said that she wanted permission to teach one of my designs that had been published in Bead and Button, but it really didn't matter if I gave her permission because she was going to teach the class anyway.
     We all know that sometimes designers come up with similar patterns at the same time.  In those cases, it isn't a question of copyright infringement; it is more a case of great minds think alike.  Sadly, that is not the situation in a number of classes that have lately come to the attention of designers.
     In those cases, the bead store owner was caught teaching a designer's pattern without permission.  When confronted with the evidence, the excuse is always something like " I saw the finished piece on a customer and asked if I could teach it," or "I changed the design by 20% so it is mine," or yada yada yada.  The point is that the shop owner knew that it was wrong and had to come up with some excuse to justify her bad behavior.  One shop owner, when caught by two designers at the same time, actually had a form letter ready to send out to designers whose patterns she had stolen. A form letter?  How many times has she been caught stealing? 
     As you know, designers put in a lot of work to design a project, illustrate it, and write instructions for a pattern.  Very few of us make much money from our beadwork designs and people who teach our patterns without permission steal some of that small income.  It gets to the point where you wonder why you bother.  Knowing that they can't be everywhere, many designers are happy to license a class to a qualified teacher.
     My friend Sabine Lippert, who is the latest designer to have a pattern stolen, got tired of chasing the bad apples in the beading business and has inspired us to take positive steps.  She has designed a logo for ethical shop owners to display in their stores to let customers know that their store supports designers and does not steal from them.  You can see it at the top of the page.
     As a consumer, you can help your favorite designer (as well as protect yourself) by looking for the logo in the coming months and asking if a shop owner has a license to teach the class she is offering.  After all, if she will profit from another's hard work without permission, how can you be sure that she isn't skirting ethics in the merchandise she is offering?
     If you want to read more about the new logo, you can visit Sabine's website at try-to-bead.  For a shop owner's view of this troubling behavior, you can visit Beki Haley's blog at Dreambeadr.  We designers love the passionate members who make up the beading community and hope that we can get back to the fun part of creating and teaching.  Help us make that happen.


  1. What an awesome post! Thank you! :)

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  3. There is more afoot with the Bead Designers Alliance working on ways to educate the beading world. Stay tuned!