Copyrights, are common concerns for craftspeople. If you've invented a unique product, you will more than likely want to protect it from others who can create knock-offs of your craft show gem at cheaper prices. Although it may be flattering to have created a craft item others want to duplicate, it can also be a nightmare to see your distinctive creation on the Home Shopping Network!
The United States Patent and Trademark Organization Web site is a good place to learn the differences between trademarks and patents and to learn what is best for your situation. For more information and to apply for a copyright go to Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.
Although attorneys may be costly, some offer free 30-minute consultations, so you may be able to find one who can tell you what's the best protection for your craft show product. If you find the costs are prohibitive for you to secure a trademark, patent or whatever you find you need, you'll just have to take your chances without one. Again, check with other crafters through shows and forums, as well as your craft organizations to find out what they've done to protect their crafts. Those who have come before you can ease your way so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of 'original works of authorship' including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly. This includes your craft show products.
The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.
Most people think of copyrights for books or music and not creative arts like paintings or crafts, but a copyright can protect all forms of creative expression and visual arts. Visual arts are defined as original pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, which include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art. Some examples are:
Artificial flowers and plants Artwork applied to clothing or to other useful articles Collages Dolls, toys Drawings, paintings, murals Enamel works Greeting cards, postcards, stationery Jewelry designs Mosaics Needlework and craft kits Original prints, such as engravings, etchings, serigraphs, silk screen prints, woodblock prints Patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework Reproductions, such as lithographs, collotypes Sculpture, such as carvings, ceramics, figurines, molds, relief sculptures Stained glass designs Stencils, cut-outs Weaving designs, lace designs, tapestries.
A copyright gives the creator of the product exclusive rights to produce, sell and distribute the item. When your work is created, it is automatically copyrighted, however, for optimum protection, it's best to apply for a copyright. When obtained, you can add the copyright symbol (c) on all your materials.
Copyright your designs, so you have legal proof in case someone copies your work. A copyright does not automatically keep someone from stealing your designs -ou'd have to find the culprit and enforce your rights, which may not be a simple matter and will require an attorney. Having the copyright, however, may deter someone from copying you, so at least that's a good place to start - and it only costs $30 per copyright!
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