but something happened to me last night that I feel I need to address - and to share some advice with other bloggers and designers.
As my followers know, I love to share my Cricut and other designs with all of you, and I never sell them. They are free for the taking - with limits. They are MY creations, and they are MY property. They are protected as such by copyright laws. I have a disclaimer right here on the main page of my blog stating the conditions under which you may use them.
Unfortunately, as I was blog hopping last night, I stumbled upon a blog where the owner had taken a number of things from my site and used them on hers, including ALL of my Design Studio files. To her credit, she did leave the file names intact, and they include my full name; however, she had stored them in her own library at box.net and linked directly to them from her blog. When you went to that library, it said it was created by her, making it appear to some that it was her stuff. "The Legal Stuff" statement on my blog specifically states, "If you post information about my files to any blog, web site, message board, mail group or other public forum, please direct users to this blog rather than attaching the file itself or emailing it." Ironically, she had also taken my "legal stuff," containing this wording, and posted it on her site. She had changed a few words here and there, but it was so close to mine - including my phrasing and punctuation - that it was what grabbed my attention and made me dig deeper into her site whereupon I found my files. She even used the button that I created on my site to link people to her library.
Now, I know when I post files here and make them free, that I take a certain amount of risk. That being said, my designs are legally protected, as are any designs from any other site that you might download things from. It is up to me to grant permission for use as I see fit. The first thing you should do when downlaoding a file is ALWAYS read the designer's/author's terms for how their files can be used.
You might be asking yourself why I care so much that someone is offering my files on her site if I'm giving them away free anyway. Well, here's why: Crafting is relaxing, therapeutic and fun for me. It's my ME time. Because I work full-time, I don't craft to make money. I share my work with others for free because it makes me happy to see my work enjoyed and put to good use. I LOVE to get photos from people who have made my projects. I get ideas from YOU about how to dress them up. I get inpiration when you contact me. Does it make me mad when someone takes that project and tries to make it look like it's theirs, even if it's in a passive way? You bet it does! It's just not the right thing to do to someone. A person who tries to pass my work off as their own isn't taking money out of my pocket, because I don't do it to make money. They're taking my JOY!
From a more practical point of view, it needs to be said that, many of my designs have taken hours to design, test, tweak, test again, cut and embellish, take photos, write the tutorial and post to my blog. For example, I spent an entire Sunday completing the one that I'm unveiling tomorrow. My file hosting site shows me statistics so that I know how many times a specific file is downloaded. It gives me an idea of what all of you like. It inspires me to create more projects to share based on what kinds of projects seem to be used the most. If people are getting them somewhere else, I have no way of tracking that.
I think 99% of people who use files from other designers appreciate what goes into them and do the right thing. I choose to believe so, anyway. So how do I prevent my work from being used improperly? How do you? It's simply not possible to completely guard against that, but it is possible to educate others about the proper etiquette and the legal issues. I truly believe that many, if not most incidents of "stolen" items are innocent mistakes.
Protect your work. It's worth taking the time to protect your photos by watermarking them. Make sure you post copyright notices on any written tutorials you create. If it's a video tutorial, add a copyright statement to the video itself. When you share your files, put your name in the file name itself. For example, I use this format when naming my files: test_file_CINDY_MCVEY.cut. Sure, someone can change a file name, but it's one more step they have to take to use your projects, and in my recent case, she didn't even bother to do so. It would have been very time consuming since she took about 50 of them! If you're not comfortable using your real name, use your message board name or email identity - something that will be your file "watermark."
There are many tutorials out there about how to watermark a photo. I can't give specific instructions here, because it all depends on what graphics program you use. Do a google search for watermarks for your specific software, and you will find lots of info out there. You might have to wade through them to find a good one, but they do exist. People on the internet are very generous and willing to share their knowledge. You might start with youtube.com if you're a visual learner.
UPDATE: I now have video tutorials about 2 different methods of creating and using your own watermark. Click here to go to my tutorials page.
I'm fairly new to the Cricut blogging world, but I'm not new to the craft industry, and I'm very "old" at posting on the internet. I built a Disney website completely from scratch about 15 years ago that had a lot of copyrighted images on it that I created with Disney content. I had permisson from Disney to use them, but they appeared all over the internet in a very short time on sites that lifted them from my site and did NOT have permission from me or Disney. I also have some limited experience with copyright laws, as I was published in an international craft magazine many years ago, and I have a "real" copyright for that design, filed with the United States Copyright office in Washington, DC.
"You do NOT have to have an actual piece of paper that says your design is copyrighted. Any original works from 2002 to the present are automatically copyright protected from the moment of their creation. You may still register a copyright in order to establish the date of copyright protection and provide better protection against copyright infringement, but it’s not necessary to register a copyright in order for a work to be protected."
This is important to designers like us, because most of us have no intention of going to the trouble and expense of actually filing a copyright application for every design. I could do that, but it would cost me time and money, and that would mean that I couldn't share my projects as often or as quickly, and I'd have to charge for them to recoup my expenses. I don't want to have to do that - and I don't have the time to!
Here is a link from the United States Patent and Trademark Office that explains copyright in pretty simple terms, if you're interested in reading more about it:
A Copyright Refresher
I didn't come into this blog naively thinking everything I posted was "safe." That never makes it less disappointing and disheartening when it happens to you. So, what can you do with files and photos you get from my blog? Here are my terms: (and you DO have my permission to use these DOs and DO NOTs)
DO use my files for personal projects
DO use my files to make gifts
DO post photos of your own projects made using my files , but give me credit and point people to my blog to get the file - and send me the photos! I love to see your completed projects!
DO share my blog address with others so they can follow me, too!
DO NOT sell my files alone or in any package
DO NOT use my files in any class, tutorial or make-and-take without my prior written permission
DO NOT use my files to make projects for any contest
DO NOT use my files to make products intended to be sold without my prior written permission
DO NOT post my files in any public forum, web site or mail group
DO NOT email my files to others. Sure, you can send it to your next door neighbor or the 3 ladies you scrap with on Thursday nights, but I'd rather that you introduce them to my blog so they can follow me, too!
Basically, if you know in your gut that you shouldn't do it, it's probably wrong - and illegal. You should follow these guidelines for ANY project you get from another online source, even if it's not stated that it's copyrighted. As I stated above, it's copyrighted automatically and the author is not required to state that in order to be protected. Play it safe and ASK PERMISSION before you do anything that you wouldn't want done with YOUR hard work! You might be surprised at how generous the designer is!
If you've read this far, THANK YOU for "listening!" I love my newfound Cricut friends and followers, and you can rest assured that this won't stop me from creating and sharing!
FOR OTHER BLOG OWNERS, feel free to link to this article from your blog to help educate your followers and maybe help other designers protect themselves.
UPDATE: The person in question has removed everything that she copied or took from my blog. There are some things there that she apparently took from others, though. I DID receive a response from the blog owner. Her email had gone into my spam folder. I apologize to her for saying that she had not apologized to me.
UPDATE 2: Thanks to HappyHappyJoyJoy from Holidays with the Cricut for this advice: "Go to My Free Copyright and sign up right away. Then, put the info on your blog. What that does is put a digital time and date stamp on anything you post on the blog (within a POST, so be sure and introduce the files in a POST). Then, it shoots you an email about it with the time/date stamp. It's so you don't get into a contest over who posted something first.
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- ▼ January 2010 (24)
- Cindy McVey
- Midlothian, Virginia, United States
- Lifetime crafter, beginning with sewing clothes for my troll dolls when I was 5. Stampin' Up! demonstrator since 2000. Wife of almost 30 years to my high school sweetheart and planning on 30 more! Mom to 2 great kids and one awesome new son-in-law. "Mom" to 3 furkids, Pomeranians Roxy and Lulu, and a Calico cat, Sugar aka "Miss Fattypants." Addicted to all things Disney!