Copyright Law: Substantial Similarity

Susan started me thinking about this again. Very often on the boards you read about the “20%” rule…if a design is changed by 20% (how the hell can you know what constitutes 20%?!), then you are not violating any one’s rights. WRONG!!! My Needle Arts magazine just published an article written by a copyright lawyer that specifically states: “The [copyright] law uses the standard of substantially similar as their ruler for infringement. That can be confusing. A good rule of thumb is that when the average person can recognize the original work from the infringing work it infringes on the original designer’s copyright.” – pp 23, Needle Arts, Volume XXXIII, Number 2, June 2007

There is more info here on the EGA site, The Right Side of Copyrights.

Susan also found this link: What Rights Does Copyright Grant?: Substantial Similarity which really makes the point clear.

It is not often that we hear of one ID designer going after another for copyright infringement, but the more I read about this issue, there are a few folks who could definitely go after a few others. I think we need to be more careful and more respectful.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Stealing Designs and the “IDEA” of Custom « Taoknitter
  2. Amelia
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 15:28:22

    I suppose the problem I have with this is that there are only so many skirt styles, so many fabric combinations, so many embroidery designs, so many color combinations. You want your dress to be orriginal of course, but at this point with SO MANY different dresses you are bound to have simmilarities with another dress.

    Maybe two girls have the same exact blue fabric in the same exact place on their dress. Did the second girl steal that idea from the first girl or did she happen to have the same idea? Maybe two girls LOVE ladybugs. Is it stealing if both girls have a ladybug themed dress?

    What I’m trying to say is that yes, stealing a dress or even part of a dress is wrong but sometimes accidental similarities occur. And to me that’s not stealing or even “Substantial similarities.”

  3. taoknitter
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 15:39:42

    This post refers to when actual DESIGN ideas are stolen, not style ideas. “Substantial similarity” refers to being able to recognize someone else’s intellectual property in someone else’s work, not style re-interpretations.

  4. SMSG
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 15:56:57

    Amelia, quiet honestly, the law doesn’t really give a hoot if you have a problem or not. It isn’t about what you FEEL, it is about what is fact. Ann is just providing educational resources. What you personally decide to do is up to you and however you choose to rationalize your actions. Now you can’t say “I didn’t know” (not that ignorance was ever an excuse). If you’re just making for your own kid, you’d only have to deal with your family. But if someone pays you to make a dress and you copy something without permission, you’ve really opened a can of worms.

  5. Trackback: Stealing Designs and the “IDEA” of Custom « Taoknitter Arts

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