Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Intellectual Property

I had an interesting conversation with a weaving friend this afternoon, about teaching and intellectual property. Quite specifically, my friend said she thinks I have little respect for intellectual property because I took a class from her a couple of years ago in which we did woven shibori, and now I make and sell woven shibori. The fact is, I had Catherine Ellis' Woven Shibori book well before taking that class, and the class was merely a vehicle to jump start me into something I was going to do anyway. My friend did not teach me how to weave, the simple drafts we used, taken from Catherine's book, were simple weaving drafts in the public domain.

This friend would doubtless have even greater difficulties with this issue were she to investigate all the open source information on the internet these days, plus the fact that folks like me post photos and explanations of how to do things, woven shibori and otherwise. I feel we're all learning from each other. I wonder whether Catherine Ellis would feel that my friend had no respect for intellectual property because she now teaches a process that Catherine developed!

I try not to step on toes but I'm wondering how much this person might be feeling threatened by me. I did point out to her that while I am working at my art with the intention of selling it, her prerogative, in fact, is to be teaching the making of art. And that it might behoove her to loosen up her ideas of intellectual property, since in all likelihood some people are going to go forward with something they've "learned" from her.

Teachers have to be willing to let go of thinking that they own what they teach, to avoid becoming parochial (limited or narrow in scope or outlook). I make this as a general statement, yet it aptly describes what I dislike about the local guild I am in the process of divorcing myself from. There's no sense here of fostering artistic growth. In my guild, it's more like, "I'm teaching you this and you'd better not aim to do more with it than become a hobbyist or a dabbler, someone who collects information and techniques but never pushes the envelope."

In contrast, what I'm loving about blogging and having worldwide contacts of weavers and surface design artists, is that we're openly sharing information and ideas, inspiring each other, supporting each other, and reflecting objectivity and perspective.

So anyway, my friend said now she has to find some other weaving thing to focus on, since this is a small community and there apparently isn't enough room for two woven shibori artists here. No matter our work is different, our aesthetic is different, our dyes are different, and our marketing focus is different. The thing is, I highly suspect there are other woven shibori weavers in this area...matter of fact, there are many more fiber artists in Humboldt County than the 50 or so who belong to the guild at any one time. None of the better ones belong to the guild, and for obvious reasons.

Feels like excellent timing for me to be pulling out.


Anonymous said...

This seems like a very extreme reaction to an inevitable development - weavers learn to weave and then they go off and do... weaving!

Diana said...

Did your teacher invent woven shibori? If she didn't, isn't she violating the IP of the one who taught her?

What a ridiculous concept, that teachers own the IP of the material they teach. "Students, you must not actually USE anything you learn from me, or you violate my rights." Hey! With this one idea, we can stop all progress - scientific and creative. Yes, let's do that.

Keep making your beautiful art, Connie.

Connie Rose said...

Thank you both for your comments and compliments!

Taueret said...

that's insane- why does she teach if that's her attitude. Pretty funny actually- a bit like teaching a watercolour painting class and then not wanting the students to sell their own paintings later on?

Jane said...

Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, or embodied. Rather, copyright protection is limited to an author s particular expression of an idea, process, concept, and the like in a tangible medium. (source: US government)

So many fiber artists confuse these issues. A weaver may come up with the coolest technique for integrating several structures in one piece, but that technique does not belong to that weaver (because any number of other weavers throughout the world could have come up with it on their own since we all share common structures -- warp and weft.)

But what that weaver *could* own is a book about that she has written about that technique. Or a printed pattern using that technique written up in that person's own words.

If someone xeroxed that pattern and sold those xeroxes or distributed them other than strictly for educational purposes (fair use) then they are violating the person's copyright.

If someone feels that they have really 'invented' a totally unique technique, then they need to go through the process of applying for a patent on that technique. It is unlikely that they are going to be granted a patent unless is is really, really, really unique.

You have not violated anything where this person's rights are concerned.

It seems to me as if what she is wanting is some type of credit -- "give credit where credit is due" type of philosophy. For example if you're teaching a workshop, it's nice to say that she was one of your teachers, etc. I'm sure you already do this.

Weave on, dye laughing (as they say) and let your beautiful works speak for themselves.