Understanding Copyright Laws
Prior to Things for Wings, I had a craft business, not know much about copying and competition, I had a business steal mine right out from under me. She used my photographs, and set up her own website, selling my designs. You will notice all of my images have watermarks on them, this is the reason. I am very protective over my toy designs.
Things for Wings Brand Toys are like no other. The unique ideas coupled with my knack for design have set the toys apart from the average bird toy maker. Over the years I have had many people try and replicate my toys, my ideas, my themes, my wording, my site, my ~collections~, my colour schemes etc. I have designed parts and had them made specifically for my toys, only to find out the manufacturer began selling them to other toy makers. The more popular Things for Wings becomes, the more this issue is something I deal with regularly.
It is a hard pill to swallow when I spend almost every waking minute coming up with something unique, then to find another just take that idea and profit from it, to me, it is theft. The more I allow for another to use my ideas in their own way, the more diluted my originality becomes.
Copyright has existed for hundreds of years (it even predates the US Constitution). The underlying idea is to give creators of certain works the right to control the reuse and distribution of that work (whether an exact copy or a modified version).
Copyright law says that a work has to be "original" to be protected. "Original" doesn’t mean innovative. "Original" in the legal sense means that the creator didn’t copy anyone else. Under copyright law, you are not entitled to use someone else’s work as a basis for your own. You have to originate your own works, creating them from scratch. For example, in one famous case, a photographer was found to have copied the photograph of another artist even though he used a different model and location. The details of the second photograph were so similar to the first (the look, layout and subject matter) that the court found copyright infringement.
Copyright is intended to strike a balance between freedom to be inspired and protection for those who create. For example, facts are not covered by copyright. Utilitarian works, such as instructions or recipes, are not covered. Everyone is free to use ideas and information. Copyright only extends to the unique expression of ideas, not the idea itself.
Copyright is not intended to limit sharing of ideas and does not cover the underlying idea itself. So the painter of a landscape can’t stop other people from painting landscapes. They can only stop other artists from using their specific painting as a basis for another work.
Though copyright does not cover ideas, to the extent the idea can be expressed in many different ways, each expression will be protected by copyright. But the components of expression, such as individual words and phrases or individual shapes and design elements, are not protected. The expression has to extend beyond the individual components. The simpler the design, the less protection provided by copyright.