Pop along to this site and scroll down to admire the many colour options for a “traditional design” being sold. Except that it’s my Ali’s Dish #2. If you are able, please leave a comment to this effect!
Update. They claim they thought the design was traditional. I suggested a royalty and asked for creator credit, but said they they would rather remove the items. This isn’t the way to make friends or money, IMHO
Jennifer Linderman contacted me on FB with a question – I thought I’d share this and my answer, in the best Listeriine tradition!
Hi Nick! I have an Origami copyright/design question. Last year when we had our Christmas Origami design competition I designed an model. Am I considered the original designer of this model and any derivative of this model would still require that I receive credit for the design? According to Robert Lang’s site he says: a modification of a creative work is considered a derivative work and the original composer retains rights in the work. Can you please clarify the rights regarding an Origami design/model? Thank you for your time.
There’s no simple answer. Yes, knowingly derivative users should contact & credit you, but that’s assuming a) they’d seen your design and b) they created theirs afterwards. The chance that it was created independently still exists and whilst we like to think our designs are unique and seen world-wide, it’s unlikely to be so!
If I come up with a model that seems original to me, I always try to find if someone else got there first – I have a few contacts who are extremely well-versed in origami who can usually confirm or refute the originality. In the end, it’s just pot-luck whether you find a matching design, even if it’s out there. Then comes the issue of “what differences are there” and whether these differences are significant enough to give the design some credibility as new work.
Sometimes I see a model, like the concept and use it as inspiration for a totally different model – it’s impossible to say at what point it becomes original, if ever. All you have in the end are your contacts and your own sense of morals. As I’ve said before, we stand on the shoulders of giants every time we being a new design. I seen “my” designs rediscovered many times, I generally wish them the best of luck in their creative path. What else can you realistically do?
However, even if they did “borrow” work, they can still just thumb their nose at you. There is little, if any, legal precedent for this and the law will vary from country to country. Even Lang’s recent case, whilst it could be viewed as successful in many ways, was settled out of court.
It had to happen – so many origami artists are being ripped off but nobody was (or, to be truthful, financially able) prepared to put their neck on the line to protect them in the courts. Robert Lang has done this, on behalf of himself and Manuel Sirgo Alvarez, Noboru Miyajima, Nicola Bandoni, Toshikazu Kawasaki and Jason Ku.
Basically, crease patterns of their designs have been turned into “works of art” by UK artist Sarah Morris. Her lawyer has said the case is “completely without merit, and we look forward to defending the matter in court”.
However, we know better. We should therefore do everything we can to promote and support Lang’s case. If this means financially, I’m certain we can organise a fund-raising effort to help. It’s a hugely important test-case for origami rights.
You can read full details on Lang’s site. If any of you out there has ever exhibited or shown crease patterns or decorated crease patterns, please let him have details – it may just help.
as standalone art
When questioned about the morality of producing and exchanging illegal ori-e-books, a standard answer is, well, many classic books are long out of print and so hard to find. It’s easy to see this as a justification, except that the whole perspective is skewed by the prevalence of file-sharing and the common belief that “if it’s out there for free, why shouldn’t I have it?”
I watched a documentary last night on the singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith and was struck by several tracks from his new CD. I’m certain I could have found a torrent and be listening to it within half an hour, but how are musicians (and origami authors) to survive if their readers / fans adopt this attitude wholesale? I admire this mans work immensely, so adding an extra sale is the least I can do.
We should also cast our minds back to the 70s, when it was still just about possible to own every origami book in the world, with some effort. Folders then had no internet, no CDs, no computers! Yet they managed to sustain themselves from the available resources they had and if they wanted a specific book, they had to contact 2nd hand book shops and spread the word.
I’m not suggesting we set the clocks back, it’s out there and I don’t see how it can be stopped. However, today’s web-savvy folders take many things for granted and have scant defense when you question file-sharing (“I’d never download one of your books Nick!”)
I should say, I have a chequered history of music torrenting myself, but I am trying to improve! The fact that you can get away with dubious/illegal activities doesn’t mean, as moral beings, that we should. At every turn in our life we make decisions. I’d also argue that the joy of having an obscure book found on ebay (such as the Honda book shown here) come through the letter-box is hard to beat. The day I have my library on a hard drive is the day I shall turn my toes up & sleep the eternal sleep.
Browsing through Saj Kahn’s origami forum I’ve noticed a growing trend that I think of as “origami anarchists”. The basic tenet seems to be that all origami should be free and that creators don’t have the right to place any restrictions on how their work is used. This attitude causes a lot of grief to designers – Joseph Wu, as just one example, has only to post a photo of a new design and there are floods of messages “Great work! Where are the diagrams?”. A natural enough request, to be sure. Joseph is generally polite enough to explain that a) he doesn’t have time to diagram all his creations and b) that even if he did make diagrams, there is no reason why he should make them available on the web.
Most people understand and although disappointed, accept the situation. However, a vociferous minority argue the point, asking him what right he has to restrict use of his work. They justify their argument by stating that origamists have always shared their work, implicit in which is that origami fails to qualify for standard copyright practises. Sharing of origami is indeed a key reason why our art is so popular and the majority of designers are wonderfully free with their work. However, they still have a right to control how their work is propagated and shared. Yoshizawa was noted for the tight hold he kept on his work. Having permission to include a Yoshizawa design in your book was a rare privilege, nobody told him what he could do with his work!
It was common practice in the 60s and 70s to produce a book made of models from other books. Certainly, many people thought origami was public-domain or traditional. The problem continues to this very day. although to a lesser extent because most (sadly not all) books are written from within the origami community and are highly respectful of each other’s work. In Germany, Irmgard Kneissler and Zulal Ayture-Scheele borrowed freely and without credit. I did meet the latter once, but she was very glamorous and I (cough) failed to discuss the relevant moral issues with her. It may be that this common misconception about origami copyright, allied to the sharing ethic sowed the seeds for the idea that it’s “all up for grabs”.
Like everyone else, I’m frustrated when I can’t get to fold a great model I’ve seen, or when someone told me I couldn’t use a model in the BOmag because they were “saving it for a book”. However, artists of any kind call the shots. It’s their work and they don’t have to share it!
I have many dealings with advertising agencies, who in the main have no conception of how origami is created or the proper way to use it in their campaigns. Thus it is that there have been an increasing threat of court cases and legal exchanges over origami. A small number of people who were particularly concerned with “origami rights” have formed an organisation to support each other and other creators whose rights are being abused. Origami Authors and Creators (OAC) has four key aims;
1. To promote the authorised and legal use of our original origami work.
2. To maintain control of our intellectual property.
3. To protect against unauthorised use and distribution.
4. To prevent copyright infringements and internet piracy.
As a voluntary group, resources and time are limited to what the individual members can offer, but problems are discussed, possible solutions recommended and the necessary steps are taken. They have a website www.digitalorigami.com/oac where you can find out more about their valuable work and how to support it.
Also sold as “the Origami Artists Bible”, this is a classic example of repackaging at its worst. Every single model within has been published before by Quarto and has simply been redrawn. Some of the models are credited to the creators, but many are not (Brill, Jackson etc). Worse than that, some have been credited wrongly.
Despite there being many of my designs within, I’ve only been actually credited once, for “use of his dollar bill rhino”, when a) it’s just a photo, b) not my photo and c) the rhino is by Stephen Weiss. One of my designs has been credited to Alain Georgeot. Add to that the fact that they borrowed the title of a existing book of mine, you can imagine why I feel somewhat miffed.
There is absolutely no excuse for this slipshod approach to accreditation. Whilst I grudgingly accept they probably have the legal right to ransack their own back catalogue in this fashion, I have worked several times with the editor in question and she knows how important proper accreditation is. It would have taken fifteen minutes to identify the creators and give them their due credit. Needless to say, none of the creators were contacted in advance for permission and none have received a complimentary copy.
They have offered to make amendments for future print runs, but but nothing said about permission, it’s already too late and really shouldn’t be necessary. It’s no wonder creators are beginning to be far less free with their work and ultimately, publishers like Quarto will cut their own throats if they wish to continue presenting exciting new origami models. I urge you all to spurn this book as you would a rabid dog, even if it’s cheap in a remainder shop!
My new book will be released soon, but I’ve already identified an error, which is depressing. The design included under the title “curly box”, which I thought was traditional, turns out to be the “flower box”, by Fumio Inoue. I found this on three sites listed as traditional and asked a usually reliable source, who didn’t recognise it, so I felt safe to go ahead. It turns out to have been published in a BOS convention pack from 15 years ago, so I may well have seen it at some stage, but didn’t remember.
There’s little to be done at this stage, other than make a note to correct it should a second pressing take place. However, I’d very much like to apologise to Inoue-San and have made efforts to contact him – I’m hopeful he’ll understand.
I always strive for the proper attribution and to get appropriate permission before publishing any model, so it’s embarrassing as well as frustrating when one slips through the net. Using the fantastic “origami database” can be helpful, but it relies on you knowing either the creator, the name of the model, or preferably both. There are a zillion “origami boxes” on the web, (2,250,000 via google in 0.21 seconds), so even google images doesn’t necessarily give you the answer. If you have any bright ideas about tackling this issue, please share them.
I recently spotted this t-shirt featuring Dave Venables’ immortal and majestic duck. There’s a whole swathe of similar merchandise on this site, all, I’m fairly certain, without Dave’s permission. It’s depressing how some people will do anything for a dollar. Richly ironic as well, this is the only original design Dave has ever created!
I found a site selling t-shirts with two of my designs on. They’d simply taken the diagrams from my site and started selling them! I had a protracted e-mail exchange with the culprit, who initially claimed they were his own designs!
Eventually he ‘fessed up and to be fair, removed them from the site. You just never know what’s going on behind your back, that’s why the Origami Artists & Creators are so important, helping to police things.
There seem to be an endless number of sites who allow you to upload images and generate income from various types of merchandise. You may have seen Dave Venables impressive merch site.