One more time for the people in the back. Your Cricut machine does not make you an entrepreneur.
Harsh? Maybe. But it doesn't make it any less true.
Now, this is not to say that you can't be an entrepreneur with a vinyl cutter. Some of the most talented shop owners I know use vinyl. However, there is a big difference between them and the countless vinyl shops that are popping up all over etsy--originality. Now, I know what you are thinking, nothing is really original anymore. I will agree with that to an extent. Fashion has always been the same styles and ideas rehashed over and over. That being said, a true designer, a true entrepreneur, knows to put their own unique spin on things.
Original tees can be found at Gigi and Max.
The new trend in "crafting" is scouring Pinterest, Etsy, and your favorite small shop websites and using a Cricut or Cameo to trace a designer's original design. This in itself is shitty. However, things go to a whole new level when you choose to market and sell those designs as your own. Still shitty, but also illegal. According to copyright.gov, "Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." Original designs are copyrighted, and protected, the moment they are created.
As small shop owners, we spend a lot of time, money, and energy creating designs. We spend countless hours brainstorming, drawing, hand lettering, and designing in Photoshop and Illustrator. We take classes and seminars to improve our craft. It gets expensive. We spend time away from our husbands and children. Which is why we are adamant about protecting our work. We see what you say about us in your facebook groups. We know you get your panties in a wad when we are being "selfish" and "greedy" by protecting our intellectual property. Frankly, we don't give AF. We will not be made to feel bad for protecting ourselves against infringement.
Original tees can be found at Little Adventurers Apparel.
Let's address some of the common excuses we, as a small shop community, have heard when we have had to protect our intellectual property from infringement:
- I am just a mom trying to help provide for my family.
Which is exactly why you should empathize with our frustrations. We are also just moms trying to provide for our families. We aren't Target or Nordstrom. Every knock off sold of our designs takes food off of our tables and clothing off our childrens' backs. And not only are you stealing our money but you are stealing our time. Coming up with original designs takes time. Time that could be spent cuddling with our children, playing on the floor, and reading books. This is time we can never get back. So when you decide to take the easy way out by copying our original designs you are sending us a virtual slap in the face.
- I saw it on Pinterest.
So?! You see all kinds of essays posted online but it's still plagiarism if you choose to copy them. This isn't to say you can't use Pinterest for inspiration. Pinterest is great for finding quotes and ideas as to what is trending. The key is making these things your own. If you see a quote you love, use it. (I would first check to be sure it isn't trademarked. This can be done easily at uspto.gov.) Being an entrepreneur means that you take the time to come up with your own, creative, innovative, interpretation. If you aren't proficient in Illustrator and Photoshop then hire a graphic designer to bring your designs to life. Not only is this the moral highroad but it will help your customers take you more seriously as well. Shops who are innovative stand out and have staying power. If this is something you want to do to provide for your family, then you are also hurting yourself by choosing to be a copycat shop.
Original tee can be found at Still Rad/Mombie Brand
- I didn't know the design came from your shop.
99% of the time this is a flat out lie. Okay, maybe you didn't know it came from *my* shop specifically, but you knew it came from somewhere because you literally traced the image. You can easily google a phrase or do a reverse image search to see where the original design came from. If you love a design then purchase it from the original designer.
- I can't afford $20+ for a shirt/cup/sign/whatever.
Shopping small is expensive. I get that. Most of the small shop owners I know choose the highest quality, ethically sourced materials out there. We don't mass produce our items in sweatshops. We miss out on sleep and time with our families and our time costs money. If you absolutely love a design that you can't afford, approach us. We are human. We are empathetic. We often hold sales and have discount codes. If you approach us with kindness we are likely to work with you to the best of our ability. That being said, sometimes we just can't afford to lower our prices. We are often working to stay out of the red ourselves. We aren't rolling in the dough. If we can't afford to work with you and you want to make a shirt yourself to save money, that's okay. We get it. Just don't trace our designs or try to replicate them exactly. Change your fonts. Change your format. Add design elements that are special to you and your children. You can draw inspiration from our work without infringing on it.
- I've seen lots of copies all over Etsy and in my Facebook groups.
This is my personal favorite. Because others are copying that justifies you copying? What kind of backwards logic is that? I live in Baltimore City. I see people selling heroin on every street corner. That doesn't mean I'm not going to get thrown in jail if I get caught doing it.
Original sign from Homespun Signs
I'm sure I have ruffled a lot of feathers by posting this. Good. Our time and money is just as valuable as yours. We are going to fight to protect it. We are a community, we look out for each other, we work together, and we protect each other. We aren't going away. We will continue to protect our work. We will continue to notify our lawyers. We will continue to build our brands the legitimate and honest way.
Use that vinyl cutter to create your own original brand. Search for inspiration but use your own creativity and imagination. You are better than being a copycat shop that steals the intellectual property of others. The small shop community is one of the most amazing communities I have ever encountered. They will welcome you with open arms and do everything in their power to help you succeed. Use your creativity to do something good. I promise the extra effort is worth it.