Doing Our Best
I have been through so much in my life that I can no longer count the number of times my world has been turned upside down by forces outside of my control. I guess Gahd feels I need more character building. To that I stand firm and say bring it on! Watch out world, there is more of me to come.
The last FIVE days have been hell for Andy and I as we became the target of a witch hunt on Facebook. The attacks were fast and furious and a quick response was demanded by our customers. A person used our business as a basis to commit fraud. Having no legitimate claims with us, he preyed on our customers using extortion tactics; preying on their fears and innocence to line his pockets. Unfortunately, many fell into the deception.
To answer our customers’ demands we chose measured responses with the hopes of relaying accurate, concise information. Unlike our fellow competitors who chose answers that were expedient and convenient without regard for the long term consequences. All the while disregarding the law and the truth, content and happy to throw The Urban Beader (our business) to the sharks. As a scapegoat to their narrative they continue to move the target on us rather than constructively addressing the individual using extortion tactics.
We have from the beginning, been honest and open about our business. I would also argue that we have gone far beyond what others were willing to do. How many of our competitors have actually contacted their lawyer and done their due diligence to understand the law? Instead, they wait to see the fall out of our business and for our postings from our lawyer. How many of them looked up the law before they even started their business? They claim to be above board but are now scrambling to “falsely be compliant” to show good faith to the customers. These false narratives have created confusion among our customers and again point the target squarely on our backs.
Despite all attempts to spread the truth, many who have worked to spread the truth, there are still those who choose to hold onto falsehoods and spread deception. I respect that people have opinions but it is hard to accept when they actively seek to do damage based on an opinion.
Our effort has been to educate our customers and ourselves as to our/their rights. Not only is it beneficial to our business, but we had hoped that it would help our customers with their own business practices.
Questions and doubt continue to crop up. And though I previously stated that I was done, apparently I am not.
A loophole is an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system, such as a law or security, which can be used to circumvent or otherwise avoid the purpose, implied or explicitly stated, of the system.
We have been accused of using a loophole to our advantage, to this I disagree. There is no ambiguity in the copyright law thus NO loophole. It is clearly stated what is and is not eligible for copyright. Thus, no copyright laws were broken and no loophole used. Article 906.4
In Colorado, you are allowed to defend your dwelling from intruders. Technically, a jail cell is your dwelling, and technically, the inmate could be trespassing. Therefore, killing him is within the rights of the dwelling owner.
The history of typefaces begins with the invention of the printing press in 1440. We have come a long way in the last 500+ years. But to understand what we do we must recognize that the stamping industry is a derivative of the printing industry. (Basically a stamp is the same thing as a typeface with a long shank.) Copyright laws regarding typeface are steeped in this history. It was demonstrated that the duplication or copy of a typeface was impossible thereby NOT qualified for copyright protection. We continue to work within these industry standards to create the product that we sell.
*Law vs. agreement and the Berne Convention
We have been accused to breaking the Berne Convention laws. Especially in the UK.f
There is a big difference between a law and an agreement; and the Berne Convention is an agreement. It is sort of like this:
Imagine the Berne Convention as a soccer field (agreement) that allows everyone (countries) who want to join, to play together on the same field. Everyone who wants to participate agree to honor one another’s rules (laws). In whichever country you register your copyright the rules apply and everyone else agrees to play by that country’s rules (laws).
The US has what is considered the strongest copyright rules (laws) in the world; it is the gold standard. Thus, if you hold yourself to the US standards you should be clear of wrong doing. So if you want to sue someone based on laws that has less protection than the US, you may be giving up some of your rights to protection. (Lets be honest, we have not been able to find a provision for typeface in Sweden.)
*The law vs the company
The discussion has turned from the law to a question of ethics. In the end, this becomes a personal decision. The law has provisions for which we conduct our business and we follow these rules. Does it make it right or wrong? That is for the customer to decide. The law cannot play to the standards of everyone’s opinions. This would create chaos. However, the law can be changed through legislation. If so inclined, people who disagree with the law can contact their legislator and start the progress. We as a company cannot bend to every customers’ opinion, this would be impossible. “The customer is not always right, but the customer is still the customer.” ~Shep Hyken. We acknowledge and respect that our customers have a voice and an opinion, that they have a choice to make and that choice is theirs alone.
*Libel, fraud, infringement, blackmail, extortion
How many times in the past 5 days have I heard the words “YOU SHOULD SUE!” more times than I would like to admit. In this world, people are quick to jump to conclusions and are quick to share their opinions without thought of damages to the party they are attacking but even more so, forget that they are potentially creating damages unto themselves. So before stating an opinion here are a few things to think about.
Advising people not to do business with a company may be considered an opinion, but when said opinion hinders a company from making money a line is crossed and you can be. sued for damages.
Stating false facts, ie The Urban Beader stole art, creates a libel statement. You may think it is an opinion but again the line has been crossed when such statements are intended to do and can be proven to do damage.
Could we at this time sue various individuals for making such inflammatory, false and libelous statements? Absolutely. Would we and will we be suing individuals for defamation and libel, there is a huge possibility (even if it is overseas). BUT we are hoping that the Mob Mentality turns into a Positive Mob. One that is more considerate of their own thoughts and have a higher code of conduct. I realize that we will never be afforded an apology but that seems to be the way of the world. How terribly sad this makes me.
*Fraud, extortion and blackmail.
When someone demands action in return for not revealing compromising or damaging information about them, they are committing blackmail. When someone tries to deceive you for financial gain, they are committing fraud. If they use threats this fraud then becomes extortion.
People were deceived into believing that The Urban Beader had committed a crime, fraud. Then they were told that if they did not act within 24 hours they too would be subject to said crimes, blackmail. Then they were told they had to pay to make themselves whole to be safe from violations, extortion.
Yes, we were contacted 6 years ago. Yes, we sought legal advice and yes we acted on this advice. When the complainer failed to respond within a timely manner (because he has no legitamate claim), his statute of limitations ran out regardless of legitimacy of the claim. The law provides for “good faith” in just about every corner. What this means is, if an infraction has been discovered there is a limited time in which you can prosecute/claim. If you do NOT pursue within this timeframe, you release your rights. This statute of limitation is different for every part of the law, ie fraud, theft, annulment of marriage, etc...)
The irony, by not pursuing his supposed claim with us, this person has given up his rights altogether and it could be argued (in a court of law) that he has given up his claim and it, in turn becomes Open Source! Meaning it is free for everyone to use.
The bottom line is, had there been a legitimate claim this would have been settled long ago. Even with benefit of the doubt that he was young and had no monies for a lawyer, to date he still has NOT contacted the party in which he claims is the offender, us. Instead he contacted the outliers and comitting acts of extortion.
*Inspiration vs copying
Back to the opinion. It would seem that there are a number of people who believe we have unjustly copied other people’s art. I would contend that we took inspiration. Even though it has long been said, “there are no original ideas”, artists are one of the most self-absorbed group of people in society. But that is beside the point. Is it a moral judgement or is it the law?
Google vs Apple
Apple has long argued that the all Google does is copy their work. Google has long contended that they only take the inspiration and make it better. Many times I have said the same thing about what we do. We take and idea and make it better.
Stamp tape, there was a stamp tape that was being sold well before we were selling our tape. I looked at that tape and thought it was sooooo comical that they were able to convince customers into buying grey electrical tape for about four times the price of the hardware store.
I felt that I/we could do better. Much better. What if the tape had lines to guide you? Would THAT not be something useful? It took almost 4 years of research and a trip to Asia to finally find a company who would do it for us Without a minimum of 30,000 pieces.
Did we copy the tape? Absolutely, we copied an Idea and made it better. There is no such thing as copyrighting and IDEA! Shortly thereafter, said company copied our stamp tape by selling their own version with a grid. Did they copy us? I would argue that they created more of an infringement than we did. But that is simply my opinion, the law is not on my side.
A quick history of The Urban Beader.
We started a bead store and while buying inventory for the store we started selling tool cases. But the only tool cases available were either black or purple vinyl. Black because they came from an industrial business. Purple because a guy (literally) thought women would like that. My thought was, really? I felt that if I prettied it up with flowers and silk and feminine colors we would win. And thus started The Urban Beader.
Did they steal it from another company and start selling it to beaders? Absolutely they did. Aside from the purple color, they still sold the black as is. Did they pay any royalties for this? Absolutely not. Why not? Because the suing company would have to prove how this company took away their ability to profit from said tool cases. By selling it in a completely unrelated industry no damage was done to the original party. Thus no lawsuit.
Did The Urban Beader steal or copy this idea? Sort of both. Tool cases have been around for so long and considered common place it would be hard to say that we copied directly but rather were inspired. But once again we took an idea and made it better. It is because of The Urban Beader’s idea that the industry now has many, many fun tool cases for crafters. Yup, true story.
The stamp hammer took 2 years to develop with Bill Fretz. Within the first year of its release a UK company knocked it off. Did they copy my design, absolutely. Have they ever paid royalties for this hammer? Absolutely not. Why have we never pursued them with a lawsuit? Because we are a small company with limited means and time.
Customers have been demanding that we pay royalties for designs in which we have found inspiration. However, not one customer has demanded the company that knocked us off pay royalties to us.
I will also ask one more question, how many of these customers who were quick to cast a stone have paid royalties to Heather Moore? The designer credited for starting the stamped jewelry motif. I am pretty sure Heather is not holding her breath.
Did we copy these ideas, of course we did. Did we steal anyone’s art? Absolutely not. I have painstakingly drawn EVERYTHING.
So in the conclusion, we have and will always work within our rights of the law and the conventions of our industry. Despite how anyone else conducts their business, we will not be pressured into creating a false narrative. It has become every man for himself. All too often people cower at the face of potential adversity rather than standing up for what is right in hopes of saving themselves. History provides us with countless examples, and now social media exponentially contributes to this count.
We look forward to helping our customers, you, create the great art you do while knowing we do so well within the law.
We would like acknowledge the people who made it this far in the post. This proves your interest in undesrtanding our position and willingness to keep an open mind, for that we are grateful, Thank You! If you have any further questions or if there is something we can help you with, please reach out to me directly.
For more information regarding this matter, please consider reading the following blogs.