Counterpoint: Nobody Owns Their Ideas
We recently published an article based on a well-known artist’s experience in seeing her work stolen and sold without permission; now we’ve heard from another well-known artist who essentially says there’s no such thing as design theft.
When Melissa Ng saw 3D design files for one of her own masks from her Lumecluster business for sale, she took immediate action. She contacted the repository and had them taken down. She shared her experience and her frustration with us.
Stealing an artist’s work is stealing, and stealing, as we’re all taught from a young age, is wrong.
Following our coverage of that instance of design file theft, I heard from design veteran Janne Kyttanen.
Janne has been a designer for more than 25 years, developing both a name in and a deep familiarity with the 3D printing industry.
The gist of his argument “may sound harsh and unjustified” but we’ll leave you to be the judge here; he says:
“My point is that nobody owns ideas nor their files.”
This isn’t a quick statement to stir up debate; he believes in this stance so firmly he’s writing a book to dig more deeply into his sentiments.
A History In Design Copying
“My work has been copied, stolen, licensed, sold etc without me knowing about it from the day I started in this field 25 years ago. I can also say that I have perhaps created more designs than anybody in this field in the course of this time period. When I started, I thought content will be king just to realize content is free. When one grasps that, a new (financial) gear will start shifting in these artists brains.
Attached is a classic example. One day I walked into a bed linen store in Amsterdam, just to see my renderings on bed covers. Not a copy or a replica, but the actual rendering. I know the image by the pixel, because I made it. I approached the company and after a few emails going back and forth, they admitted, it was an intern who had downloaded the images from our FTP server and they simply didn’t know. There are 2 ways of going about it. I sue you and you give me money…or hey, you seem to like my work, let’s collaborate. I ended up creating graphics for their collections and made royalties on sales vs us battling it out in court.”
“The point is, that copying also means different things in different cultures. Asians see it totally differently, which is just part of their culture. One can either respect that, get creative and learn to benefit from them and work together or go home and cry about it.”
“I went as far with this as when I sold my company to 3D Systems, it was the largest 3D printable design library in the world at that time. My only conditions for selling was to be able to give it all away for free for people and we can boost the industry together. The files are still buried.”
That seems like a good place to take a quick breather before we look a little more into this seemingly unusual philosophy; in this followup Q&A with Janne we dig deeper into his main points on this topic.
Via Janne Kyttanen