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WANNA JOIN A CLUB?
Not this one, please.
by Kate (August, 2003)
(Note: Kate is a mid-level manager at a major craft
Its waiting list includes the rich and famous such as Sammy Sosa.
Its exclusive membership makes other clubs envious. Yet the members
themselves are not necessarily pleased they belong. What club is it?
The Red-Handed Club. Membership is restricted to those found guilty
of deliberate, unethical behavior. The waiting list is comprised of
those who have been accused, but have not yet been found guilty,
such as Martha Stewart and Kobe Bryant.
Are you a member? Are you rubbing shoulders with Martha and Kobe as
Club membership is denied if the unethical behavior is found to be
truly accidental. That saves many of us in the craft industry.
Though we produce a large variety of crafts, we generally travel to
the same trade shows, read the same magazines, and learn about the
same trends. Given all the similarities in the information we
receive, we can't help but produce similar products.
Where membership opportunities abound, however, is when one person,
or a panel of people, move forward with a design or product they
took directly from another party. You'd think people would know
better, but in my travels I've overheard many justifications for
1. "This artist will never know since she lives in a
foreign country." That may be, and her correspondence may be
coming to you via a typewritten letter, so you assume she doesn't
access the Internet. Whether or not she learns you have produced her
design or product is not as important as the fact that you know you
deliberately stole them. I believe I see Martha coming towards you.
2. "We only have to change it 15% to make it ours."
Baloney. Whether you change it 15% or not, it is NOT yours. Change
the design 20%, put it out in the market, and see what happens. Even
if the artist or her lawyer doesn't complain, the trust developed
between you and her is gone. Thanks to message boards, chat rooms,
emails, and newsgroups, it's almost a guarantee that your reputation
will be brought into question. I hear Sammy calling your name.
"I don't care," you say. But you will care if the designer
does complain. How will you respond, or will you pass her on to
someone else? Aren't you lucky, Martha's handing you your invitation
3. "We can use the same packaging." You replace
Company B's name with yours and you play around with the wording a
bit. As a consumer, I think less of a company that believes the only
way to sell an item is to package it as similarly as possible to the
first company who offered the product. Uh-oh, Sammy is introducing
himself to you.
Shoe on the other foot.
Let's switch perspectives for a minute. Suppose Company B produces
knock-offs of your products? Do you scream to your attorney?
Interesting how protective you become when you're the injured party.
Remember that feeling the next time you feel the urge to join the
Now look inside the four walls of your own company: Do you wonder
why office supplies are being used faster than they can be replaced?
Why staff breaks have stretched from 10 minutes to 15? Why less time
is spent on work and more on Internet surfing and personal phone
calls? Why you find shrinkage every time you conduct a physical
Your staff is very aware of your attitude towards right vs. wrong.
If the example you're setting is less than ethical, what incentive
do they have to follow the rules?
At times the craft industry is very small. All of our ideas come
from images, words, colors, and other information that bombard our
senses. Using these as triggers for designs cannot be avoided, but
if you deliberately call someone else's design or product your own,
don't be surprised when you find yourself spending time with Martha
(Note: Kate's previous columns are archived. To access any of
them, click on the titles at the top of the right-hand column. Have
any comments about stolen designs or products? Email Kate at email@example.com.)