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Is there a way to find out if someone has a copyright on an item... on line?

761 Views 9 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Night Owl
I'm going to call them tomorrow... but thought I was able to do it online as well... ??? Thanks
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MOST ppl who have a copyright have it BOLDY displayed. I belive copyright is for printed materials such a patterns, and patent is for an idea....
I am not sure but I am looking into this stuff so I can patent my diaper pattern so I am slowly learning...

Good Luck I have no IDEA where to look except search the copyright look up or somehting like thaton google
This comes up a lot. There are a lot of different opinions on this, too; some more educated than others, no doubt, but good suggestions. I agree that a true copyright should be posted. However, I have heard people suggest that anything unique has a sort of intrinsic copyright. ??? No real educated idea on this matter, myself.
You can look information up on the internet. Trademarks & patents are:

Copyrights are here:

They also have a section to help you figure out what each one protects. It's pretty interesting stuff...oops, showing my dorky side.
Many, if not most, people do not register copyrights, so the above websites may or may not help.

If it's a photograph or piece of text, I would personally assume it has a copyright and contact the source to ask permission to use it. As an owner/writer of much material with a copyright, I can tell you that nothing will cheese someone off faster than someone "borrowing" their material.
There is an automatic assumption of copyright once the expression is fixed in a tangible format (ie written, drawn, etc.). You can register copyright, and it is useful to do in terms of getting damages and making an infringement suit easier, but you do not have to register it in order to have your expression be copyrighted.
My best advice: Always assume that it is copyrighted until you are specifically told otherwise by the creator of the item.
I appreciate everyone's answers. I am somewhat knowledgable of copyright laws. The area that I'm still needing to research falls under Design Rights within Intellectual Property.

I make wire/glass candle holders, flower holders, and many other wire home accents. I have a ton of designs. Some of them are not "original". A few were taken from designs I saw in items of the same nature in local antique shops over 6 years ago. A craft cannot be copyrighted but certain "original" designs can be protected under "Design Rights" as I mentioned above. This is where I'm still needing clarification. I discovered a website recently that sells candle holders almost identical to the ones I have made in the past (when I wholesaled) and ones I will be carrying on my site in a few weeks. This artist claims, very boldly, on the bottom of each page that all of her work is protected by copyright laws and cannot be legally reproduced. She even has a list of names of those who have "appropriated" her work and claimed it as their own...Obviously as a warning to others. This is what bothers me. The art of wire crafting cannot be copyrighted. Her designs are clearly not "original" as I saw designs almost identical to hers at least 2 years before she began crafting (she claims to have begun in 1999).

The type of work that I do involves transforming new and vintage glassware into unique candle holders etc... attaching wires to the lip of the jar/bottle and then arranging, bending, curling the wire strands in particular fashion. The end result is a hanging candle holder trimmed with beads. According to the copyright office, when I phoned 6 years ago, my work could not be legally protected (I wanted to make sure I was not doing anything illegal by reproducing and selling my work since I found inspiration from someone else's craft and some of my items were very close in appearance).

The problem I'm having is with this particular website stating that their designs are protected when anyone is free to craft a similar candle holder legally... and since it is handcrafted the final product is going to differ each and every time. There is no way of creating 2 items that are identical. So what if someone were to copy her design but add one extra curl to the bottom of the candle holder. It looks like her design... yet it is different right? The point that I'm trying to make...and not doing a very good that I don't see how she can claim copyright protection on a particular design with this particular type of craft.

From reading more about Intellectual Property and Design Rights I do know that the work has to be "original". This particular artist's candle holders are very similar to a woman owned business in California that started creating and selling the wire crafts several years before this site owner began crafting hers. She was no doubt inspired, as I was, by seeing similar work. She crafted an almost identical piece... just adding a few extra curls here and there. Basically the same item but with a small twist to make it her own. This is commonly done and done legally when the item(s) does not fall under any type of legal protection. It is very diffcult to protect a "craft"... but certain designs can be protected. I was told by the copyright office years ago that the nature of my designs could NOT be protected.

If I were to be able to protect one of my designs since it was an "original" then could someone copy it and then just add one minor detail...say an extra curl... to make it different? Then it could be considered their own "original"? That is the way I'm seeing this. This lady took someone else's design and tweaked it just enough that it looks practically the same but with a few extra details... and claiming the work as her "original" and therefore (sp?) protected by copyright laws. She even has wire "words" (wire curled into various words which hang on the wall) that she claims are protected. Words cannot be copyrighted and they are certainly not "original". I've been making them for years and will be selling them on my site also.

All of this is bothering me for several reasons and I would just like to put it all to rest. I'm bothered that she is using intimidation tactics to keep others from "appropriating" her work when they can legally do so... especially considering that their handcrafted work would not look identical to hers.

And another reason I'm bothered ~ If she sees my site and then adds my name to her little list... I'm gonna have to open up a big ole southern gallon drum of whoop boody and hurt someone . We don't want that to happen. It could get ugly

So now that I've completely confused everyone, including myself, any words of wisdom?
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Another question. I know that one does not have to register a copyright. But how could you prove that your work was an "original". I'm speaking of a particular craft of course since to have legal protection of a particular design it must be an "original". If someone claimed that their work was an "original" and therefore copyrighted yet you were creating almost identical crafts years before...or knew someone else who was... then how could one prove that their work was *the* "original".

Typing the above made me feel like a 3rd grader lol

I got through to the copyright office yesterday afternoon but was disconnected. I tried off and on for over 2 hours today and got a recording each time telling me that all the lines were busy and to try back later. I'm going to try again tomorrow.
My advice: Hire a copyright attorney. Go to and email the lawyer who runs the site. If she can't help you, she'll know someone who can. (One of my clients had a copyright problem with someone appropriating original smilies. She found an attorney via Lawgirl -- and as a result of our intended legal action, the smilie thief gave us her site in lieu of legal fees. LOL)
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