Thursday, October 19, 2006

intellectual protection

No pictures yet, I'll beworking on another post about my new digs shortly!

I had an interesting conversation about copyright, property and intellectual rights with a few of my coworkers.

It sparked from this: A former employee as a crafts person and she used old signs from the company and made bags. Think Freitag. Hers were simple shopping bags. She made a ton of them in her free time and sold them through the store to customers. The store made a profit and so did she.

Now I know that anything that I do or create on company time is property of the company, but how does that relate to my down time and what I make and do of my own. AS a creative person this is a sore spot for me because the nest step that the company took upset me.

Of course upon hearing that someone in the company had a great recycling idea they seized it. They have now set up a production facility, where all the old vinyl signs are shipped and they are made into the employee designed bag. These are then soto the store and they sell them to customers.

My frustration with this is not the recycling effort of the company but that the originator of the idea got a measly bonus but now she no longer profits from it. The bonus for an idea that the company uses used to be $100. I’m sure that hasn’t changed. But the company is now turning around and selling these recycled bags for $12.99 and all they are out is labor, and very few materials. So I’m sure that the profit is close to a pure $10 each bag.

When I voiced disgruntlement with this, I of course g shocked looks, when I explained my concern. I got the general “whatever you do on company time is company property.” Which was not my argument. This crafter was not making these on company time but on her own time. IF that is the case then the company owns all my book designs, website design and art? I think not. They don’t own my life nor do they own me. What they own are the designs and ideas that I come up with while I am on the clock. If they are not paying me then they cannot lay claim to my ideas. Nor should they be allowed to lay claim to ideas that I create while off the clock that have NOTHING to do with my regular job duties.

Another argument that was brought up is that the crafter was using company materials. Yes she was, she was using signs that were given to her by various members of the staff. Old vinyl signs destined for the trash heap. I know and understand that the company actually owns it’s trash, but when that trash is given to people r recycling that ownership is voided and passed to the new owner, much like a sale or barter. So when that signmaker passed off those old signs to the employee he/she passed ownership as well. Which toe means that she was free to do what she wanted with those signs, and since she wasn’t being paid during the time in which she created the design or made the bags the company had no right to lay claim to that design and turn around and make them.

Of course this is an entirely a moot point if she set this up and is in charge of the production facility. (In which case I applaud her and the company. But my pat experience with the company is that I seriously doubt that she was put in charge of the production.)

My coworker brought up the idea that if I’m making books o of old signs, I should be careful of this. Especially if the books have company logo on them. Which is 90% of the reason I cut company logo off the signs when I made the books. I also didn’t want the branding.

I will say that this conversation will make me much more careful about what I create and share with my coworkers. I certainly will not re-use the signs anymore. And I guess my bosses will not get my usual Christmas gifts of handmade books made with recycled materials.

Its all about protecting my ideasn

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