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From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Speaking of Coping...Beware of Paul Sahlin Tiffany's
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 19:29:36 EDT

Bert Weiss wrote:
> Lianna
> Look into an organization called Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.  There
> may be a CA chapter.  They can clarify your rights in the situation.
> You have your lifetime to register copyrights.  The catch is did they
> adapt your design or totally copy it?

I second that.  The courts have very (too much, IMHO) liberally
interpreted the design copyright laws.  If you're willing to stick
to your guns through a long case, you'll almost surely win.  If LOFA
won't or can't take the case, you can surely find a lawyer who will
take it strictly on contingency - no money out of your pocket.  

The only problem you have is that since you didn't register your
copyright, you cannot sue for past or punitive damages.  But you can
get them enjoined from infringing in the future and can collect for
future damages.  Which leads to... ANYTHING you do that has
sufficient value to be marketed widely should have its copyright
registered.  It costs only $10, the forms are available online from
the USPTO and you don't need a lawyer.  Understand that copyright
affixes when you render your design in tangible form (drawing it
out) but your real protection does not start until you register. 
Another thing you must do is make sure that anything that leaves
your studio has the proper copyright notice on it somewhere.  That
is "copyright 1999 John De Armond.  All rights reserved."  You can
use the "C-in-a-circle" symbol to replace the word "copyright" but
the ASCII representation, (C), is not regarded as proper by many
(including my) copyright lawyers.  Just that notice will put many
infringers on notice and stop many of them.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Speaking of Coping...Beware of Paul Sahlin Tiffany's
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 18:43:48 EDT

Suncharmer wrote:

> I don't have copyrights on any of my work.  I always thought that it was
> really expensive and time consuming to do so, but now I know better.  From
> now on everything is going to have the little "circle C" on it!!!!

Please stop this fallacy!  Copyright affixes the instant you pull
the idea out of your head and put it in tangible form.  That is, you
make a mark on paper, smear some clay around, cut some glass, etc. 
You are protected from unauthorized copying from the instant you
create the work.  Even without out registration, if you discover
infringement and notify the infringer, you can collect actual
damages for any subsequent infringement (lost revenue, expenses.) 
You cannot collect consequential (mental anguish, damage to
reputation, etc) or punitive (punishing the infringer) damages
without registration. You can also have the infringer enjoined from
further infringement without registration but proving ownership of
the creation is more complicated. When you register, you can collect
retroactive damages from the moment of registration and you can
collect consequential and punitive damages.

> There are four designs (so far) that were stolen.  One was modified quite a
> bit and looks like CRAP so I'm not worried about it.  The other 3 are
> _DIRECT_ rip offs.

That is a derivative work and you still hold the copyright for the
underlying design.  You DO care because the infringer has derived
income from the infringing design, income that rightly is yours.
> I also find it interesting that even though almost everything in their store
> is made in China or Mexico, nothing is marked "Made in Mexico" or "Made in
> China".  Isn't it supposed to be?

Yes.  That is a Federal Trade Commission matter.  Suggest you go to
their web site and learn how to file a complaint.  Don't necessarily
file the complaint yet - you don't want the company to have to pay a
fine with money that would otherwise go to you.  Federal judgments,
fines, etc, take precedence over civilian judgments so you'd be
second in line.

> -No more Suncharmer Glass for PST!  Perhaps I'll find a store near by and
> sell against them, but that might give them easy access to my work.
> Hummm...

That's your decision but you might reconsider.  Why spite yourself
out of a revenue stream?  The time to switch, it seems to me, would
be AFTER this matter is settled.

> -Get their catalog and get photos. So I can show people.  This may be tricky
> because they know me, but I can be sneaky!
> -Copyright everything now that I know how easy it is.
> -Get the word out.  This is a bit scary because I might get sued for liable
> (but all that I have said is and that I'm going to say is true) and I don't
> want to be perceived as some sort of nutter :Op.  This includes posting to
> the net, writing letters (any suggestions?), letting other artists know and
> contacting the local newspaper.  I have even toyed with the idea of parking
> my car in front of their store and/or headquarters with a big sign attached
> that would read something like "Paul Sahlin Tiffany's steals designs from
> local artists"!! :O)

May I suggest you talk to a lawyer before you say something in
public that could be slanderous.  You really don't want to spend
your income defending a slander or libel suit.  Remember the deal
goes both ways - they can hurt YOU with a suit they may not be able
to win but nonetheless you have to defend against.

> -Go to their office.  So I can ask them why such a big corporation has to
> rip me off.  I'm not to sure about this one.

Why?  That would be pretty dumb.  Think strategy.  Why put them on
notice that you're about to take legal action?  All you'll do is
give them time to cover their tracks.  If they'll infringe, forging
documents to support their case is not out of the question.  How do
you think your case would look if they produced design drawings of
the infringing designs dated before you had a relation with them? 
Suppose they then accused YOU of infringement?

You're playing in the big leagues once you initiate an infringement
action.  If you're not ready to play at that level, go back to your
studio and putter around some more.  I can assure you that the law
firm THEY hire will be playing for keeps in the big leagues.

> -Legal action.  Contacting Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.  I've looked them
> up on the net and they are in New York, but I'll email them and see what
> they suggest.  I also got the name of a local lawyer from a friend and I'll
> contact him to see if he will do a contingency thing.  What do you think
> about small claims court?  The maximum judgement here in CA is $5000, but
> even if I won, I don't know is a small claims judgement would be enough to
> stop PST.  I don't really care about money, I just want PST to stop
> producing my designs so that I have a chance to sell them.

Copyright infringement is a federal matter.  Small claims court does
not apply. You need an attorney experienced in copyright law, and
particularly copyright litigation (the two are different!)  That
friend-of-a-friend's lawyer who may do little more than handle
uncontested divorces is NOT the place to get competent advice. 
Lawyers are no different than glass artists - you'd not consult with
a furnace glass blower to help solve a problem with stained glass. 
lawyers are no different.

> -Create!  Make new and better stained glass art, get a booth at the big
> trade show in LA in January, finish my catalog and web page and be very,
> very, very careful who I sell to in the future!!!!!

Good plan.  You also need a wholesale contract that, among other
things, prohibits copying or derivative works from your designs. 
That way you have contract law in addition to copyright law to use
as a weapon.  Other important things in the contract may include:

*) jurisdiction you want it to be your town and not wherever the
infringement occurred.

*) damage assessment Don't leave that to an arts-illiterate jury or

*) method of conflict resolution.  If you live in an area where the
civil dockets are backlogged for years like Fulton County [atlanta],
Ga, binding arbitration is the only way to go.  Arbitration is also
faster (in most cases) and somewhat cheaper than litigation. 
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of arbitration is that the
arbitrator(s) is normally chosen from a pool of experts in the area
of dispute.  For example, the last software copyright case I
prosecuted, our arbitrator was an intellectual property lawyer who
was also an engineer.  I did NOT have to start off explaining what
an "algorithm" is.

I strongly suggest you talk to a lawyer before you do or say anymore
on this matter.  You've already said enough to be exposed to a
slander/libel suit.  


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