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Forum topic by Dabcan posted 09-05-2015 05:52 PM 667 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dabcan's profile


250 posts in 2091 days

09-05-2015 05:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: design copyright woodworking furniture custom

I’ve been doing woodworking for a few years as my main occupation, not completely full time as I have a young child that still isn’t 100% at school each day. I decided to start at craft shows making smaller items and slowly work my way into furniture pieces. Well year 3 and I’m getting furniture commissions, but a common thread from customers seems to be them sending me pics of furniture they have seen on the internet. They basically want a copy of what they have seen, most would rather give me the money than someone they don’t know and isn’t local, but generally they aren’t looking for a price cut from the original.

I’ve completed one bed frame which was someone else’s design, I thought this would not be a common occurrence and didn’t think much of it at the time, however now I’ve had several more requests for various pieces of furniture and none of them are my design, meaning I’m ripping off someone else’s work. If i were to turn the tables, I wouldn’t be pleased if someone was stealing my designs.

So how do you deal with these situations? Do you flat out say no? Or maybe suggest a similar piece of your own design/style? I could use some advice…


-- @craftcollectif ,,

8 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2286 days

#1 posted 09-05-2015 08:14 PM

You might could track the designer down from the web site and contact him in order to ask his permission. If he’s a small operator he may not mind. He may also be happy with a small fee that you need to add on. If he’s a small operator the chances are that your client wouldn’t have been a potential client of his anyways because of location. Otherwise you could just create a similar design that is different enough not to make a problem. Of course a lot of people would just not worry about it. Honesty is probably the best policy. As you say, if it was your design you wouldn’t want someone to copy it.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 1924 days

#2 posted 09-05-2015 08:34 PM

What kind of bed frame could you build that hasn’t been built a thousand times in the past? Except for some sculpting, carving or glue on doodads what could possibly be new? We all think our creations are unique…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Daruc's profile


459 posts in 552 days

#3 posted 09-05-2015 09:29 PM

Yeah, put me in the category of building it and not looking back.
It might be different story if I was going to produce a bunch of them.
But a one off that probably wouldn’t be exactly the same by the time I finished anyway, I would have no problem building.
Feeding my family comes first. I wouldn’t let copying something stand in my way.
I would be flattered to have somebody copy something of mine, although if they were mass producing them I would get upset.

-- -

View CueballRosendaul's profile


484 posts in 1560 days

#4 posted 09-05-2015 11:03 PM

They spoke about this on the Fine Woodworking podcast “Shop Talk Live” recently. Their consensus was that building one-off pieces is generally not an issue, but you shouldn’t advertise it and mass produce it. There was a Swedish maker that found someone had ordered a copycat version of one of their chair designs. It was some ridiculous number of chairs like 200 or so and they had the authorities intercept them at customs and destroy them. Apparently they smashed them with the bucket of a front loader and posted a video of it.

-- Matt CueBall Rosendaul. I don't think I've ever had a cup of coffee that didn't have cat hair or sawdust in it.

View Dabcan's profile


250 posts in 2091 days

#5 posted 09-05-2015 11:25 PM

Thanks for all the replies. The interesting thing is the first time I saw the picture, I didn’t think it was a very good design structurally. Then I read a few customer reviews and it seems most people are very disappointed with the bed vs. the price, so to make it well I’ll have to charge a lot more than they are, likely pricing myself out of the job, which is fine as well.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2026 days

#6 posted 09-06-2015 12:31 AM

Hey Dabcan I find it easier to have a customer show me a picture of what they are looking for and then I will draw them a design based on what they have shown me. Most customers have a very hard time explaining what they want in words and most times they bring me a few different pictures of what they like and i combine the ideas into one. can’t call that copying

View pjones46's profile


986 posts in 2063 days

#7 posted 09-06-2015 12:35 AM

There are masters of a design/style from the past which are copied on a daily basis like Greene and Greene, Shaker, Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and more.

My question is; does this mean you can’t build and sell them? Of course not.

Copyright laws protect the work the original author should that be in the form of written word, drawings, paintings, pictures, etc. It protects the originator of fore mentioned against direct reprinting and distribution by unauthorized agents.

You would be hard pressed to get a favorable court decision to protect design/style unless there is an active patent involved. Check with your legal team as a copyright must be filed with the Copyright Office in Washington D.C. to insure protection.

You might also consult this LINK for some answers.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2663 days

#8 posted 09-06-2015 07:37 PM

Any piece you build will never be an EXACT copy of what the picture shows. It’s not the piece that is copyrighted , but the design which must be documented on paper. If you copy the paper design, then it is an infringement of the copyright. Then again, if it’s a one off build, it is hard to discover. If you were making many of the same general design for sale, you might find objection. By altering a feature in some way, you can remove any copyright violation.

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