Last year’s resolution to get a settlement from Tesla Motors was a real challenge with a lot of highs and lows along the way. So many times I thought that I was wasting my time and money on a stupid pipe dream. In the end it was a magical success, and I’m so glad I went all in on that wild dream project. Strangely enough, this year’s resolution to develop a new line of work using the decal printer is a bit similar. The highs: it’s so much fun experimenting with a new design process and I’m so happy when I create something unique and amazing. I love putting photographic images on pots and I really want this work to succeed. The lows: technical problems (now solved), creative struggles (ongoing), and slow production and sales (last year is a tough act to follow). The healthiest way for me to look at this is to see it as a sabbatical from the business of making pottery.
My most recent firing bore some really good fruit for potential sales. President Trump’s “go back from where you came from” tirade inspired my idea to co-opt the First Lady’s “BE BEST” campaign to fight online bullying. I’m not the first to point out the irony of this but I’m probably the first to put it on mugs with pictures of her in a bikini holding a gun.
This one sold right off, and there will be more out of the kiln in about a month. Fun Fact: Melania designed that logo herself, and Christian, my art & tech wizard created a font (“We Best”) and we can now type on the computer with Melania’s handwriting. Should I blow $55 on a copyright for this font? I might just do that in case that Slovenian witch decides to sic her army or lawyers on me. To see and purchase the very first rough draft pots from this series, check out the “Be Best” section of my online store.
My other big win for this month is the news that my lecture proposal for the NCECA 2020 conference was accepted. The topic is “Copyright 101 for Ceramic Decal Printers”, and I’ve posted my 300 word proposal below. I’m so thrilled! This pretty much handcuffs me to making decal pots now, doesn’t it? Gosh, I had such a great time at NCECA 2019 this year. By odd coincidence, while I was there I was interviewed by Paul Blais of “The Potter’s Cast” podcast, and you can listen to it here. It’s such a sweet little interview because, honest to god, I sound like a ten year old talking about his trip to Disneyland. If you are a potter or a good friend of mine, you really must hear this one to get a big laugh. Oh, and and if you haven’t heard it, be sure and catch my “The potter who took on Tesla and won” interview as it’s a lovely overview of my career and my epic copyright battle with Elon Musk.
“Take a few of these, the sweeter memories” – Todd Rundgren
Copyright 101 for Ceramic Decal Printers
My interest in copyright law developed in 2017 when Tesla Motors copied my “farting unicorn” graphic and downloaded it into the operating systems of its automobiles. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, had tweeted an image of my coffee mug with this design before it was placed in the cars, making it a textbook case of copyright infringement. With the help of a lawyer and a daughter who debated the copyright issue with Mr. Musk via Twitter, we received significant media attention in June 2018. A month later, Tesla Motors paid out a reasonable settlement. Now I’m on the other side of the issue as I worry about stealing other people’s art.
Anyone who uses a ceramic decal printer should be aware of the various degrees of copyright infringement. The problem is that it’s just too easy to grab images from the internet and place them in your work. While the ceramics community is generally very open with its intellectual property (glaze recipes, etc.), the worlds of photography and graphic art are not.
The story of Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Hope” image of Barack Obama epitomizes this issue. In 2010, a federal court determined that the AP photographer who took the original photograph for this poster had his copyright infringed upon by Mr. Fairey. What can we in ceramics learn from this?
This talk will give an overview of copyright law and fair use from a potter’s perspective as it pertains to ceramic decals. I will cover the basic dos and don’ts of using other people’s images in your work. There are many variables and a lot of gray area as to what you can and cannot do depending on how you use the images and the nature of your artwork. Members of the audience will be encouraged to share their experiences.