Posted By Kathleen David on September 25, 2012
Can be a small one indeed.
Someone asked me if I had seen some puppets someone else had done that looked like my Phluzzies. I went and looked and thought the person had done a good job of building those puppets. Yes, they basically look the same as mine but there are slight differences and they aren’t calling them Phluzzies. My puppets look like how some other puppeteers do their puppets but there are, like in doll making, a limited number of ways to create the shapes. There are ways that we make these shapes our own so one can tell who made which.
There are these things out there called shoulder dragons (the generic term I believe). You see them at many a Renaissance faire and science fiction conventions. Some are made entirely of cloth and wire and others are made of fur and feathers and Sculpy or another polymer clay and still others combinations of all three. One of the cleverest one I ever saw was cloth and it was a really neat beanbag that just sat on your shoulder. Now some of these shoulder dragons have mechanisms in them that allow you to puppeteer the dragon. Wings flap, heads move, and tails wag among other things. The mechanism to do all this is based on a very old puppetry trick using cables. I learned it from an older puppeteer when I was in my early 20s so we are talking about 30 years ago and the context had nothing to do with shoulder dragons but the moment I first saw one, I knew that was how they were doing them.
Now one can’t trademark or copyright shoulder dragon because there are too many out there so it has become what is known as a common term for the critters. You can trademark words like “drabbit” and the creator of the drabbits has which is why in the Sir Apropos books Peter gives credit to him and a link to his website in the book. They worked it out at a Ren Faire and all parties know that the other is using the name, which is why if I made a shoulder dragon I would make sure it was NOT called a drabbit.
Now there was a recent dust up over someone who makes shoulder dragons that they call something else. They did use the term drabbit as a search term among a couple of other terms that are used by various makers of shoulder dragons. If you look at their TOS, they clearly state that the dragons they make are not drabbits and a simple search will bring you to the originator of the term.
Someone who “works” for one of the other maker of shoulder dragons took umbrage and apparently sent some pretty nasty and threating e-mails and instant messages to this young artist. The young artist blocked them because they felt harassed by someone who has no authority in the matter what so ever. The “employee” then went on the net and, with an insincere as it could be apology, created a drama storm because their company’s term had been used as a tag by this young artist. Now I am not absolving young artist of being rather inconsiderate for using terms that are not theirs to increase the traffic for their shoulder dragons. That is not polite or a good business practice. The employee came after Young Artist for copying sculpts and mechanisms of their companies in a forum where art issues are talked about. I looked at all the evidence that they provided and at the gallery of the young artist and the more I look the more is that they look similar but they are not exact copies and, as I stated at the top of all this, the mechanism is not copyrightable because it is based on puppetry things that Jim Henson was doing back in the 50s and 60s.
However the “employee” now seems to have the bit in their teeth and they think that the group has given them cart blanch to vilify the young artist all over the net. The young artist has removed the tags from their galleries and that should be the end of it however the “employee” isn’t letting that be the end of it and unfortunately has gotten other people to attack the young artist. I honestly think this person has blinders on to what others are saying unless it is what they want to hear because they have their crusade. And honestly the owner of the business that they work for should be the one address these issues not worker #7.
Also after an extensive search of the trademark and copyright database, I can’t find anything either trademarked or copyrighted under the term that the employee is getting so hot under the collar. I even took the time to go under the pending list to see if it was there which it isn’t. So legally they really don’t have a leg to stand on and harassing is all that this employee can do. And it is doing its work, the young artist has pulled down most of her work including her examples. I do find it interesting that “employee” is coming great guns down on this kid but dismisses the used of My Little Pony as not as big an issue because Hasbro allows fan art to exist in fact they have seen Hasbro employees buy fan art work so it is OK. So this person has a double standard that they can justify in their head.
So what young artist was doing was tacky but it was not illegal. If the company owner wanted to give the kid a cease and desist, that would be one thing and hard to prove. However one employee deciding to be the police force for this company does not reflect well on the company and I really hope that the owner takes a careful look at this.
I am grateful for people who use the forum properly. There has been a lot of good to come out of the forum and problems solved when it is used properly.