Legality of selling models

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Legality of selling models

Postby NeverCeaseToCrease » December 3rd, 2017, 3:53 am

Is it legal for me to sell an origami model that I folded but didn't design? That is, without permission from the designer.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Gerardo » December 3rd, 2017, 4:24 am

In most cases it isn't, particularly if there's a copyright holder. You can learn more about the subject by reading this thread viewtopic.php?f=12&t=13991&p=146214
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby steingar » December 11th, 2017, 8:25 pm

If you look up US copyright statutes (you can, they're all on line) you will find that Origami isn't mentioned even once. The US uses the English system of jurisprudence which is precedent based, i.e. its legal unless it is specifically outlawed or a judge somewhere has ruled it so. To the best of my knowledge there has never been such a ruling. I've not seen one, and no one else has ever been able to direct me to such a ruling.

As such, selling Origami models irrespective of their designer is perfectly legal (we live in a free country, remember?), since it isn't contravened by either statute or precedent.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby HankSimon » December 12th, 2017, 12:20 am

I am not a lawyer, but as the letter of the Law, I believe that it is Not illegal to sell a model that you folded, although you should make it clear that you did not design it, ... and it is bad form to make a profit from other people's designs. On the other hand, if I am dead wrong, I hope someone will jump to correct me!

Copyrights apply to ALL creative works, which do not need to be specifically called out. Origami is covered. And, when augmented reality systems become as easy to create as a photograph, a specific AR theme will be covered by copyright, just as clearly as if it were a J. K. Rowling Novel.

As far as the copyright status of Origami, there is extensive work done through participants from this Forum on ALL aspects of copyrights, etc. One issue that comes to mind is when an artist colored the crease patterns from Robert Lang and other artists, colored them, gave no attribution, took full credit, and sold them for thousands (?) of dollars. The artist was sued, and I believe that the case was settled amicably out of court.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby roodborst » December 13th, 2017, 1:13 pm

She used crease papers from sipho mabona if I'm correct and made monderiaan-like paintings. She got sued and lost.


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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Gerardo » December 13th, 2017, 1:29 pm

Sarah Morris, the painter, didn't loose. It was how HankSimon said.

More details: http://langorigami.com/article/sarah-mo ... fringement


steingar wrote:If you look up US copyright statutes (you can, they're all on line) you will find that Origami isn't mentioned even once. The US uses the English system of jurisprudence which is precedent based, i.e. its legal unless it is specifically outlawed or a judge somewhere has ruled it so. To the best of my knowledge there has never been such a ruling. I've not seen one, and no one else has ever been able to direct me to such a ruling.

Steingar, does this imply origami isn't protected in any way by US copyright law? Can you please explain?
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Gerardo » December 15th, 2017, 7:44 pm

I'm in the process of receiving substantial information regarding this topic. With luck I'll have something to share in a week or maybe two. I'll let you guys know what happens as soon as I have something to report.

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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Gerardo » December 19th, 2017, 5:58 pm

NeverCeasetoCrease originally asked:
NeverCeaseToCrease wrote:Is it legal for me to sell an origami model that I folded but didn't design? That is, without permission from the designer.


I must change my original answer which was:
Gerardo wrote:In most cases it isn't, particularly if there's a copyright holder.


Steingar's insistence in that it actually is legal has taken me to research the matter further. I really appreciate that steingar, if you hadn't insisted so much I wouldn't have acquiared the interest in continuing learning. Thank you.

The best answer I can give you NeverCeaseToCrease, within the framework of US law which can still be helpful in relation to the same situation in other countries, is that no one can definitely tell you outside a courtroom trial if it is or isn't legal. Yet, it's best that you don't worry about if it is or not legal but about if you can get sued or not for doing it and if you can loose the lawsuit. In very simple terms, that's the difference between criminal (legal or illegal) and civil law (winning or loosing a lawsuit). I personally consider that the origamist who's model you'd be folding and selling probably does have grounds to sue you for copyright infringement, if the origamist decided to, and win the case. Nevertheless, that also won't be clear until there's a civil court trial, and then there's also the question regarding appeals; but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The origamist might instead decide to start by asking you to cease and desist or might simply do nothing about it. I personally recommend asking for authorization from the origamist first or selling folds of you own models. If you have dificulty contacting the person, you can try reaching first Origami Authors and Creators: http://digitalorigami.com/oac/

Hope this is helpful, but in any case, I must say it was very helpful to me. Thank you also for your question NeverCeaseToCrease :).
Last edited by Gerardo on December 20th, 2017, 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Baltorigamist » December 19th, 2017, 7:46 pm

I second Gerardo's comment. It's always better to get permission first if at all possible--and you can always design your own version and sell that for as much as the market will allow. :)
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby steingar » December 20th, 2017, 6:33 pm

Of course copyright statutes apply to Origami. Clearly, you cannot copy and sell someone else's published diagrams, for example. However, an Origami model folded is also a work of art, and thus the waters become muddied.

For example, I can build an aircraft from plans that carry a copyright. I can then sell said aircraft, and no one will even think to object. My wife can knit a scarf from someone's published pattern and sell it on Etsy. Again, no one will object. Artisans use plans all the time, it does not distract from the skill or beauty of their work.

It is true that you can be sued for selling someone else's Origami model, but you can be sued for anything at any time. It is a very weak argument. The only people you can't sue are the government and aircraft manufacturers (GARA, look it up). Moreover, suing someone over this could have very adverse consequences. Remember, the suit gets resolved by a judge who knows nothing more about Origami than what he or she has been told by the plaintiffs and defendants. Courts are at best unpredictable, and honestly should be avoided at all costs. Moreover, you might have to show damages, which is difficult at best. The only Origami models that sell for anything resembling money are created by people who are already luminaries in the public eye. The value of the resides more in its provenance than in the piece itself in such instances.

Like I said, its a free country.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby HankSimon » December 20th, 2017, 6:58 pm

A bit of muddying the waters with copyrights and patents, with the analogy -
1. If you were able to build a Boeing or Lockheed plane or jet, based on plans (for example from a detailed plastic model, in addition to some aerospace education), they would send you nasty-grams, pretty quickly, and they vigorously protect their designs in the international environment. "Where ever you go, they would find you" ;-) Similarly, with auto designs ... even if you just copy a Maserati, Mercedes, Mercury, Citroen, etc. by eye.

2. If you draw and post a picture of Mickey Mouse, the House of the Mouse has a history of seeking people out to protect its legal property. That's an extreme case for a logo, but it does extend to rides and objects that Disney owns and that people or other Corporations thought would be cool or profitable to reproduce.

3. The point is not the ad absurdum argument that anyone can sue. The point is the historical record that someone HAS been sued for crossing a line in the Origami community. This may not be really worth the issue. But, designer's feelings Have been bruised by people folding designs or reverse-engineering without permission ... resulting in those designers no longer contributing to the Origami community. Why risk hurting someone's feelings?
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby Gerardo » December 22nd, 2017, 12:44 am

Steingar, my points are:
  1. In the US and some other countries, not you steingar nor I, nor anyone else, not even a lawyer, can really declare the legality or illegality of selling a fold of someone else's model unless it's the conclusion of a criminal trial. Its legality isn't clearly stated and thus, if it's criminally charged, its up to a criminal court to reach a veredict.
  2. Since you and I know a bit more about the law, the responsible thing to do is to explain to NeverCeaseToCrease, and ayone else who's interested in learning about the subject, that it's more likely to be sued for these actions than to be criminally charged.
  3. Although in the US you can sue almost anyone for almost anything, you should still worry about loosing a lawsuit and its consequences.
  4. A person that commits these actions can be accused of copyright infringement by the creator of the model. It's up to the civil court to reach a conclusion.
  5. If the person prefers to be on the safe side, I'd suggest not doing it.


steingar wrote:...suing someone over this could have very adverse consequences. Remember, the suit gets resolved by a judge who knows nothing more about Origami than what he or she has been told by the plaintiffs and defendants. Courts are at best unpredictable, and honestly should be avoided at all costs. Moreover, you might have to show damages, which is difficult at best.

That's just how civil trials work steingar, if someone considers that his or her rights have been harmed then that person has the right to sue. If there is a lawsuit, it's up to both parties to defend their respective positions and the trial will conclude with one of the parties winning over the other one. Which party will win is unpredictable; that's precisely the point of having a trial.

An origamist can consider that his or her copyright has been infringed by these actions (the unauthorized sale of folds of one of his or her models) and has the right to sue for that. That's not an unlikely scenario within the origami realm.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby NeverCeaseToCrease » December 22nd, 2017, 3:02 am

I see. Thank you for your thorough explanations, Gerardo, Hank, and Steingar. But I still have two questions.

First, what would happen if an American were to fold and sell a model designed by a folder in a different country? Can people sue each other internationally? Conversely, could an American sue a foreigner who folds and sells the American's model?

Second, the 7th amendment in the US Bill of Rights states that "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved." Does this mean that if somebody were to sell the model for less than $20, they can't be sued?
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby HankSimon » December 22nd, 2017, 3:24 pm

Taking the second one - Not only did you 'steal' or infringe on his design, but you have damaged his reputation by misrepresenting a model as his works - And it's Catch-22 - If you say it was his design, then you admit guilt, And if you say that You folded it ... not him, ... you admit guilt. If you don't reveal that it was his design, then he has informed you by suing you, probably contacting you beforehand, and the Court frowns on ignoring contact.

As far as international lawsuits, for discussion purposes, it depends. Ten to twenty years ago, this exact issue arose in China, that people blatantly stole other products and designs [Not Origami], and sold them as a competitive product, cheaper, and sometimes lower quality. China didn't do anything about it. This also happens in the fashion industry - you can buy [illegal] knockoffs of clothes, shoes, watches, pens, etc.

Where there is an international agreement, you can sue. I think you can also sue in China, now, but I'm not positive.

One thing you didn't ask, is if you sell in ... Ohio, could someone who lives in NY or in California sue you. Of course, the answer is yes, and it's not fun. So they would probably be fairly persistent to do it.
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Re: Legality of selling models

Postby steingar » December 22nd, 2017, 6:16 pm

HankSimon wrote:A bit of muddying the waters with copyrights and patents, with the analogy -
1. If you were able to build a Boeing or Lockheed plane or jet, based on plans (for example from a detailed plastic model, in addition to some aerospace education), they would send you nasty-grams, pretty quickly, and they vigorously protect their designs in the international environment. "Where ever you go, they would find you" ;-) Similarly, with auto designs ... even if you just copy a Maserati, Mercedes, Mercury, Citroen, etc. by eye.


Again, it all depends. Actually, you can accurately recreate aircraft, autos and boats from the past with no repercussions at all. There are plenty of flying examples. Indeed, I was part of such a construction project not long ago (the fellow who spearheaded the effort was killed in an airplane crash of a home built aircraft that he purchased from the builder who contracted it from a set of copyrighted plans).

HankSimon wrote:2. If you draw and post a picture of Mickey Mouse, the House of the Mouse has a history of seeking people out to protect its legal property. That's an extreme case for a logo, but it does extend to rides and objects that Disney owns and that people or other Corporations thought would be cool or profitable to reproduce.


All true, the house the mouse protects their intellectual property, and have ruined the public domain for everyone else. Moreover, they are the only private entity to protect the airspace over their property. Its true, you can look it up. Just google the Mickey Mouse TFR.

HankSimon wrote:3. The point is not the ad absurdum argument that anyone can sue. The point is the historical record that someone HAS been sued for crossing a line in the Origami community. This may not be really worth the issue. But, designer's feelings Have been bruised by people folding designs or reverse-engineering without permission ... resulting in those designers no longer contributing to the Origami community. Why risk hurting someone's feelings?


The only suit of which I am aware were the folders who sued the artist Sarah Morris. However, the issue was distinct from that being discussed. Ms. Morris appropriated crease patterns off the web thinking she was creating found art. The originators of those crease patterns took exception, and the suit was filed. It did not go to court or generate a legal opinion, and as such does not contribute to legal precedence.

If you're going to live your life in fear of a lawsuit, well good luck. I doubt strongly anyone reading this has the wherewithal to be the target of a trail attorney, but I could be wrong. Still, your estate will likely be routinely imperiled by far more mundane threats than aggrieved origami artists.

Says me its free country, do as you like until you can't. And the question was about legality. Again, in the United States of America things are legal unless the government says they aren't.
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