Copyright reminder - if someone else made it - you shouldn't copy it

There are lots of fine folks out there who create art, photographs, music, games, words, pictures, sculptures, graphic designs and designs for things.

If someone creates a fresh piece of work - then they own the copyright to it - no ifs, no buts.

In nearly all countries - USA, UK and EU included - you do not have the right to copy something - even if it is only for your personal use.

If you are one of above listed creators you already know how hard it is to make a living without people stealing your work.

If you are not normally creator - imagine someone stealing straight out of your pay packet. Might only be a few dollars, but every time you copy someone else’s work that is what you are doing.

I know this is boring and irritating and “what harm am I doing” - but I am a games designer, writer, photographer and I can tell you that when your work is stolen - it hurts - both mentally and financially.

So, if you like someones work then
(a) reach out to them and ask for permission, offer money - if it is just for your own use
(b) negotiate a licence if it is for multiple use or commercial use
© be inspired and create your own - but credit the inspiration

Rant over.


Designs for functional things are not covered by copyright. They are covered by patents and in the UK you can make patented items for your own use without permission.


That’s a bit of a grey area… Morally I would contend there’s still an individual at the end of that chain. Typicall corporates can afford the patent process - so you can’t copy - individuals can’t - so even if legally you can copy it - morally that’s still someone who did the work that you are nicking.


As I’ve mentioned in another thread, my previous experience with the “maker community” has mostly been around electronics and 3D printing. There is a culture of sharing designs on sites like, which allows you to specify the license — most people opt for a Creative Commons license that explicitly allows sharing and remixing, at least for personal use. I’ve only had a laser cutter for a couple of weeks, but to tell the full truth, I’ve been a bit disappointed to see that the standard practice here seems to be to share pictures of the cool things one has made without sharing the files or settings. I understand that a lot (the majority, it feels like) of people have purchased a Glowforge with the intention of starting or adding to a business, so as a pure hobbyist/maker, I am in the minority. I’m hoping there is a space for a remix subculture in here somewhere, although it really needs some tools to facilitate it. Maybe when the Glowforge app is further along, it could have a free/CC/remix section in or alongside the store.

None of this is meant to say that it’s ok to take things without permission. I’m just a bit sensitive to the notion that “if someone else made it you shouldn’t copy it” is the only model. If I made it, please copy it.


I love that your 3rd item got converted to the copyright mark.

Also, yes to all of this! I don’t know how many cartoons and photos people find on the web and use in corporate presentations. Don’t do this! If you don’t have a license, you can’t use it. Don’t put your company at risk either.


FYI, Google image search can be filtered by usage rights.


This is not entirely correct - at least in the U.S. There are fair use exceptions to your blanket statements.

I also don’t agree with a blanket “even if it’s legal it’s not morally right” argument. Almost everything I’ve ever created has its genesis in something else. I’m a dwarf standing on the shoulder of giants. The world is not morally prevented from standing on my shoulders.


I’m also quite wiling to pay for stuff. In this case, not as much the finished products, because I own a laser too and part of the fun is making and customizing it. But I’d totally purchase many of the designs that I’ve seen people post on the forum, if only there were a straightforward way to do so. This is one of the things that currently makes me sad about the Glowforge catalog/store. You’re pretty much limited to adding an engraving to an existing design, since you don’t get the source files to modify.

Most of the stuff I’ve made has been based on other stuff, often redrawn to fit my needs better or because the original didn’t quite work in some way. My example of the moment is this Jack-O-Lantern. I have some orange acrylic so I figured I’d knock one of these out, but I spent an entire evening failing to wrangle the provided Sketchup or STL files into workable SVGs, and once I had a method I realized the results were not to my liking, so I’m doing my own parametric take on it from scratch in Fusion 360 (work very much in progress). In the end I’ll have learned a few more techniques and I’ll have a little pumpkin for my desk, no stealing food from the mouths of starving artists required. If the original author wanted $10 for the source code and there was an easy way to pay them, I would be ok with that as long as it came with permission for me to do my own take on it.


This is an interesting book that talks about the creative process and how almost everything is copied or inspired from something or someone else.


@jamesdhatch. True, “fair use” does give rights to certain kinds of copying, but does not include personal use.

1 Like

I agree with your sentiment here and I anticipate doing so with some of my projects too.

The thing about the maker/remix culture is that the creator gives to others, not that it is taken


Actually it does for some personal use. That’s the trouble with broad sweeping interpretations of the law - the specifics matter.


I think it would be fair to add this to the list:

(d) search for material that is listed as free to use

There are many sites with free fonts and vector art, much of which explicitly allows commercial use. No one should feel bad for taking an asset that the creator has marked as free for all uses and using it for anything at all.

Here are some sites I have collected. (Some such sites will mix premium results from Shutterstock etc in with the free results, stay frosty.) (mix of legit free things and corporate logos which are obviously never free to use)


The long view:

Setting aside legal and moral issues about “borrowing” someone else’s designs for your own creations, because the first is well covered by the FNLs, and the latter is up to the individual, there is another very good reason not to do it.

If you take a designer’s work without acknowledgement or compensation, or worse, try to make money off of someone else’s idea, they will stop providing ideas. Eventually they get fed up with it and the well dries up. I’ve seen it go from peak to bust in eight years when it was allowed to run uncontrolled.

When that happens, the market floods with copies of the same few tired designs and you’re not selling enough to get by, and neither is anyone else. And there are no new ideas coming. And your customers stop thinking that laser made items are cool, and move on to the next new toy. And if you’ve built a business off of it…well, frankly, you’re toast.

It’s real, it happens, and I’d rather not watch it happen again. Once was enough.

Take the time to learn to use some design software and give life to your own ideas. Be a creator as well as a maker. You’ll have ten times the fun, twenty times the satisfaction, and everyone will benefit, including you. And you’ll be selling for a long, long time to come. relaxed


yes this too! Absolutely!

Any designer hired onto our team has this as their first reading assignment


Thanks for that link. I have now got my copy, and it makes fascinating reading.
I’m gratified that I find a lot that is very familiar in my own attitudes, but plenty that I need to work on !


1 Like

I love this book, it’s great. The TL;DR is it’s ok to take a work and make a derivative of it. But, don’t just rip it off and duplicate it. I’m in this camp.


There is a documentary on YouTube called Everything is a Remix, I recommend it.

1 Like

I am now about 2/3 of the way through which is far enough to say thanx for the recommendation. His writing style is lighter than what I normally go for but it works very well for this.