Original or Plagiarism?

So I buy a design on line with the intent of modifying it a little. When I look at the design in InkScape There a thousands of line in hundreds of groups and they do not follow any order. Parts for group are all over the place and impossible( with my talent) to separate and modify. I did not want to steal anyone’s work but I feel I should be able to modify something I buy to fit my own personal needs. I used the design as an example and traced some aspects of the design but changed tabs to slots and used different graphics. The design is similar but different from the original, but is it now my design. I would like the opinion of the community.


I would say that basic fair use and copyright rules come into effect. What rights did the seller give with the sale?

It sounds like you aren’t modifying it other than on a technical basis so I don’t think you can call it “transformative”(Edit: maybe you are? Re-read what you did, would have to see the before and after to make that call but IANAL, soooo), and unless you’re doing an educational or parody project, I’m not sure how it’ll fall under fair use.

If the seller gives you explicit rights then this might be moot? In any case I personally don’t think you can call it your own original work until you transform it pretty heavily. And I think it’s only “plagiarism” if you say it is your own.

(Technical question: does plagiarism apply here, or is that strictly a writing thing? I get what you mean but I’m just curious about the word. I should google)

Short answer: Don’t know. There will be thousands of FNLs debating the issue long past my lifetime, or my great-grandchildren’s lifetime if I had any. :smile:

In the absence of guidance from those who like to style themselves as smarter than we are, my recommendation is always…go with what feels right to you. It never hurts to attribute an idea or list the original creator as the inspiration for the design if it was inspirational, or just to list it as a modification of someone else’s work. I wouldn’t try to sell it though…that’s where you can set all the FNLs to drooling. :wink:


I am not a lawyer, but based on my research into the subject… if the design is basically the same, it’s plagiarism. The file itself isn’t the issue… it’s the specifics of the idea. It’s the like the guy on here who paid someone to replicate someone else’s design. Technically it wasn’t the same file, but it was clearly a copy.If you substantially modify it, you can probably call it your own. But without seeing them side by side, it’s hard to say. And even then, it’s in murky waters.

As for “I feel I should be able to modify something to fit my personal needs,” that depends entirely on the license agreement. Some specify that they cannot be modified. Others give you free rein to do what you will. If you feel the design is close enough to ask the question, that may tell you something. Take a look at the license agreement and see what it says. It may be that the question is moot, as they don’t care if you remix and reshare.

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Let me ask this: what is your intent with the modified file? To just use/cut/engrave? To resell? To share for free?

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Off topic but important for me to say, happy cakeday, JB!


I never sell anything. I just make gifts for family and friends. The design was made for 1/8 material and I just wanted to make it for another thickness but I would not be able to do that.

I would not consider it your design, unless you have radically changed it. And by change, I mean the look of it.

If you’re not selling it, or giving it away, then I don’t see any issue. If you are reselling it, or giving the design away, I would think twice about it.

Even if you changed it a lot, I would probably contact the original owner and ask them how they feel about it. I would also credit the original somehow where I’m selling or giving it away.

I’ve taken images online, and traced them so they become SVGs. That’s changing how the design is stored. But I don’t consider those my designs at all.


what @polarbrainfreeze said.


I wanted to make a treasure chest for my child. I look around online, and find one I can download for free. It works as drawn, but if I try to resize it, if fails miserably.

I find an online box generator, that with some trial and error, will generate a treasure chest in the size(s) I want.

Is the generated svg file mine to do with as I please? Obviously I can make as many as I want for myself and for gifts. Can I sell copies of the file? Can I sell the plans?

I think it depends on what the author of the box generator has to say about it.

Contact that person and ask them. Perhaps they will say no. Perhaps they will say yes, but you need to attribute them somehow. Perhaps they will just say yes.

It’s a very grey area to me, but it can be made very black and white by just asking a few questions of the author.

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Wouldn’t a box generator be more like cloud based software. I use adobe illustrator to generate rectangles.

I wish I could make money selling downable rectangles. 10mm x 40mm @ $1, 20mm x 80mm @ $2

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It might be cloud based software, but there’s still an author of some kind.

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Working in the 3d grids like Kitley or Second life copyrights are a very big thing as all that you are selling is virtual only. However everything has two things , there is the 3d shape and the 2d texture that can be as simple as a photo of some bricks in a wall or extremely complex.

Many folk make and sell just textures and others the whole object with textures on them. If you get a texture either free or paid for you are free to use them when making a 3d object, but it is considered very bad form to sell those textures even if modified and can get you sued or banned or both. Reselling the 3d work of others or even giving it free, even if you received it free is equally bad.

What we do is more complex as we end up with physical objects that are 3d and take considerable work to create for the laser and more to clean up after. But some similarities remain.

IMHO You might get an svg file and baring explicit call outs I would think it ok to sell as your craft work (You did the work) but not claim it as your design. It would however be equally bad form to sell or give away the svg.

There are many bits of software to create textures or boxes etc and in theory at least every result is different from every other result a no matter if the software is as general as Inkscape or as specific as boxes.py the result is your own.

As noted
I am not a lawyer and this is only my opinion but as noted also the 3d grids have had to hash this out in fine detail so the ideas I have gotten there I have tried to apply to my work and passing them here.


If you need to ask the question, you already have the answer.

Re-tracing artwork and making a few modifications to fit tabs or slots to fit your purpose does not make the design yours to do with as you wish.

There’s no problem with making a design more workable with an intended production method, but there is a problem when it’s still someone else’s artwork by and large and you wish to resell or redistribute.

But it really cheeses me off when people or companies sell files like that, full of poor drawing/design habits.


If you paid for a file and it was useless becasue it was poorly made, I would have no problem using the defective file to recreate a workable version for just myself. (I’ve done it a few times as it was easier to just remake the whole damn thing from scratch using the purchased file as a guideline than to try and fix their mess of a file.) I would also feel the same if I made adjustments so I could change the thickness of material I wanted to use. I’d personally be OK with making stuff from my new file as long as it was for personal, not for profit use and I was not passing on my fixed file. I also would not consider these new files my original work.


This would be a poster example of the key of the problem…
On one hand there is the Mosaic Pencil box we have in our collection and on the other hand there is this…

Is that a copied design modified by me or is it an inspired design? Unlike many it is strictly geometry and not a take on an idea of using a deer say or the many famous bulls by Picasso, but it is one of a long line of cube lamps and while not directly using the original (One cannot move it to their computer in anycase) and it is a different number of hexagons cut in a different place, a lid added etc (Boxes,py was used for the original layout as well) just how much could I claim the design as my own? ( I have not tried to publish or sell the SVG but could I do so?)


I’m not sure that’s even an attributable inspired design. The cube light is a pretty common form factor. It’s almost like Apple trying to copyright the trash can icon.

With the tiny fingers & cutout patterns I think that’s what makes this “yours” vs simply derivative.

Now if someone took this and simply removed the top or changed to wider fingers I’d argue that was copying as the casual user would look at them as being essentially the same. Take the cutout design and distort it in some way - elongating or twisting on an axis for example and I’d argue the same. Swap out the cutout for a Morroccan screen design or profiles of wildlife or any other type of fundamentally different art and it would become a new example of a basic form factor - the cube lamp.

It’s like the Supreme Court said “I know it when I see it” although they weren’t referring to copies of designs at the time :slight_smile:

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Totally agree. This is a common item that is a unique visual design. It’s like a picture frame or something… Who could claim they were the first to make this sort of lantern? On the other hand, if it were a lantern of a special shape or with unique features, you might have an issue.

There’s no one-size fits all answer to this question.

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A good rule of thumb: if you have to ask someone other than the original creator of the file whether it’s okay, it’s probably not.