Question for those who have been doing this for longer than I have...I created a character design I'm planning on making available to anyone who cares to download it. There was, of course, a lot of time spent getting it just right, and I want to protect any creator's rights to it. I see some people put "Copyright" on their templates, others have used "Creative Commons Share-alike license" (shout out to the creator of e440 if you're out there!).
So, what's a guy do if he wants to share with the Paper Toy Community while retaining control of the original work?
I think there is a big difference between being inspired by and just ripping someone off. I don't think the whole custom blank vinyl toy argument of Marshall's is totally accurate. It's one thing if you do a custom for Fewis of there readymech model if they ask you to. That's more like a vinyl toy situation. What seems to be happening is more like me taking a dunny and making a blank toy that is exactly the same and call it a "Matty". It's even worse in paper toys though cuz you dont have to imitate someone you can just take a pdf that some one else has made into illustrator and just steal it out right, you don't even have to be a gifted mimic. . If you've ever done a "command C" on some ones papertoy and then pasted it into your own model thats not being inspired it's just stealing. I think this is a very serious problem that effects papertoys even more than vinyl or plush toys (not that all "designer toys" aren't getting totally derivative.) cuz it's so easy.
I think that if you are trying to create a paper toy start from a character you have drawn not from a bunch of shapes that you like from other papertoys and try to twist them enough that you can convince yourself it's changed enough to not be stealing. Start with paper start gluing and pasting and cutting, find your own shapes organically. I think if you start like that and are trying to achieve your character than you'll end up with something original.
I've built a lot of paper toys from other designers and I'm not saying that I haven't been influenced by them .
Here is an example from my work that I think is relevant.
I did a custom Hedcase for Nicebunny. It was the Bushmeat the monkey. I used the head shape for the body and the body shape for the head. Of course this was not stealing I was asked to do a custom and I never distributed the model on my own site. But that shape I made for the body and head which was basically a four sided cone on top of a box inspired my next paper toy Wild Urp. Look at those two papertoys(Wild Urp and Bushmeat Headcase).
Youll see a similar shape But mine was made out of one piece, had different proportions and had points on the top for the hat a bill for the hat an inset mouth and boots and the shape was applied in a totally different way than in Nicebunny's headcase models. I don't think anyone could argue I stole that concept from Nicebunny. But I was inspired by his work. Set my "Wild Urp" next to a Nicebunnys Hedkase and I'm not even sure you would know that one inspired the other unless i told you. Infact I can say the inset mouth was inspired by Ken Munks Antlor series. I had always just created "postive" shapes in my toys. When I seen his inset cone eyes I loved the idea of creating negitive space with the printed side of a paper toy and thats what inspired the inset mouth.Thats the kind of back and forth insperation we need to foster in the paper toy community not just rampant theft. Look, I didn't invent the cube or the cone or even the "glue tab A to spot A concept" which I use in my work, but using some one else's exact shoe shape for your shoe shape is bad whodo. We deserve better and we need to do better if we want to present papertoys as an art form
Okay I'll get off my soapbox.
This really has been an eye-opener of a discussion, and one we all have on our minds, from what it sounds like. One recurring concept of this discussion is that there are only so many basic shapes that can easily be formed. The basics. We could all be accused of using the same basic dozen (who knows how many) shapes over and over again, with little additional fine adjustments.
Some of what makes the individual projects interesting, though, is in the deviation from those forms, and variations on getting the same result (as Matt pointed out in the case of "Wild Urp"). Again, some day, the rate of new shape ideas will plateau out, and almost all 3D paper forms will have been made, and thus derivative.
Therefore, not the shapes, but the process, the application, the concept, the context, and the art of the Paper Toy will be the enduring qualities that matter.
(But we haven't gotten there yet, so please take care of each other, and protect the work of your peers! They'll watch out for you, while you watch out for them!)
My feelings precisely, Scott. I think we have to be careful in putting too many rules or restrictions, or labels on what is "original" or "creative" and especially "stealing" or "ripping off". The creative process is not a structured process. It is an ever evolving, living, breathing, process. And to say that simply rearranging the parts to make something new is unoriginal, or stealing, is absurd. I mean, if you go and buy a bunch of Lego sets, and you build something original from them, you have most certainly been creative, and have every right to call the "design" your own. What you can't do, is package it, call it Jegos, and sell it as your own product. But you certainly could distribute the instructions on how to build it so that others could also use the toy. Because no harm is being done to the Lego brand, in fact, it's helping to expand the Lego universe and perhaps even helping Lego sales increase.
But here is the problem... as an artist, when we have spent some time creating some specific shapes for our characters, we have the right to protect them. And for good reason. Let's use Shin's shoes as an example. Shin is the guy who created paper Nikes. It was Shin's idea, his creativity, and ultimately, his creation. It is very specific and original. And if other artists start using his template, or even something similar, it confuses the market. And Shin is trying to protect himself as an artist, so that he remains THE PAPER NIKE GUY. So that when people see that cool paper shoe, they know that it can only mean one thing, it's Shin. So, does that mean that we can't also make paper tennis shoes? Of course not, but make it different. Make it your own.
Now, in terms of the simple shapes, I don't think it's very reasonable to keep cubes and pyramids from each other. As long as we do something new with them. My NiceBunny paper toys are quite different than their BrickBoy predecessors, but they use the same parts. I would argue with anyone who says that they are not creative. But original, now that is perhaps another question. So in that situation, credit is given to Sjors and the BrickBoy template. Sjors gets some free advertising and the paper toy scene has expanded with a new set of toys. No one got hurt. It was just one artist inspired by another to make more art. But, if Sjors had the BrickBoys out in the marketplace for sale, and then I tried to sell my nicebunny toys, that would be a different story. The reason being that I would now be taking sales away from Sjors, using a product that I created from his product. Could I take a new, original paper toy design to market and sell? Of course. That is healthy competition.
I think that Matt's BushMeat HedKase is another great example of this. Matt used all of the parts from the HedKase toy, and simply rearranged them to make something completely different. Now if that is not an excellent example creativity, I'm not sure what is. I had been making new, original HedKase's for months, and I never thought to rearrange the shapes. Matt has not only taught us a invaluable lesson in design, but he also gave us a brand new toy. But does that give Matt the right to call it his own and start distributing them. Well, not really, but mainly because it was created from my model and templates to be used as a HedKase, and I did design the arms and torso on my own. But I also know that if Matt really wanted to, he could redesign those shapes to be folded differently enough to call them his own. But they are pretty basic shapes, and I am happy to see others use them.
And you know, if I were really worried about others using my parts, I wouldn't give them my blank templates. Maybe that's the answer. Maybe if you don't want your template to be reused by others, don't offer it as a blank. Or if you do, make it very clear that the parts are only to be used in your model, if that's how you want it. Maybe what we need to do is create a set of guidelines that we paper toy artists agree to abide by (except in specific situations where permission is given and the like). Sort of a Paper Artist's Code. What do you guys think of that?
I'm not on board about the shapes plateauing out thing. It's infinite as our imaginations. That's like saying some day all drawings will be a rip off of something cuz you can only draw so many shapes and combos or the same for music. There are only so many notes in the scale but I don't think that means that nothing new or fresh will ever come along or music will someday plateau and from that point forward will be exactly like something that came before it. Sure if we are only trying to produce is boxes with arms, yeah that will get derivative. I want to encourage people (as well as myself) to try to think beyond cubes and geometric shapes and start creating real dare I say Art. Look at Tetsuya's Rommy papertoy, give me one simple geometric shape you see! There's nothing that can be desribed as a simply a cube or a cone. Study what it looks like flat. I don't think any other human being on earth would have assembled this exactly the way he did by a coincidence. there is always room for Originality!
Granted he is a gifted paper engineer and it takes a lot of time and experience to achieve it. And just because you aren't Picasso doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy painting pictures and to get to a point where your work is your own you have to start somewhere, I know.When i was 13 I was drawing total rip-offs of Don Martin form Mad magazine in the margins of my remedial Algebra book. That's how we learn but at some point I think the goal of every artist no matter the medium is to try to blaze your own path. and I'm not saying something has to be super complex to be good.Hell, I just posted that Tri-bunny thing. If someone came out with a model that was that same shape I wouldn't feel ripped off. Heck even if it was a bunny I wouldn't be offended.The template is not what makes this piece mine its the artwork and how it's applied. But if some one released a blank toy that was exactly like my "Mr. Robot". I would be pissed. In this case the template was as much of the art as the graphics. It's the way i applied the notes to make my own song, not that they are the same notes that have been used for thousands of years. and believe me I'm not saying my work isn't derivative and is totally original. I believe though that papertoys can be a valid Art form and if that is to be achieved we need to hold it to the same standards as other mediums.
The thing about papertoys is anyone can do it. No cost restrictions no body hanging over your head saying do it this way or it won't sell. The sky is the limit! You can make things this world has never seen. I think Sjo's point(and I don't mean to speak for him) is that kina of crazy freedom is there, use it. Very literaly think outside the box.
That's my challenge to you all as well as to my self.
Oh and my free models mean just as much to me if not more than my "Mechanical Man" that I sell. Both have the same amount of artistic value to me. My heart is in them both. Just because something has no monetary value attached to it doesn't mean its free for pilfering.
I was thinking about Lazy Boy and that if it had not been released as a "blank toy" I honestly believe there would not have been as much stink raised about it. Ya Know?
I love Marshalls work and I respect it or he wouldn't be involved in my book project. I even posted his Nana toy on the Paper Forest blog when he first put it out. I did think to myself that it was kinda ripping off readymech but I built it and posted about it because the artwork was original and the helmet was a little twist so it had quite a bit that was original (plus i just thought it looked cool). He started where someone else had already been but took it in his own direction and has done lots of cool things since each time taking a step that was his own. Had he released Nana as a blank toy for other people to customize I would not have felt the same way and would not have posted it.
thanks everybody for this great discussion.
Well I'm glad to see I'm not the only long format answer giver here. ;)
I would just like to be clear that I certainly never meant to imply that a paper toy is only worth protecting if it is for sale. I was only saying that sometimes it is simply a matter of art between artists, with every right to share with each other. Sometimes it is much more important to the artist, and original and in need of protection. And sometimes it is business, which is often a serious place for concern. In any case, another artists copyrights should always be respected.
I know, you of all people know these things are our little babies;) I just felt like it needed to be said to the community as a whole. I think that is one of the major misconceptions about papertoys we need to fight, is that since they are freely distributed and made of (worthless) paper that some how there not as valuable or protected as other art forms.
I can get a little passionate 'bout this stuff!