Copyright anyone ?

My “Comp Room” versus “Press Room” duel continues … in my case the “Comp Room” is the “Designer”.

I work with a designer who says that all her designs are one-of-a-kind originals, therefore she charges an arm-and-a-leg for the designs. Recently I subscribed to Pinterest letterpress feeds, and I did see there a picture of a design similar to hers.
So I said to her:
” I did see your design posted on Pinterest “
She said:
” Oh, someone posted a picture of my invitation on Pinterest “
I said:
” No, I did see the design YOU COPIED FROM, on Pintersest”
Since I printed her design I could compare dates, which one was first published. She just went quiet …

My website needs visuals!
My leftover work with the set-up sheets goes in to the filing cabinet drawer, then when full, they get to put in to boxes. The last 10 year of my work is dis-organised in brown corrugated boxes.

I set-up a tripod with a digital camera and macro lenses to take pictures of my past work. But before I get too involved with it, let me ask the members of this discussion board:

What are my rights as a Trade Printer to publish to the Internet, pictures of the details of my workmanship? Details, not the entire invitation.

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Why not just post your OWN work and not collaborations?
Do you have any of your OWN work to put on YOUR website?

I’m not sure the existence of a similar design means she copied anything, though it is of course possible.

There is a big difference between inspiration, influence and copyright-infringement.

So you’re using it for promotional purposes expressly showcasing the work you are capable of… You can post whatever you want (after release date, of course), hotlink directly to the designer or CREDIT the designer’s name/company name. That’s all you have to do to start with.

….. until someone doesn’t want you to use their stuff; which is inevitable; then its a C&D letter in your inbox, and a takedown order, and you’ve got to either take it down or face a legal battle.
Nobody is going to ask you to pay them; if they care at all, it’s going to be a request to take it down. Simple.

Better to ask for forgiveness in this case than worry about permission.

As long as you’re ethically labeling and describing things as “Design by so and so, printing by Louie” etc etc, you’ll be fine. It’s a grey area. You’re allowed to showcase your work, and if that means showing someone’s design in the process it’s hard to argue why you wouldn’t be allowed to do this.

Trade printer question so “OWN” work is not the issue. Just ask the client if you can use images of the work to show your ability before pricing. If yes no problem, if no charge a bit more as the use of the image has value. You can also say “an XYZ design printed and die cut by ABC” with permission of course and no price change as it is a mutual benefit.
But do you really want to deal with the public?

Thank you all for the input. I thought that I would stir-up a bigger controversy with my question. I did feel that without lessening the designer’s achievement, I do have a right to present my work too.

Of course the question is which designer to give credit to … LOL !!!

The little story in my initial post is only half the story! Few weeks later I received an email asking for a quote. The picture in the attachment was the picture of the invitations I printed and was already mailed out. I said to her: ” I just printed those invitation”. She said: “the customer received it, likes it and wants a similar one”.
I don’t remember exactly the Pinterest invitation. I think it was the European size. The first one I printed was a #10 with foil stamped name and letterpressed text. The second one was re-designed to 5x5” with letterpressed name and foil stamped text. To me they all looked alike!

Do I have to play the role of a Copyright Police?

The usual procedure is that the customer shows up at the designer with a invitation from someone else in hand or shows somones design from the internet on the mobile device. That is what the customer wants with slight modifications. Lets say, the designer purchases a vector art of a similar rose for $5 from VectorStock or Grapic River, etc. Carefully positions it in the corner of the invitation, does the text editing around it. Then I print it.

Now, if I take a picture of the letter-pressed rose, who should I give credit to?

This is just a rhetorical question.


Unless you put a ghost image of your posted website work and one can download your artwork or photos and used them.

My brother has been in the advertising game for close to 50 years. He has told me many times of pitching a layout to a customer, getting turn down for his design only to walk into their office a month later and seeing they had used his design and didn’t want to pay him.

You can’t fight it, it takes a large sum of money to fight.
Fighting over this is not worth the time.

Look at 75% of letterpress website selling their work, you will find the same design used an all of them!

Hey Old Letterpress man-
Really curious, where did you get that “Look at 75% of letterpress website selling their work, you will find the same design used on all of them!” figure?

That, to me, sounds like a preposterous claim put forth by someone who understands very little about marketing or design and has probably not seen very much, to boot.

Mike Conway asked me:
“But do you really want to deal with the public?”

Not really, but it seems that I have to adopt to the changing times or get run over by the Far East steam roller! For me, at the moment it is just “Be Prepared”. It seems to me China is starting to move in to the small business domain. You can already get an invitation designed ( knocked-off ) in India for $8.- For now that is the most convenient way because no shipping is involved. But give them time to develop their distribution network. Some, or perhaps most of my designers would switch over and I would find myself without the job because I was not prepared! I am guessing that the Big Players in the letterpress industry are already subcontracting to the Far East. And why wouldn’t they? They just have to pay them properly and they will get the good quality. It will still cost far less than the domestic production.

No one is buying a printing business any more, perhaps only the odd equipment from it. Some people are just walking away from their print-shop. I feel sorry for those who planned their retirement around selling their businesses.

Anyone has the business forecast for the Letterpress industry?

rhetorical question
Louie you could pay a designer to make your ideas come to life/plate/print. Then you own the design and can do as you wish. Most of my clients are printers and they have their own designers on staff and what they design belongs to the client that pays them. There is a glut of designers out there.
I took a 30 hour course on Illustrator at a local college just to manage die layouts and artwork. When I need to I can put something together pretty quick. Still I avoid dealing with the public. Good luck and will have to drop in on you soon.

I am technically better in Illustrator than ANY of my designers! I am not kidding you BUT it is the concept design that is not my domain. I wrote VBA and Javascript automation for Corel and Illustrator. I can do anything required for letterpress spot colour work including trap. Oh my, I am so modest.


I can’t coordinate my socks to my necktie’s. And I don’t look down on those who do! And that, to match the North American taste, might be hard to get from China. It is hard to get it here too. That is why so many “designers” are copying others.

I would have to study “pretty”


As you eloquently put it “There is a big difference between inspiration, influence and copyright-infringement.”

I am curious, based on your own definition of the knock-off

- in the letterpress invitations department
- delivered to the retail customers
- what do you think is the ratio of the original design to knock-off?

Others can reply too

oops, the above got posted twice

Without having read every post, You are taking picture of your PRINT work as examples of the quality of printing you do. You are not trying to show someone’s design and pass it off as your own for sale. I would not think there is any infringement in this case. It has always been common courtesy in the trade to ask the “owner” of the artwork if you can use their piece as samples.


You need to talk with an IP (intellectual property) lawyer or other expert to find out exactly what you can do and not do. The advice posted here is well intended, but if you get a “cease and desist” demand, you will be sorry that you didn’t find out in advance what you can legally do. With the internet so easily searched, some with copyrights troll for violators. And yes, I’ve seen it happen, although not personally. Cutting a corner is”penny wise, but pound foolish.”


Louie, when determining if something is copyright infringement or not, I tend to refer to the legal definitions and precedents, not my “own definition of the knock-off”…

In my experience that approach tends to lead to better results than the alternative.

Now, you haven’t given us any examples of the work you claim is copied, just a claim that it is copied according to your, as you might put it, “own definition of the knock-off”… ie. that “to me it all looked the same” which, fwiw, is very far from a legal definition of infringement.

Either way, as a trade-printer you can safely ask your client if you can post the work on your site. If the work *was* stolen and the original designer sends you a cease-and-desist, you’ll take the photo down and they have no further action to take against you… you didn’t copy the design, your client did, and you should have fairly solid documentation of those facts in the form of emails containing the artwork or at the very least paperwork on the job.

Anyone who prints for others should include language in the contract that makes the client state that they hold the copyrights to the designs they provide you. It is worth the hassle to contact a lawyer for assistance in wording this in a way that legally, in your area of operations, protects your business.

In the US, almost all copyright infringement cases the copyright holder can only be awarded actual damages, i.e. lost sales of the design in question. That means you are in the clear whilst your client might be liable for the money they made from selling the products you printed… and that is quite frankly their problem.

PS. there are some cases where the copyright holder can be awarded statutory damages instead of actual damages, and this can mean very high dollar amounts in cases of *willful infringement*. In the US, this requires the work to be formally registered with the copyright office prior to the infringement, but trust me, you don’t want there to be any ambiguity here, put it in the contract.

I think you show the work as an example of your printing abilities. You credit the client you worked with and if someone comes along claiming you stole their work, you just pass them along to the client. You’re not an attorney nor the copyright police. I don’t ask every customer, “Is this original artwork? If not, I need to see the release forms.” I assume it’s theirs. It’s not our job to go deep diving on Pinterest or wherever to see if it’s not.