The proliferation of appropriation art—or art that intentionally copies another person’s work and alters it in some way—has been at the forefront of a series of copyright infringement cases over the last few decades. A common defense used in this age-old strategy is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. This claim has provoked a longstanding debate among the industry.
To some, the ability to claim “fair use” opens up the possibility to creatively expand upon existing visual works. However, others fear it opens up their material to exploitation at the hands of well-known artists and companies who make minor “cosmetic upgrades” and then take credit for the work as their own.
As a business owner and decorator, it’s important to thoroughly understand the difference between “fair use” and copyright infringement to avoid costly lawsuits. But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you.
*Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your personal legal advisor before relying upon the information provided.
The Fair Use Defense
What is Fair Use?
“Fair use” is outlined in a set of guidelines found in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. copyright act. It allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the owner in specific cases. Essentially, the guidelines give people the ability to build upon the work of another so long as it doesn’t deprive the original artist of the right to “control and benefit from their works.”
When Howard Potter, CEO of Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images, first started his decorated-apparel business, he operated from a 15-foot-by-15-foot room in his house. “In the beginning, I sold apparel mostly from catalogs and ordered samples to show customers only when I needed them,” he says.
As his business grew, he increased his showroom space—from 8 feet on a wall, to an 8-by-10 area, and then to a large 20-by-20 showroom. “We created a better layout and experience for our customers to view products,” Potter says. “But when we didn’t have tons of space to show actual garments, we didn’t let that become a block to stop us from selling.”
Potter focused on a couple of things: showing clients the most popular and effective mid-level and up styles in a variety of colors, plus recommending apparel and decoration unique to each client’s needs. “We want them to know that we aren’t trying to make them look like everyone else,” Potter says.
Many distributors and decorators, who’d like to sell more apparel, need to overcome their fears about selling it (even more so than overcoming their customers’ objections). Luckily, we’re here to help you get past the four most common challenges we’ve heard about.
Behind every good business are good people; the focused, passionate, reliable people representing your company along every step of the customer journey.
However, profitability and time savings aside, putting the success of your business in the hands of others isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Regardless of how skilled an employee might be, it can be difficult to delegate and relinquish total control. A difficulty that only digs its heels deeper when employee roles aren’t being filled to the best of their ability (and necessity).
This is why properly vetting and investing in quality candidates upfront is so important – not just for your own sanity, but for the longevity of your business. Here are some things to consider to help recruit the right employees.
Design the Right Roles
A job description is not the sole indicator of quality when it comes to who applies to your screen printing business, but it certainly plays its part. If you want the right people to see the value in applying to your openings, put in the time for building out thoughtful, thorough job descriptions.
Use the questions below to help you summarize expectations, while also showcasing company values:
What skill sets are required?
Where are you willing to be more flexible for the right person?
What tasks should be expected on a day-to-day basis, in addition to those that’ll speak to long-term growth potential?
Think Outside the Experience Box
Today’s recruiters (86%) and employers (62%) believe the labor market is now candidate-driven, making it pretty difficult to reel in any applications – let alone from highly-qualified job seekers. The key is to remain flexible on certain technicalities.
As you consider what makes an employee right for your business, embrace the idea of looking beyond experience. For example, a novice screen printer with a strong design portfolio may be a better long-term investment for your company, than someone who simply checks the box for 5-6 years of previous related experience.
Be Mindful of Compatible Personalities
There are certain traits you should look for across every potential employee stepping through your door. You want people that can solve problems, show up on time, learn quickly, and bring a general sense of positivity and passion for the work they do. However, this doesn’t mean everyone has to execute those types of characteristics in the same way.
Personalities and work-style preferences are bound to differ — it’s unavoidable, it doesn’t mean different will inevitably clash. Take stock of the types of personalities currently on staff:
Is there a way to produce a bit of yin to the yang?
Are there any overlapping weaknesses with current employees that can be complemented with strengths in the next hiring session?
Based on the potential new role, what specific personality traits are needed to perform the job well? E.g. Attention to detail for screen printers or extroverts for customer support representatives.
Ask the Right Interview Questions
It’s probably fair to say you’d be a little put off if an interviewee showed up having done zero preparation (anyone would be). That same standard applies to you as the hiring manager. You can’t expect to properly gauge the qualifications of the interviewee if you haven’t thought through what it is you actually want to ask them.
On a very basic level, asking the right interview questions starts with focusing on things that aren’t easily answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The questions should encourage open-ended responses and discussion.
Additionally, the more details you can coax out of someone, the better. When a job seeker is able to go beyond glossing over their resume and bring forth specific insights, they’re validating experience and a knowledge base.
If you’re able to include another individual from the shop in the process, do so. Bringing another brain to the table helps gut check whether your feelings — positive or negative — toward a potential candidate are echoed and valid.
What ‘musts’ have found their way into your hiring process over the years? Comment below.
Every business owner has faced the challenge of pricing their products and services. It’s a difficult task to find that happy medium between profitability and customer appeal, especially if your company is just starting out. You want to sell your goods at a competitive rate, while staying above your cost margin.