Okay, it was ten years ago and the countergirl at Kinko’s® wouldn’t make a copy of this photograph until I covered up the trademarked image on the Café Goya® can. I pointed out that it wasn’t meant to be a picture of a coffee can – the can was just there for scale. But she was very strict. Some years later, we both ended up at the same company and I found out that her last name is Pilon. Is it possible her strictness was because I drank Café Goya® instead of Café Pilón® Or was it because she made a lifestyle of strictness? There is no knowing. But that’s not important right now – I’m attempting a metaphor here about intellectual property.
The thing on top of the coffee can is a Beefy Strut Four Hollow Triangles model. The photo was taken in December of 1995 and published in an APA I belonged to at the time. APA stands for Amateur Press Association – it’s a privately circulated magazine. Ours was organized on the Origami-L listserv and was pretty cool – still is, I hear. After a few years, my job got really twisty and I couldn’t keep up with the publishing schedule. But this is before – in 1993 or 1994, I published a model called Four Hollow Triangles (292 KB). Later on, in 1995, dissatisfied with the floppiness of the model, I made and published a more robust version called Beefy Strut (792 KB).
The other day, I was reading the website of this Famous Folder. (No, I’m not being facetious, he really is famous and I really don’t want to say his name – it’s not germane, this isn’t about him.) The Famous Folder has an article on his site, about five years old, in which he diagrams a model that’s almost the same in appearance as the Beefy Strut model. From a couple feet back, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s clearly not theft – he’s done the math that I was unable to do and came up with a more elegant version. And I don’t for a minute think he ever saw my model before doing his. No post hoc, ergo propter hoc here: independent, penecontemporaneous creation happens.
When I looked at his article more closely, I noticed it had been published in the same APA in which mine had appeared. Origami’s a small world.
So, am I being pissy here, insisting on my slight claim to precedence, like I’m Lydia Wyckham or something? No. I’m making a point about intellectual property. The Famous Folder believes in strong copyright protection. I don’t. I’m not famous and I don’t make a living on my folding. I have the luxury of not having to worry too much about copyright.
Today, I kicked it around a while and decided I did want to put my lousy diagrams from 1994 and 95 out there. They’re historical. They were made on a 286 12 MHz box with a shareware CAD. On DOS. 5.25″ floppies. Burned anthracite, couldn’t handle bituminous.
The other move I’m making is to a Creative Commons license for my work. It’s like copyleft, but it does allow for some control over your designs after you release them. My particular license allows for free distribution but forbids commercial use without permission. Not that that has come up a lot, but I realized that the worry of losing economic control was slowing me down on a couple of my designs.
It isn’t origami till you share it.