Exact copies of guitars - OK, or uncool?

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by Hollowway, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    I figured, with the all the heat my comments generated in Bigfan’s recent NGD, that I’d start a separate discussion about copying existing designs here. I'm surprised how many people haven't thought about what it is cool to copy, and what it isn't, given that our hobbies/jobs in music literally requires us to create new ideas. In the other thread, Bigfan bought one of the Chinese Blackmachine clones. I said I thought it was uncool, because that is stealing Doug's design (presuming Doug plans on making these again). Others said then I should not buy any guitars, because all guitars are copies of the original guitar designed way back when. And that I have to buy a Mercedes, because Benz invented the engine. And that I support pharmaceutical firms jacking up their cancer drug prices.

    So, let's debate this. For me, I think it's totally fine to copy other people's ideas, provided it's not in whole. In other words, I am well aware that the Blackmachine headstock is a derivation of the Parker headstock. Artists borrow and tweak things to come up with new designs. I think it's important to encourage that, and I think it would be weird to allow Parker to block all variations of inline headstocks with minimalist designs.

    I also think it would be ok to copy certain features of other guitars. Like, Kiesel has bevels on loads of guitars now. And Tosin's new shape has a bevel. I have zero problem with that.

    I also like the way IP is handled in the US, for the most part, in that patents have an initial number of years where they are in force, and after that they expire. And the Public Domain laws are good to help older things be allowed to be copied later (because of the copyright or patent, etc., expiring). This might have provided an easy solution to the Blackmachine dilemma.

    And, if I hear a line in a song I like, and I want to use that as my band name (like Between the Buried and Me), or I hear part of a bass line I want to use, I also have no issue with that. But, when someone copies everything, so it appears to be the same as the original, then I start getting a antsy. That seems less about art, and more about opportunism. To me, that would be the equivalent of another band releasing a song that is exactly the same as your song, just recorded by someone else. (And, in fact, that does happen. You can find loads of those online.) I also think it would be wrong for Ford to release a car that looks exactly like a ferrari, but had no branding on it, and a lesser engine.

    I don't expect we can get to the bottom of this, actually, since not even the US Patent Office has an idea of how to walk the line between allowing completely piracy, and being held hostage to patent trolls.

    What do you guys think? Whenever I see a thread where someone writes, "I want guitar X, but can't afford it, so I got a copy," I usually chime in and say I disagree with supporting those who create fakes. But then everyone else piles on. But I always FEEL like we'd all be on the side I'm taking, because I have to think that if any one of us recorded an album, and then found out that another band recorded the exact same songs, and released it under a different name for cheaper, that we'd be steaming mad. But maybe not? Weigh in, folks. I want to see if I'm just getting old or what. :lol:
     
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  2. Sunyata

    Sunyata Bro Story Cool

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    I think this situation is analogous to luxury watch fakes. I see nothing wrong with people capitalizing on a situation where supply cannot meet demand. I also see nothing wrong with people buying fakes/copies.
     
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  3. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Blames it on "the rain"

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    If someone decides they have created a design unique enough to warrant the cost and effort to patent it; then it shouldn’t be directly copied. People will still try to get close without crossing “that line” no matter what. If the IP doesn’t patent the design, then it’s fair game for anyone to copy exactly.
    No matter how similar a Chinese B7 looks to Doug’s design; it’s not a Blackmachine.
    Ola decided to patent his Endurneck, but not his body shape. I can (have already) download the plans for his body that he even posted for us to use. I won’t make an Endurneck due to patent restrictions, but I will probably do an asymmetrical neck profile loosely inspired by it.
    Nobody shits on Pondman when he builds a Jem clone with an Ibanez decal and all. Nobody should. The design isn’t patented. If he ever decided to sell one, I’m sure he’d pull the decal (or probably make a new neck in what, 45 minutes? :lol:) and he’s good to go.
    If the IP designer doesn’t go through the process of patent, then they have agreed tacitly to others using their design. If they’re good with it, why should anyone else care?
     
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  4. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Ok, cool, I was hoping someone with this viewpoint would comment. So, would that also apply to your stuff, or no? In other words, are you more of a everything-belongs-to-everyone type (like the freeware software app programmers), or more of an every man for himself type? In the latter case, assuming that people might copy your stuff, but you just keep hustling, hoping they don’t.
     
  5. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    @DudeManBrother Yeah, I remember a few years ago when Ola actually licensed his design of the body to others. A little while later, he stopped doing it, and asked people to come directly to him for builds. The few luthiers that we’re doing it stopped making the copies. (Though, the Chinese ones have not.)
     
  6. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    One other thing I was thinking about is the Frankenstrat clones. Idk exactly how much they cost, but I know a guy who did clones for $2000, but was contacted by EVHs lawyer with a cease and desist order. Apparently Eddie has the iconic look water tight, legally. I know a lot of people who still buy and make the clones, hoping not to be sued, with the attitude that Eddie is rich, and they aren’t so it’s ok. Which is a weird one for me, because the whole reason I’m against the copies is I know some of these luthiers who are getting copied, and this is their livelihood. Whereas clearly Eddie doesn’t need more money. Yet, he’s done everything by the book to prevent copies, so in theory we should all think it’s wrong to copy the Frankenstrat.
     
  7. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire ERG hoarder

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    I'm just going to copy/paste what I said in bigfan's ngd:
    "The blackmachine design is visually distinct, but it's not like they have a monopoly on the specific aspects that make it a blackmachine. The headstock is essentially a tweaked parker fly shape, the body shape is a generic superstrat, and the only really unique aspect was the partial bevel/binding/metal backplate imo. The ormsby hypemachine and others all replicate those details and manage to crank out guitars at more realistic prices with comparable specs. There's nothing wrong with copying designs when the originals are basically impossible for the average person to get a hold of (ie prints vs originals of photographs/paintings or a replica goldtop 59 LP vs a real one)."

    Most of the chinese copies aren't claiming to be real blackmachines or 59 Les Pauls or ken lawrence explorers but they're an opportunity for people to have a facsimile when an original is far out of reach. As much as I love the ken lawrence explorers, they're not exactly easy to get a hold of (just like blackmachines) and cost as much as my car (at least the cheaper ones do). I'd be much happier with a daemoness or two for the price of one ken lawrence.

    I agree with @DudeManBrother - if people don't want copies to exist, then patent and trademark your shit to death. Be like Rick Toone where you patent having a fucking bottle opener on your headstock, and try to trademark words like cantilevered or trapezoidal :lol:
     
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  8. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    I don't have a problem with it for guitar shapes if the actually trademark/brandnames aren't used.

    If a guitar doesn't have the machine logo or back plate it's just a super strat with a terribly ugly headstock.

    I'm much more FFA if the builder isn't actively building or doesn't care to build anymore. If you don't provide product for the market or don't want to provide for a certain segment you're gonna get swooped.

    I don't really understand the impetus for buying a guitar that way. Even if they are playable they aren't going to be as good as the real deal.
     
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  9. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Yeah, I know guys that like to get them and flip them to unsuspecting buyers. They’ll even fix them up a little, so they aren’t so obviously bad.

    But generally, I’m the same way. I’d rather save my money and buy a nice $1500 rather than 4 $400 Chinese copies.
     
  10. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Blames it on "the rain"

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    This is even weirder to me. He didn’t even build the guitar, he spray painted it a couple times and it became iconic by association. Nobody is getting fooled as to the authenticity of the replicas. It’d be like Rob Halford suing people for shaving their head while wearing nothing but leather.
    3AF29402-71EA-4252-8AAF-548FC98541FB.png
    I’m against copying the Frankenstrat because I find them tacky; but I also don’t typically like artist signature instruments in general.
     
  11. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    i mean if you are buying them to flip to people that don't know any better that's clearly wrong. that's not really a grey area.

    What's exactly being copied in those frankenstrats...the paintwork or the shape and setup of the guitar. I don't think a guitar in that shape can be protected at all..
    If you're getting the paintwork..yeah that's iconic and unique to his guitar I wouldn't copy that.

    Also..this is the blackwater headless tele.

    [​IMG]

    It's easily the greatest guitar ever made. It was never in production or even finished. But it exists in pictures...
    Aaron isn't making anyone one. If someone wants to make a copy of this for me. I'm doing it.
     
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  12. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Blames it on "the rain"

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    I’m in love with that headless tele. I’ve never seen it before, but am about to begin heavily modding an old fender tele to be headless. This image will be referenced multiple times as I carve away the wood.
     
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  13. Sunyata

    Sunyata Bro Story Cool

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    I make a painting. I sell it for $50,000 to those I chose to. Demand grows, but I am unwilling to meet demand, increase production, or create a lower cost option. People start making replicas of my painting for $500. I am annoyed by this. However, it does not impact the decision of those who could by from me for $50K. Nor does it harm my brand value in anyway.

    Doug is responsible for this IMO. He could have gone the Strandberg route and outsourced production of a more cost effective model to meet demand. He doesn't seem to care about this. If he isn't willing to fill the void, someone else will, and he has nobody to blame but himself.

    I definitely would not blame the consumer for finding alternatives for what they want. This is how markets work.
     
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  14. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I kinda feel like at this point, there are so many same-y looking guitars that copies don't really make much difference to me. I mean how many bajillion guitars out there, of varying quality, are basically just strats? I mean, there's a whole category we've called "super strats". Should RGs not exist because they're mostly just strats? What about the tons of guitars that are 99% strat or LP with a different headstock but get tons of praise for being well put together despite being visually derivative? How many guitars have we justified as "original" because they have a 20% pointier lower horn than a "real" LP?

    IMO as long as any guitar is honest about what it is, it doesn't bother me too much if it's a copy.

    I think if anyone thought my material was good enough to re-record, I'd feel pretty good about it. :lol: But would also want royalties. Wasn't a lot of the original "music biz" basically founded on people mostly doing covers and/or having other people write their songs? I mean it used to be that songs that got famous were covers of covers of covers, I thought. But I admittedly don't know much about that part of music history so I could be way off.
     
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  15. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire ERG hoarder

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    aaron had some damn good ideas and I'm stealing all of them.
     
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  16. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Yeah, I don’t have any problem with people making guitars similar to other guitars. It’s the exact copies I don’t like. And, oddly, that’s what a lot of these Chinese companies do.

    I’m not xenophobic, but I keep mentioning China in particular, because the US (and I imagine other countries, as well) is battling this copying on multiple fronts. There are iPhones that aren’t really iPhones being made in China. Software piracy runs rampant. Music piracy used to (before streaming). Essentially, they don’t have any qualms about IP theft. It’s just a huge cultural difference, I think, and it catches many US companies off guard, because American patent law means nothing there. And it’s too hard to police everything coming into this country. I had to laugh a few years ago, when Xiaomi came out with their iPhone lookalike, and CEO Lei Jun did his product announcements with a black turtleneck on. When someone asked him about the comparison, he said they’re not trying to be like Apple at all. :lol:
     
  17. crackout

    crackout SS.org Regular

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    I dislike people making a business of knock-off guitars. This is lazy and cheap.

    However, if one is building for himself, I find nothing wrong about it. I built myself 3 Bodens and have a B2 in the works (with improvements over the original design though). I do not intend to sell them or even brand them in any of the original's way, so couldn't care less.

    Please be careful when talking about patents. A patent protects a commercially applicable device or procedure which solves a technical problem in an innovative (that is inventive) way. A specific shape of a body or a headstock will have a hard time to apply to these criteria. Also, using a priority approach, it is possible to file a patent that is pursued in one country in other countires as well (also in China). The thriving knock-off market in China has nothing to do with missing patent laws there.
     
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  18. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    i love my grote headless and that thread also created a masssssssive debate on this subject.

    i think personally unless the logos etc are blatantly counterfeit, i have no issue with this.

    I intentionally ordered my headless without logos etc. Like all these Chibsons, i would never do that.

    my 2 cents
     
  19. GraemeH

    GraemeH SS.org Regular

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    Blackmachines, of all guitars, are particularly generic. If your idea of what can be an owned as IP is broad enough to say creating a guitar that looks like a Blackmachine is a violation of it, then your idea of IP is so broad that you must think nobody but Fender should be allowed to make a solid body electric guitar.

    If he doesn't want people making guitars like his he should have created a particular design, not just stamped out Generic Guitar #56436

    The only issue would be someone being sold it as a real original. If you think you're getting an original from A.E. for a few hundred you're so stupid you don't deserve money. If someone's selling one of the A.E. copies as a real one and hiding that it's a copy then it's fraud and they should be in prison.
     
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  20. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Disclaimer #1: I work in new product development, so I've dealt with one side of this debate on a regular basis at work - for over a decade now.

    Disclaimer #2: Ethics are open to cultural interpretations and are not universally held.

    There are different levels of innovation and different levels of intellectual dishonesty. But for my assessment, I think intent is an excellent gauge. If I buy a watch and then go around showing it off to people and telling them it's an expensive Rolex, my intent was clear in buying that piece - I meant to promote false information for my own gain. It doesn't matter if the maker deliberately misspelled the logo "Rollex" in order to avoid counterfeit product laws, or even if they left the brand name entirely off. If the product is clearly intended to deceive people, and my purchase held the intent of deceiving people, then the behaviour is deceptive.

    The flip side of this is when a manufacturer is subconsciously influenced by a design and ends up paying homage to it in his own design. Say, for example, a person sees a very nice Rolex in an advertisement, and, years later, becomes a watch maker, and builds a piece that looks an awful lot like that Rolex, without recalling exactly whence the inspiration came. The watchmaker, in this case, would have used the manufacturer's own branding on the piece, though. But this is an honest mistake. Still a mistake, but there is an air of honesty about it.

    Then you have every damn thing in between: people buying a clear fake and letting everyone know it's a fake, people purchasing such a thing "for science," or people knowingly or unknowingly ripping off specific aspects of a design without ripping of the whole of the product, and more.

    As far as ethics are concerned, I really don't think that whether or not the original innovator applied for legal protections is really a determining factor - it's clearly a factor in terms of legality.

    Then there's the fact that no innovation ever came from a complete vacuum. And here again, I look at intent. Did the manufacturer do something similar to another prior work to make it better, or, is it clearly a low-quality cash-grab?

    So, I think it's clear, based off of my own logic, as I explained it, how I arrive at my conclusion over knock-off guitars. Not to pick on @lewis any more than he's already been picked on, but when he purchased a Grote guitar and made it absolutely clear to everyone that he was purchasing a "Grote," it was clear that his intent was not to deceive, but here's the thing about Grote - they make guitars with and without their brand's logo on them, and they, as far as I can tell, only make copies of other brand's designs. In that thread, a lot of folks slammed Agile/Rondo for their copies, but, to me, Agile is one level of copying (since they are always branded and they do have several of their own designs), and Grote is another level of copying. The other threads about fakemachines have been just as heated, with many popping up "in the name of research" or whatever, and some just plain NGD threads. If the guitar does not bear any branding on it, and is clearly an aesthetic copy of a blackmachine guitar done as accurately as the manufacturer could accomplish without expensive equipment, then the manufacturer is clearly intending to use some form of deception in order to make money. I really can't see it any other way.

    And if you are willfully using any form of deception to move a product, then you are in violation of my personal set of ethical norms. Maybe some people could see this as excusable under some circumstances or whatever, but really, how in the hell does anyone see this as universally okay, ethically?!

    Now, that's the manufacturer. What about the consumer? Well, the consumer gets a lot more of a pass in my book. You can't hold the consumer responsible for a manufacturer's use of deception...or can you?

    Well, there's really no argument to say that statistically, manufacturer's using deception to move a product don't get helped out in their mission to do so when consumers purchase their products. So, if you know that a manufacturer is unethical, and you are buying their stuff anyway, you are supporting that manufacturer, and, by proxy, supporting the deceptive business model in general.

    It's like buying some shish kebabs from the food truck on the corner. You want shish kebabs, so no problem, but... if you know that the guy running that food truck is sending his income to support ISIS, then you are knowingly supporting ISIS every time you buy a kebab there. Tone down the extremes, and the logic still works. If I know that manufacturer X is ripping off another manufacturer willfully, and I purchase guitars from manufacturer X, then I am knowingly and willfully supporting theft by proxy. It's not really complicated logic.

    But what if I want a Blackmachine, but they are impossible to obtain? Well, what if your local ISIS food truck is the only place selling kebabs? Does that make it okay to support ISIS? No, so no.

    So, if the logic is so straightforward, why so much controversy? Well, I think people are generally becoming comfortable with the idea of ripoffs being okay, and just don't think about what it does to innovation. But that's just my guess, based on my observations. I think it boils down to selfishness and apathy. And personally, I think that's tacky as tacky can be. I've read more than a dozen threads about this topic, and all it's done is galvanize my opinions about the whole thing, because the people who defend these behaviours have not made any arguments that have resonated with me at all. Actually, some of the arguments made in defense of these behaviours have worked far better in my mind as arguments against.
     
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