Copyright Infringement and Why People are Stupid

Yesterday (when I should have been studying for a physics midterm,) I encountered a link to this article. Two things struck me. First, this guy’s art is brilliant! To my recollection I’ve never seen a firebowl, and, to be honest, at first I thought the concept was a little stupid and a little dangerous. Then I realized that it’s a very awesome and no more dangerous than a barbecue, and that this guy has a brilliant thing going here. Too bad some jerk guy thinks he can brute force John T. Unger’s copyright away from him with a >$50000 lawsuit.

John T. Unger has been making these fire bowls for a while. They’re pretty incredible, and he’s pretty well known for them. Eventually, Mr. Unger learned that a man by the name of Rick Wittrig, associated with a company called was making cheap imitations of the art. Unfortunately for Mr. Wittrig, Mr. Unger had already filed a copyright for his work, and this was actually copyright infringement. Not copyright infringement as in “Wittrig just decided to make a firebowls”, but rather copyright infringement as in “Wittrig replicated Mr. Unger’s idea almost exactly, which is in fact illegal.” If that sentence was a little too dense and confusing, Wittrig stole Mr. Unger’s art, and it’s illegal.

So if what do you do if you’re a semi-successful business man who has a little extra cash and has spotted something he wants but can’t have? Why you sue to have the copyright overturned, of course. Now if you’re asking yourself, “Wait. How can some guy sue some other guy for the copyright, even though the other guy filed the copyright completely legitimately, and the first guy has no claim whatsoever to that copyright?” Well that’s an excellent question. This is ridiculous. And that’s where we come to the “People are Stupid” part of this post (note: it’s even tagged “People are Stupid.”) Wittrig has decided that you can sue someone in order to get the government to take something from that person that you can’t take away from them yourself. And he’s correct. Is this morally right? No. It’s completely ridiculous. Because this guy can’t come up with an ingenious idea of his own, he has decided to simply take someone else’s idea and market it. If Wittrig had half a brain and a pencil he could have come up with his own design and avoided the whole issue. He could have even paid some art student $20 and had the kid design it for him with the agreement that Wittrig would retain the rights to the original design. He might not have made as much money, but he would have had an original idea, and wouldn’t have had to ruin someone else for it. But no: that would have made sense, and would have been the right thing to do.

Some people don’t have inhibitions about doing things that are wrong, so when they see that someone else has a good idea they latch onto it and try to take it. They justify it by saying, “It’s a free country!” I suppose their right. It’s sad that no one stands up for “the little guy,” though. It’s “business” “men” who pull stunts like this that messes up a country and the people who live there. There’s a small part of me that wishes I could find an equally dastardly thing to do to these morons who use the cliché “it’s a free country” to destroy peoples’ lives – but that would put me on their level. And even though that doesn’t make me feel any better, fortunately I haven’t found such a deed and am not likely to.

If you think taking people’s ideas without giving them credit or compensation is wrong, you should support Mr. Unger’s project on Kickstarter. I’m even considering throwing a couple of dollars at the project myself, and I try not to spend money on the internet. At the very least, please tell people about Mr. Unger’s situation, and link them to his article: Thanks!


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