ASK Ourselves, ASK Everyone
Ethical SHARING Honors Original Content

The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing

AFTER my lecture The GOOD, The BAD, and The UGLY in the Age of the Internet, many people have responded. Views of the lecture continue grow. Dialog and discussion continues about many topics.....but, ..... 

GuildBut there is a situation that I didn't consider, didn't even think about... until  it was brought to my attention after the lecture... "The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing."

Here are the examples:

  • A guild member takes a workshop, then comes home to show everyone else the workshop's techniques, tips and tricks.
  • Guild members distributing copies of handouts that they did not create or own.
  • A member demos a skill learned in a magazine tutorial.
  • A guild hires a copycat workshop instructor instead of hiring the original innovator of a skill or technique.

Ironically, all this sharing is usually rationalized as "helping" each other. But with some reflection, this "feel good" cloak of generosity is concealing ethical, legal and moral issues that, in the long run, have an impact on our community.

Guild-Unauthoized-Sharing-SIGNBringing attention to "The Guild of Unauthorized Sharing" is NOT an effort to prohibit the sharing of information. This is about knowing the difference between appropriate sharing of your own original content in contrast to the unethical infringement or appropriation of material created by other people. 

This Guild of unauthorized Sharing is also NOT about enthusiast vs. professional. This is a standard that needs to be applied at all levels, with all organizations small to big.


1) Unauthorized sharing misrepresents to the members regarding who is the "master" original author. Members do not learn the ethical boundaries of copyright and intellectual property. 

2) Guild members teaching content from workshops without the experiences and understanding from the master teacher offer a sub-optimal 2nd hand educational experience
from the original workshop.

3) The master teacher,  or innovator looses revenue when guild members reiterate even small portions of their workshop. The impact is if they can not make enough money from their efforts, they may discontinue teaching, writing their books, creating their handouts or stop sharing their technical innovations.

4) If handouts from a workshop are distributed at guild events outside of the workshop setting the master has lost future workshop participants. This is unfortunate as the master workshop teacher has earned appropriate compensation and respect for their efforts in developing these materials. The impact is lost revenue for both the workshop teacher, and the workshop sponsor such as your guild. I hear that some workshop teachers have stopped creating handouts for exactly these reason.

5) Guild demos based on magazine tutorials means that the magazine has lost potential subscribers. If they do not sell enough subscriptions, they will discontinue publishing.

I am hoping that our shared goal is a vibrant and innovative craft community supported by the artists and makers that care about the future growth of their media.

Frankly, I don't think I understood this problem and the impact so well until I heard about so many examples. 

Many people have opened my eyes. "Suddenly I see why... this means so much to me."