Ethics of Copying Guitar Designs [Esp. Small Shops]

Discussion in 'Sevenstring Guitars' started by narad, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian

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    Not what he said.
     
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  2. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian

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    Really, really good post- but I have a quick question on this piece here.
    I understand you're talking about the actual Hypemachines here, and on those I agree, but what about the GTR line? The GTRs are a vastly different market.

    I would posit that they're an 'improvement,' filling a hole in the market that never would have been filled otherwise. There's still clearly the 'in poor taste' argument for sure, but would you lump those in with the Aus-built Hypes? I highly doubt the GTRs cost Doug a single sale, if for no other reason than because they're a totally different product outside of a general aesthetic.
     
  3. Randy

    Randy Sous Chef Super Moderator

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    Debatable but they are slightly different. Perry seems to like garish stains and paint schemes that are kind of the antithesis of Doug's design. I don't think staining a B6 pink fade into blue necessarily makes it an entirely different guitar but he definitely took the idea somewhere reasonably unique. I don't look at a solid finish GTR (especially the single cuts) and say WOW THATS A BLACKMACHINE, so I'll give you that.
     
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  4. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    I think I'm to blame here because at some point I mentioned the possibility of losing sales as a negative outcome the creative builder faces of the copying. But I never meant it was *the* only negative outcome. I'm sure there's not a whole ton of luthiers who got into the business purely for the money, as just about any other profession would serve them better to that end. If hypothetically someone could prove that no one who bought a Ran KL was ever going to buy a KL if Ran didn't exist as an option, we would be able to focus on other aspects of this, but it doesn't end the debate IMO.

    Imagine if you're a musician and someone rips off your song and gets a huge fan following because of it. It's probably not costing you money per se, but still shameful IMO that basically they would not get those orders or merch sales or whatever without you being the creative source of their work, and you are not compensated or acknowledged in any way for your efforts.

    Except for those tribal flame inlays. There's a little bit of Perry in Doug yet.
     
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  5. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian

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    No, I get that, for sure.
    I'm not sure that comparison is equivalent, though- because a RAN KL is a guitar specified by the client. They go to RAN and say "This is what I want, will you build it for me?"
    RAN never said [to my knowledge] "Hey, check this out guys, we make an explorer! Coincidentally it looks just like Ken's! Small world!" You know? It's not like they peeped Ken's design and decided that they were going to use it and pass it off as a RAN product, somebody asked them to build that specific guitar for them.

    This is a different case from Ormsby, who yeah; like Randy said, totally lifted Doug's work, slapped a new coat of paint on it, charged full price, and advertised it. In my opinion, anyway.

    I guess that's yet another distinction we can make- advertised vs. requested. Personally, it would bother me much less if a luthier built somebody a copy that was requested specifically by the client rather than if that luthier advertised that they would build you a copy of Soandso's guitar.

    Haha, I was thinking about those too :rofl:
     
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  6. Lemonbaby

    Lemonbaby SS.org Regular

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    Add to that his preorders-only "business model" that basically let's him churn out that stuff with literally no risk at all. Very impressive entrepreneurship. :noplease:
     
  7. mpexus

    mpexus SS.org Regular

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    Whats the problem in working with Pre-Orders only?
     
  8. Jonathan20022

    Jonathan20022 Engineer

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    There's a real world example of that in the Satriani v Coldplay lawsuit, which was borderline a shameless copy and Satriani was compensated quite well.

    That's also very different from RAN, they made 3 - 4 copies which is not the legacy nor the reason that elevated them to be as well known as they are.
     
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  9. Randy

    Randy Sous Chef Super Moderator

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    I don't think he meant that it's an ethical issue, it's just that we're talking about the narrative of a guy stealing somebody else's concepts and then profiting off of having them built in somebody else's factory with somebody else's money. Which, if you remove any complaints about the design end of things, is just very good business sense but it doesn't make him any more likeable.
     
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  10. Jonathan20022

    Jonathan20022 Engineer

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    Well it's the only way to really operate and make sure you don't end up with tons of NOS sitting around in dealers across the countries. It sucks if you want to get a model that was available in a prior but there's something to be said about eliminating the whole aspect of guesstimating demand and making sure you only sell exactly what you need.

    I think they've build up enough of a fanbase where it'll be beneficial to move away from the pre-order model soon.
     
  11. xzacx

    xzacx SS.org Regular

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    The point is looks have just as much to do with why people buy guitars as how they sound and play. Ever hear of people buying guitars online? It's called "I hope this plays well and sounds good, but I like how it looks so I'll give it a shot." Acting like aesthetics aren't just as important, if not more for many people, is just not being honest or realistic.
     
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  12. Ikke

    Ikke A Dream Cartographer

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    What a fascinating thread. I’m not super familiar with RAN. Are they a small builder? I know they’ve been around a while.

    I’d also like to ask: isn’t the KL a copy of the ESP EXP/MX body with a different headstock? And the EXP/MX is obviously a modified explorer. Sorry if any of the above has already been answered.

    Anyway, as part of the ESP community, we all know that ESP has copied/does copy several guitars: Mirage, RR, EXP/MX, Navigators.

    And indeed, ESP has also made a KL Explorer (headstock, inlays, body, and all).

    So, as of now, if I’m okke with ESP doing it, then I have to be okke with everyone else doing it too.

    The only reason I can think of someone going with an alternative (copy) to the original is because the company making the copy has something/does something, the originator will/does not do. For example, maybe someone wants the ESP Thin U neck on guitar shape X.

    As an aside, and to be totally honest, part of the reason I like ESP so much is because I know that not only can they make their guitars, but they can also make everyone else’s guitars too with the same or better quality.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  13. Ikke

    Ikke A Dream Cartographer

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    Dragonfly Sottile (another high end Japanese guitar I adore)

    upload_2019-4-24_14-26-45.jpeg
     
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  14. possumkiller

    possumkiller SS.org Regular

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    I think we have figured out that the OP bought a KL and now has a problem with Eastern European, Russian, or Chinese builders making cheap commie inferior copies for unworthy peasants. I'm sure that since an ESP copy of a KL would cost just as much or more than the original, he doesn't have a problem with it. At least that's the vibe I'm getting...
     
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  15. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian

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    Nah, I think Narad's been pretty consistent on this. It's popped up before regarding Blackmachine, etc and I always see him take the same stance.
    The Ken Lawrence example is just a handy one because RAN made one, and RAN is another small custom shop that produces good instruments. The fact that he owns one probably just made it easier to identify and discuss; even if it may come off a bit like that.

    Interesting to hear about ESP though.
    I would imagine that in ESPs case they likely licensed that build or otherwise 'okay-ed' it with Ken. I don't think a big company like ESP would play fast and loose with IP like that, assuming it was really a 1-1 copy.
     
  16. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    I haven't read through the entire thread, so if this point has already been brought up I'm sorry/feel free to quote the comment where it was discussed, but what if what I want really doesn't exist?

    For example I posted a thread awhile back saying I wanted an SG, but without a TOM and a 25.5" scale instead of 24.75". Yeah, I know that there's esp/LTD vipers that come close, and warmoth has an offset SG style body available, but the thin beveled body and symmetry is what appeals to me about the SG's aesthetics. I know Gibson is always quick to send out a cease & desist letter, but as it is right now Gibson isn't losing out on any profit from me because 1) while I love the way thier guitars look I don't like how they feel, and 2) I still wouldn't drop money on a high end Gibson because IME the price to quality ratio is way off and I feel like my money would be better spent with a small time builder.

    So where does that instance fall on the moral spectrum? Has anyone else been in a similar situation where they're in love with the look of a guitar but dislike the specs and there's really no equivalent or alternative that's available already? Does the change in specs nullify any "ripping off" of aesthetics or are we purely talking about cosmetics here?
     
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  17. Ikke

    Ikke A Dream Cartographer

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    To be clear, the information is shown here on Wiki. My assumption is that most know the KL Explorer from Hetfield and that that’s the version they’re ordering.

    So, in essence, you’re really just buying a high-end ESP MX which is just a high end Gibson Explorer. A copy of a copy. And then ESP made a custom order KL style. So a copy of a copy of a copy.

    Nothing seems to have been licensed. KL seems to have done the same thing most every builder tries to do: build the guitar the customer wants.

    “Lawrence mainly builds handcrafted bass guitars with a delivery time close to a year with 20 to 25 built each year, but he has also built guitars for James Hetfield, guitarist and vocalist of the American band Metallica.[2]Most of the guitars built for Hetfield conform to the measurements of his ESP Explorer but have slight differences in the headstock and custom inlays on the fretboard.[3]
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
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  18. bouVIP

    bouVIP SS.org Regular

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    Not exactly the same, but I LOVE LOVE the Gibson Les Paul. It's so aesthetically pleasing to me, but I hate the shorter scale length and the TOM bridge. I've even bought an actual Les Paul Standard along time ago and hated it and ended up trading it in for a PRS.

    Recently I was thinking of getting a Chibson to have the aesthetic since I really don't ever want to give Gibson my money again because my last experience was so bad, but ended up not doing so cause was conflicted about straight up buying a fake Gibson. Sure I could get an alternative LP shaped body with a floyd or a longer scale, but to me it isn't the same aesthetic unless it has the Gibson headstock honestly.

    And then the Ran thread, and this one popped up so now it's actually really interesting and relevant to me...
     
  19. Ikke

    Ikke A Dream Cartographer

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    You should get a Navigator LP. It meets your desires, no? Still has Gibson headstock, body, etc.

    upload_2019-4-24_15-21-31.jpeg
     
  20. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    See I don't even care about the headstock in my case, which I know is what Gibson usually gets all up in arms over. Right now my plan is to get an aluminum neck from RGI (hopefully sooner rather than later as I know his backlog is filling up) and then have a local builder make a bolt on SG body with a strat style bridge. However if finding someone willing to make me a body proves to be to difficult I guess I will have to go the warmoth route, which honestly wouldn't be bad. I can get an unfinished body for a little over $200 and thier neck pockets are already routed to fender specs, and RGI necks are made to be a drop in replacement for strats, tele's and jazzmasters.
     

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