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5-yrsBy Brian Van Bower

‘As watershape designs have become more creative, more competitive and ultimately more valuable to our clients than we once were, it’s natural that we have started paying more attention to protecting our output.’

That’s how Brian Van Bower began in his July 2008 Aqua Culture column.  He continued:  ‘This is indeed a large and important issue for many people in our business, virtually to the point where watershapers are now facing the same sorts of concerns that have preoccupied architects and landscape architects for decades.  And we’ve caught up with our colleagues at a bad time:  With technology being what it is now, the opportunities for fraud and the ease with which concepts can be stolen or otherwise misappropriated is now only a “click and drag” away.’  


‘For most of us who came to watershaping through the pool industry, this sense of a need to protect our designs is relatively new.’


‘I’ve become aware of a number of recent situations in which watershapers I know are having their work stolen and claimed by others.  In fact, there was just an incident where a company put up a Web site filled with projects claimed as its own when in fact the work had actually been done by several Genesis 3 members.’


‘Not only was this company claiming credit for another individual’s work (which happens pretty often), but this one was brazenly claiming credit for several professionals’ creative output.  It’s outrageous, but in this day and age, it’s so easy to cut and paste pictures, scan documents and pick up information from the Internet (and then rely on obscurity to hide yourself) that this sort of blatant plagiarism is just too much for some unscrupulous louts to resist.’


‘[I]ntellectual property law is complex and I’m not an attorney, so rather than look at this issue in hard, legalistic terms, my tendency is to look for practical responses.  For starters, there are some things we all can do to make it difficult for people to steal images of our work:  We can, for example, imbed logos or watermarks in our photographs that will require a discouraging amount of work for the typical plagiarist to hide.  And there are also technologies that can be used to track the digital signature of images as they move around the Internet, making it harder for thieves to get away with their crimes.’


‘Making these operations cease and desist can sometimes involve litigation, but my experience has been that simply calling these criminals out and insisting that they stop is all it takes in most cases.  After all, it would take an almost sociopathic load of brass for anyone to claim work that doesn’t belong to him or her to maintain a lie when confronted by the design’s true source.’    


‘Taken from the opposite angle, there will be situations where these low-life scoundrels will get away with it for a while, but I say this to them:  If you play this game for long, you’ll eventually get caught and your reputation will suffer because clients will be slow to forgive if they discover you’ve misrepresented your qualifications.’


‘My hunch is, if you’re the sort of person who cuts these kinds of corners with the truth, there’s [also] a high degree of probability that you won’t be in possession of the skills or the mettle required to pull off such a task.  In other words, your goose will be cooked one way or another and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself – so don’t do it!’


‘Perhaps I’m an idealist,’ Brian concluded, ‘but I think if some people spent more time improving their game and less time finding ways to cut corners, then discussions such as this one would be unnecessary.  In the meantime, however, I keep my eyes and ears open, protect myself the best I can and urge others to have zero tolerance for those who demean our profession by misrepresenting who they are and what they can do.’

Has your experience paralleled Brian’s when it comes to facing the need to protect your intellectual property?  What steps have you taken to protect yourself?  Have you been able to use technology to your own advantage in finding misappropriated work?  Please share your insights on this important topic below!    


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants and is a co-founder of Genesis 3, A Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • Guest - Paolo Benedetti

    Anyone who posts images on-line or releases images for publication without digital watermarking them first is flirting with disaster. There is no way to enforce your copyright claims without marking them.

    See: to understand how this technology works. There are countless free software downloads available that you can use to protect your images.

    Digital images should he embedded with a hidden watermark whenever they are released from your control for magazines, publications, web-blogs or other publicity. The watermarks are invisible, but can be "recalled" to prove violations.

    from Pebble Beach, Del Monte Forest, CA 93953, USA