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Provo Craft Issues Statement on Cricut Cake Controversy

The Cricut Cake machine that was unveiled at CHA Winter 2010 amid much buzz will be launched on HSN on April 14th. Unfortunately for Provo Craft, as that date approaches the machine’s origin has become surrounded in controversy.

The controversy has been fueled by custom cake designer Linda McClure of Vidalia, Louisiana, who has posted a lengthy statement on her website claiming to be the real inventor of the Cricut Cake machine’s concept. Her daughter has been posting on several prominent scrapbook message boards on her mother’s behalf, drawing attention to and defending her mother’s claims.

McClure filed an application on March 24th, 2010 for a patent related to the process used to cut gum paste with the Cricut machine. Whether the patent will be granted is yet to be determined in a lengthy and complex process. Approval is by no means certain.

After McClure’s allegations worked message boards into a frenzy over a few days, Provo Craft finally felt compelled to do something that is rare for them: issue a response to negative publicity. Among other things, Provo Craft claims they started development of the Cake machine in 2007:

In 2009, Linda McClure approached Provo Craft about a method of cutting gum paste, a method with which Provo Craft was already familiar and whose documented development dates as far back as 2007. We reached an informal agreement that provided for Ms. McClure to be compensated at fair market value for her time and consulting services as we prepared to launch Cricut Cake in 2010. She accepted, performed certain activities, and was compensated accordingly.

More recently, Provo Craft and Ms. McClure discussed the possibility of extending a formal consulting agreement. We believe that some of her requests, including both financial and non-financial terms, were unrealistic. Further, Linda was adamant that her requests were non-negotiable. As a result we chose not to enter a long term agreement with her, and unfortunately our relationship deteriorated.

Provo Craft’s initial research and development for Cricut Cake began in 2007. Since then, Provo Craft has conducted extensive market research and consulted with industry leaders, and both professional and aspiring cake decorators. We’re grateful for the valuable input and the enthusiastic support of these individuals, and we look forward to our continued relationship with them. We also hope you share our excitement for the fun possibilities that Cricut Cake will bring to creative kitchens everywhere.

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Provo Craft & Make The Cut: The Technology Background

As noted earlier today on Scrapbook Update, Provo Craft has filed a lawsuit against software company Make The Cut over an issue that is somewhat new to the scrapbook industry: digital copyright security protection.

One issue seems to be of particular interest to Provo Craft in the lawsuit. Make The Cut recently provided an update that included a new feature they described as “experimental”: cartridge backup. Although Make The Cut indicates that their software doesn’t create a full reproduction of cartridge date, even partial data copies was apparently enough to warrant major attention from Provo Craft’s lawyers. This may explain why Provo Craft has chosen to take action against Make The Cut while seeming to leave alone Craft Edge, the maker of Sure Cuts A Lot software which also allows cutting from a computer with Cricut machines. The Sure Cuts A Lot software doesn’t access Cricut Design Studio or allow the use/copying of cartridge images.

Creating backups via cracked security protection has long been a fought-over issue in the technology world. The issue has been fought about regarding DVD’s, gaming cartridges, and other types of media. Media companies have pretty much always held that it violates their copyrights to create back-ups of the media they sell, or to transfer those media to other formats for use (such as ripping DVD’s to store and watch on your computer). But software, which doesn’t always work but still exists, to crack the copyright protection on DVD’s continues to be distributed via the internet. An exception to this are CD’s, which iTunes even has a built-in feature for importing, because there are usually no copy protections installed on them. (One notable exception: Sony BMG got in a lot of trouble several years back for installing computer-damaging root kits on some of their CDs that caused problems for users who inserted those discs into their Windows computers. They ended up as the subject of a recall, several class action lawsuits and state & federal sanctions.)

The creation and maintenance of closed operating platforms (where a company uses copyright protections and proprietary technology on equipment or systems to control how purchasers may use them) is also a highly controversial issue to many. Apple is (in)famous for doing this with the iPhone to control what applications users may run on their phone. The phone’s lockdown has resulted in a practice called “jailbreaking” where some users hack the phone so that they can install applications other than the officially approved ones sold in the iTunes App Store. The result has been a running battle between Apple and the jailbreakers, where the iPhone is repeatedly secured with a new operating system update, and then hacked again by jailbreakers. The same battle has already started over Apple’s brand new iPad device. (This differs from devices like a personal computer, which is designed as an open system designed to have any compatible software you can get your hands on – or even write yourself – installed on it.)

Provo Craft has in essence created a closed operating system for the Cricut with the secure proprietary software that runs the machines. Only their cartridges can be used in the machines, and only their Design Studio software or Gypsy can be used to access the machines for cutting. Companies like Apple say that a closed system provides a better user experience by eliminating outside errors being brought into a system. Many users agree and like the natural simplicity of a closed system.

So why does Make The Cut (and iPhone jailbreaking) exist? Because some users feel that once they buy something they should have the right to do with it whatever they want. A certain segment of consumers sees the purchase of an item as absolute. It’s a black-and-white philosophy: “I own it, so I should be able to do what I want with it.” These users chafe under limitations of a closed system.

These issues may be new to the scrapbook industry, but they certainly aren’t new to technology. As technology invades the scrapbook industry more, we will see more and more of them.

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Provo Craft Sues Make The Cut

Cricut manufacturer Provo Craft filed suit in U.S. District Court on April 1st against software manufacturer Make The Cut, which makes software that allows for cutting with Cricut machines without using cartridges.

Make The Cut is a Wisconsin-based company that is owned by Andrew Heinlein. It was organized as an LLC in early December 2009. An active community of users has grown around their software in a short period of time, sharing and trading cut files to use with the software on Cricut machines. The software is also, according to notes in recent updates, compatible with other machines such as the Silhouette, Craft Robo and Wishblade, although most users appear to be Cricut owners.

Provo Craft alleges multiple violations have been committed against them by Make The Cut. The suit alleges that Make The Cut:

  • Circumvented the copyright protection on the Cricut Design Studio software
  • Sells to others the ability to illegally circumvent copyright protection on Cricut Design Studio software
  • Encourages others to illegally circumvent copyright protection and assists with the infringement
  • Violates the copyright on Cricut Design Studio software and Cricut’s design cartridges
  • Violates and dilutes the Cricut trademarks by using them in advertising for Make The Cut products

No specific dollar amount is provided for requested damages, but Provo Craft is seeking damages under applicable laws for the violations, as well as court orders directing Make The Cut to stop further infringement. Make The Cut will have 21 days to file a response to the lawsuit with the court after they are officially served notification of the suit. Court filings currently have no record of a date of service.

Scrapbook Update has requested comment on this matter from representatives for both Provo Craft and Make The Cut. No response had been received as of the time of publication. Scrapbook Update will publish updates on this story as they become available.

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UR2 Cre8ive: 68 playful ways to unleash your creativity

Scrapbook Update CHA Winter 2010 Top 10 Hot Picks

Well, it’s all over. The suitcases are unpacked, the photos are loaded in Lightroom, the jet lag is easing. After taking some time to analyze what I saw, and go over my notes and photos in detail, I’ve assembled this list of Scrapbook Update’s Top 10 Hot Picks from CHA Winter 2010:

1. BasicGrey

This pick may sound a bit redundant, because BasicGrey is such a force in the industry. But their last few show introductions have been somewhat underwhelming. One of my favorite companies was frankly, starting to edge toward getting stale. But with the introduction of Kioshi, Green At Heart, Capella, and Max & Whiskers, BasicGrey is starting to look more again like the company whose papers used to make a serious dent in my budget. I wasn’t the only one excited, either – I heard the same sentiment from many others on the show floor.

Another fabulous showing from the company at CHA Winter was their Basics line. Available in 3 colors (white, cream and kraft), it is a line consisting completely of text and ledger-style paper designs that make great backgrounds for building on. Ledger paper is incredibly popular – a whole collection of it is a dream for many scrapbookers.

2. EK Success Slimline Punches

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the EK Success slimline punches. There will be plenty for everyone to love now, because despite the trend towards smaller product line introductions, EK Success is introducing 78 new designs of slimline punch.

A large number of the new punches are border punches, including some that create paper ribbon chains. For Halloween, EK was previewing a punch collection that included a new even larger size of border punch.Consumers are all about tools right now, and punches are used by scrapbookers and cardmakers. Expect the popular slimline punches to get even more popular with this huge introduction of options.

3. Melody Ross for GCD Studios

A few months after the news broke that the Ultra-Pro owned Chatterbox was defunct, founder Melody Ross is back in style with an amazing collection for GCD Studios. She’s obviously thriving in her new professional home, as this is the best creative work that we’ve seen from Ross in quite some time. Ross, who revolutionized the industry a decade ago with her work at Chatterbox, reclaims her position as one of the leading creative minds in the industry with her CHA Winter lines for GCD Studios.

4. Staz-On Metallic

Stamping is hot. Metallic is hot. So StazOn, the ink that stamps on almost any surface, being introduced in new metallic shades seems like a made-to-order hit for manufacturer Tsukineko.

The metallic StazOn ink pads come in four metallic shades: gold, silver, copper and platinum. The pads work in a similar fashion to the Tsukineko glue pad, coming with a pad and a re-inker bottle from which the pad must be loaded and then more frequently refreshed than a regular ink pad.

5. The Girls Paperie

Margie Romney-Aslett has definitely moved on to a successful new chapter after being let go by Making Memories nearly a year ago. Her new line with Advantus, called The Girls Paperie, was all the buzz at CHA in Anaheim.

The designs are in the beautiful vintage style that Romney-Aslett is known for, and include both papers and embellishments. There are two lines. One is travel-themed, and one is a classic feminine floral grouping.

6. Tim Holtz for Sizzix

Sizzix generated a lot of excitement with the announcement that Tim Holtz would design a line of dies for them called Alterations, and the products unveiled at CHA did not disappoint Holtz’s fans. Alterations is something of a departure style-wise for Sizzix, so it may attract a whole new group of customers for the machine.

One nice feature of many of Holtz’s die designs is that they are divided into many pieces. For instance, pieces from the butterfly die can also be used to create  a dragonfly or half butterfly design. The Alterations line also includes a group of embossing folders for the Sizzix machine.

7. Cricut Cake

While technically not exactly a scrapbook product, the Cricut Cake machine from Provo Craft is designed to extend a papercrafting product line to a new audience: bakers. This new version of the Cricut Expression machine is food safe and designed to cut sheets of sugar to use in decorating cakes and cookies. It will ship in May and retail for $399. Regular Cricut cartridges do work in the machine.

The machine can cut from two different thicknesses of decorating material. From the examples on display at the Provo Craft evening event in Anaheim, the Cake is capable of cutting quite detailed images. The images on the cake below come from a Cricut cartridge called A Child’s Year. The Cricut Cake generated a lot of buzz at CHA, and is a great opportunity for Cricut to extend its market base beyond just papercrafters. According to a representative for Provo Craft who spoke to Scrapbook Update at CHA, the Cake is just the start of some major development in the Cricut line – the company has five new machines in the pipeline for the next few years.

8. Copic Markers

The rise of interest in stamping has brought along a rise in interest in mediums that are used with stamps. There’s been a lot of buzz recently about Copic alcohol-based markers for use with stamps. Copic markers were hot sellers at the CHA Supershow in Anaheim (in fact, the booth with a great deal on them was the only one I waited in line at all day). There were examples on display in many stamping booths at the show that had been made with Copics, and Couture Cardstock was advertising its new bleed-proof Pure Silk blending papers designed especially for use with Copics.

9. Lily Bee Design

Lily Bee Design, a new exhibitor, has been attracting a lot of buzz with its vintage feminine designs. They’ve achieved something that usually seems to be difficult for a new company, by creating embellishment designs that are beautiful and noteworthy. Their chipboard flowers and 12×12 rub-on sheets are worthy accompaniments to the company’s beautiful papers, giving Lily Bee’s lines a depth that many new companies can’t match. These lines’ reasonable size and their quality means that a retailer doesn’t need to cherry-pick them to carry them.

10. Eco Green Crafts

Also in the new exhibitor section, Eco Green Crafts is making a timely entrance to the market when interest is building in “green” products. Co-founder Julia Andrus is a cancer survivor, and all of the company’s products in some way are designed to be environmentally friendly – from low VOC paints and inks to unmounted rubber stamps that save wood. The company’s line of inks are vegetable-based. Eco Green Crafts offers an extensive selection of colors of inks and paints, recycled paper board books, and a catalog of unmounted rubber stamps that are “steampunk” styled, among other products.

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