Feb 1, 2011


I have a question about copyright.  I know if you buy a pattern you are allowed to use it and 
show it and give it to someone but can you sell it?

What about if you are skilled enough to take someone's design and rather than buy the pattern make it yourself just by looking at the picture of it.  Is that copyright infringement?  Do you have to buy the pattern in order to make it?

Copyright has always been an issue for me.  Every time I think that I understand it, I read a new article and they say something different.    I thought I read something years ago if you take someone's design and change 30% of it or some low percentage it was not considered copying.  Now I recently read article in McCalls quilting with all sorts of new "rules".   They say no amount of change is enough.
They also say even if you give credit for a photo of a quilt you  photograph in a quilt show and post it on your blog,  it is still considered unauthorized publishing and an infringement to copyright laws.
I have done that unknowingly and see many others doing that.  Is that really  copyright infringement?
I do not plan to copy someone's design to sell but once in a while  I see a cute  idea for  mug rugs or 
valentines or Christmas cards and think that would be  easy to do and send to people but do not because I am not sure what I can and can not do.
Just too confusing.


Joyce said...

I'm baffled too. What if you have a great idea, make something, sell it and then see it somewhere..?

WoolenSails said...

As for selling, usually the rules are on the pattern or inside cover of the book. Some people do not allow sales and others do, I always allow on mine.

As for changing a design, I feel if I saw someones artwork and it gave me a new idea, it is still there artwork, so if I want to use it, I ask permission. If I change it, I state where I got the original pattern idea and then I added my own designs to it.

I had someone buy one of my patterns of a folk dog, she changed the ears and said she designed it, that is wrong;)

If you copy from an antique, anything over 75 years old, it is ok.


momto2wasd said...

I suspect that McCalls Quilt magazine is saying a lot of things that can't be backed up by actual laws. Lots of clothing patterns now say items can't be sold from them, however, the law actually says otherwise. You can't use the pattern's name without permission, but clothes made with the pattern can legally be sold. I don't know how it works with quilts though.

Some people try to copyright quilt block patterns that have been around for ages. There's so much gray. I know that I, personally, try to do what seems the most ethical.

There's a ton of debate on the subject out there.

Beena said...

A great source of info about copyright is with the US copyright office (link follows)


Having familiarized myself with many of the laws, some of the answers to your questions are as follows:

You can not change a percentage of someone else's work, and claim it as your own. The US Copyright Office is very clear about that. It would be like changing 25 pages of a hundred page book and saying it was okay. Not even close to being within legal parameters.
However, concepts are not things that can be copyrighted. An example would be that two people design two distinctly different quilts, and each one has different dolphins on it. Dolphins are a concept, in that case, and concepts fall into public domain for use (as long as it is your own rendition of a concept). You are safe using quilt blocks that are in the public domain as well, such as nine patch and others that have been around for a while. But realize using someone's written instructions for that which is in public domain, that those instructions are their words...that is copyrighted. Be careful when using things that are over 75 years old and older, because sometimes the copyright has been renewed and you are not covered, and also some copyrights are granted for the length of that person's life which may extend past the 75 year mark. Never just assume.

Although many quilt patterns are easy to see how they were made just by looking at the photo, the design is copyrighted and reproducing the item even without the instructions does not change the ownership of the simple, yet copyrighted, design.

You can not produce items from a pattern for the commercial purposes of selling them, unless the copyright holder/pattern designer gives you permission or a license to do that. But if you buy a pattern, you may sell that pattern itself, just as you would a book or any other copyrighted item. You can not, however, xerox off copies of the pattern, to sell. A good rule of thumb: anytime you do something that would potentially cut into the pattern designer's profits or deprive them of the credit for their design, you are probably doing something illegal!

Making a quilt from a pattern for your personal use that you later post a pic for on your blog (a blog that is not a source of income for you), is not a copyright infringement. But you should mention the designer, and you aren't allowed to take the credit for their design. Giving other people the instructions for free to make that same quilt, however, is a copyright infringement.
Photographing the same quilt to publish for a commercial endeavor such as a magazine is a copyright infringement since it deprives the un-consenting designer of the credit and share of profits they would be entitled to for having their design in that publication that makes money from such things.

Most quilt shows are very clear as to whether or not you are allowed to use a pattern, and the ones that allow it require you to provide the quilt designer's information.

I have to tell you that it is astounding how many non-quilting folks think the laws that apply to literature, art, music, somehow don't apply to quilting as well. Astounding. But if you design and make yourself a quilt, you are entitled to the same protective rights as any other creative person!

Marie said...

Barb - I have wondered that many times myself. I was also surprised the first time I bought a pattern and it came with the 'may not sell' statement. I have been very careful after that time, if I am going to offer it for sale, it is my pattern and design.

Hugs - Marie

momto2wasd said...

I just thought I'd add, I don't sell quilts that I make, so I haven't researched anything with quilting. I did sell kid's clothing items very briefly, so I researched that. I paid a license fee to a pattern maker so that I could sell using her pattern--it was all ethical. Technically, I don't know that I was legally required to do that just for using the pattern, but to use her pattern name when I sold the items I definitely was. Ethically, I would not have felt right using her pattern to make garments for sale even if I didn't use her pattern's name.

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