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Thread: copyright laws

  1. #1
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    I am curious as to how the copyright law applies to quilts. For instance if you purchase a magazine and there is a quilt in it that you like, and you duplicate it and later sell it, is that an infringement on copyright laws?

    I am thinking of selling lap quilts and/or baby quilts once I retire and don't want to get my hand slapped or worst becaus of this. There is a farmers market in Yancey Co, NC that you can sell veggies and/or hoomemade items and maybe I could get a couple of hundred for a baby quilt. I don't know and won't know until I move up there permanently and try to sell them.

  2. #2
    Suz
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    Vicki,

    I am wondering the same thing. I want to make a baby item and take same to hospital gift shops, etc and if they are interested, I'll go thru the process of getting a license, etc. Some of the designs I'd like to use are from commercial patterns and am wondering about the infringement issues also. Even with a little tweeking, is this infringement??

    I have looked at my patterns and there is no statement of infringement. I plan to look at the big pattern books and check there also for some kind of statement.

    Anyone out there with expertise in this area?

    Thanks, Suzanne

  3. #3
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    I did a google search and according to one website, even if you change it around a little, its still not good enough. According to what I have been reading, there are some patterns that ae public domain and some aren't. How on earth you figure that out is what I am confused about. I thought if you purchased a magazine or pattern, then it was okay. But this web site said you could be fined up to $25,000 plus attorney fees.So my question is, are all these people out there getting written permission or are they just not worrying about it?
    Anybody else have a theory or answer, cause I am confused.

  4. #4
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    A friend of mine runs a quilt shop in Omaha and here is what she said at one of our guild meetings:

    Whenever you purchase a pattern or a magazine with a pattern in it, it is meant for the purchaser to make said pattern for personal use or as a gift. Copyright permission is usually granted for free if asked if you are going to teach a class regarding the pattern or use that pattern in some form of class. It is against the copyright laws to purchase a pattern and then make a quilt to sell it. The only time it is okay to make a non-original quilt design and sell it is if you are using a traditional pattern that' been around forever.

    I would be extremely careful when making a quilt to sell. It is really treacherous waters out there....

    Melissa

  5. #5
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    That is basically what I read yesterday, but how do you determine which patterns are public domain and which aren't. That is the quandry. I know Sunbonnet sue is and maybe log cabin and the huse block, but I don't know how to reseach that part.

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    I'm no expert but I would think the traditional blocks would be ok to use. Who's gonna sue when they were created hundreds of years ago. I think what some are concerned about is the positioning. Newer creations are the old block in a new position. I don't think it's right altogether. Look at the paisley design. Do you think EVERY manufacturer of fabric has to get permission from whoever first created that design. I think not.

  7. #7
    Carla P's Avatar
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    I am no copyright expert, but the advertising firm I work for regularly purchases photographs to include on product labels, web pages, etc. They purchase them and the rights to use them as often as needed. This is a bit more expensive than purchasing a one-time use certificate, but it is a necessary evil of advertidsing. (For example, the pecan pie on the Karo syrup bottle, that one cost the firm $900. Add in the exclusivity certificate- they can no longer sell it to anyone else- for an additional $1,500, & you can see, it wasn't cheap to obtain the rights to that one picture, but we can use it whenever and however we want or need to. I won't even get into the cost of the pics of the babies on the Huggies packages.) My point is, if there is a quilt you really want to make and sell, contact the owner of the copyright & ask them how much they would charge you for the rights to do so. I don't see where the exclusivity would be necessary, but I'm sure you could work out something with them on usage rights. I didn't mention the prices above to scare anyone, I have no idea how much it would cost you, only to point out that most people are willing to sell you the rights for a fee. (They would rather make some money off of it than prosecute anyone.)

  8. #8
    Norah's Avatar
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    Read this link. It will help some.

    http://www.quiltingboard.com/posts/list/807.page

  9. #9
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Norah: Thanks for the info. That was a good article. It explains it much better than any of the other web sites that I had found. I appreciate it.

  10. #10
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    Norah,

    I finally had a chance to read those articles...they were excellent. At first, with the wording I thought it would be clear as mud, but it was very informative.

    Melissa

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    Suz
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    Norah,

    I appreciate the information also. It was not necessarily an easy read, but gave us the facts needed. Thanks for your help.

    I bought a pattern which is cute and although it would be easy to use same to make sale items, I was more interested in the sizes for newborns thru size two.

    Thanks again. Suzanne

  12. #12

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    Hi:

    I'm new here but wanted to respond to this...I belong to a couple of lists that do mystery quilts and there have been issues with the copyright question on those lists.

    What the designer of some of these quilts suggested is this:

    If you find a quilt pattern you like, you can generally make up to 3 or 4 of them to give as gifts without infringing on the designer's right to exclusivity.

    If you want to make up to, say, 15 of these quilts or potholders or totes or bags or whatever, to sell at a craft fair, it is wise to write or otherwise contact the designer of the pattern and ask for permission to do so. Many people will gladly give you permission to sell them at craft fairs or farmer's markets or the like as long as you limit the number of items you make and sell. Some will ask that you include where you got the pattern on a piece of paper or something similar that will accompany the item when you sell it. Some will charge a small fee for making any to sell - others will only ask that you pay them a "royalty" if the number you sell goes over a certain amount.

    Anyhow, the point she made was that it takes time and effort to design a pattern and that if you buy it and then use it to make things to sell without asking for - and getting - permission first, it's like stealing. This particular designer puts in writing on her patterns that you can make up to 3 of her patterns and give them as gifts in addition to making however many you want for personal use without violating the copyright on her items. She doesn't grant permission to make any to sell at all.

    It all depends on the reason for making the pattern...and the mindset of the person making and selling it. It would be best, I'm thinking, to check with the patternmaker and see what their feelings are about you using their patterns.

    Trisha in MO

  13. #13
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Thgis brings to mind other questions. Like if I take a heart shape or circle and divide it up into sections and use different fabrics for each section, is that someone else's design? I have seen that around for ever and have no idea where I saw it originally. Same with the circle. How do you determine who owns what if you have seen it in a magazine as just a nice picture with no pattern given, or maybe say in a non quilting magazine, I know some things, shapes and/or patterns are public domain, but some things I remember seeing form years and years ago and don't even know where I saw it. I for sure don't want to step on any toes, but don't really know how to research a pattern or idea to see if anyone esle thought of it first.

  14. #14
    Carla P's Avatar
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    That's a good point. I guess we tend to just take some things for granted because they have been around for as long as we remember, so that's good thinking. I did read in that article Patrice & Norah referenced that a technique can not be copyrighted, so I would have to ask where is the line drawn between technique & new pattern? In the examples you mentioned, Vicki, I would (personally) interpret them as technique, being as you are not following someone else's placement diagram. ( a heart shape has been around long enough to be public domain, as you said) On the other hand, I can see the confusion.

    I know I'm not helping any; I guess I'm just thinking "out loud". I'm going to go ask some of the people in our graphics department real quick... I'll let you know if I can find out anything you (or any of us) might find useful.

  15. #15
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    I totally understand the confusion there. If one person has a design and it's made by using all templates, but someone else sees it at a show or something and recreates it using a rotary cutter and no templates does it infringe because a different technique is used?? Also, how do we know when a pattern is public domain. 4-patch, 9 patch, log cabin, courthouse steps, trip around the world. Some of these patterns have been around forever, but how do we know when the copyright is up?? Is there a list somewhere??

    I know I have just raised more questions and have no answers...I know I'm thinking out loud too!!

  16. #16
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    the mud gets muddier. i was showing michelle the Yello-Brick-Road and Turning Twenty patterns online. i noticed that one of the [copyrighted] YBR blocks is EXACTLY the same as the ONLY block in the [also copyrighted] TT pattern. now howdooooya like that?

  17. #17
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Without speaking as an expert, because, I'm not, I think a copyright is good for 75 years. If that is correct, how does one ever find out about the age of a pattern? Assuming that you have no idea who was even the original designer? There are variations galore on some patterns, but who can say that theirs was the first? For the time being, I may stick to simple things that we all know are old. For example, Ruby Short McKim featured patterns in the fore runner to Better Homes and Gardens, and she has been gone a long time. She designed in the 3o's. I know her heirs still sell some of her patterns, but can one extend a copy right or is it good only in the original designers lifetime? More confusion :?

  18. #18
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks with it.

    i think i'll just do as my instincts suggest and wait to see who sues. i don't have much anyway. wouldn't be worth what it'll cost them in legal fees. LOL

  19. #19
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Its a very muddy concept. But if they want to come to the Farmers Mkt in Yancey Co to check it out in 2 years, well, let them be my guest. No one can possibly keep up with all the quilt patterns and variations that are out here and keep an eye on all the quilters in the world. It is not possible.
    I mean if someone has divided a circle in 4 pieces and used a different fabric in each and you divide into 6 or 8 is that an infringement? And who is going to come behind us to check? I don't think so. Permission to use a pattern to enter a big show like Houston's maybe but lil ole me at some Farmers Mkt--nah.

  20. #20

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    This is what I found on a quilting site:

    Copyrights and Quilts
    When it comes to quilts, the copyright issue is a very hot, and sometimes controversial, issue. Many feel that since quilt patterns and designs have historically been freely shared it is okay to copy quilts and patterns now. Others want to protect the hard work they have put into their own original designs. Quilters must realize that all original designs are protected under US copyright law.

    There are many traditional block designs, such as the Ohio Star, and quilting patterns, such as a Feathered Wreath, which fall into the "public domain" category. These designs have been around for more that 75 years, so they may be freely copied and distributed. You can check a source such as Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" or her "Encyclopedia of Appliqué" to get an idea of when many of the traditional designs were first published.

    However, original work made less than 75 years ago is protected by law, even if it does not have the copyright symbol © on it. A copyright gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare works derived from the copyrighted work, to distribute copies, and to display the copyrighted work publicly. As a side note, after 1978, the copyright law was changed so it now lasts the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.

    Copyright infringement occurs when a person copies someone else's copyrighted item without permission. This also includes publicly displaying a copy of copyrighted work. So, if you simply fall in love with someone else's original quilt and want to make one too, be sure to ask permission first and get it in writing. Many quilt artists are happy to grant permission as long as they know you are not going to mass produce their design and, when you have obtained permission, be sure to give credit to the designer on the quilt's label.

    At times, a quilt we have seen may be an inspiration for one we design ourselves. So that you do not violate copyright law, you would need to change the design enough that it does not look like the original. Just changing the color scheme or altering a design detail or two is not enough.

    When it comes to commercially produced quilt patterns, quilt books and quilt magazines which you have purchased, you can make one photocopy for yourself so you can cut it up or mark on it and not ruin the original. However, you can not photocopy the pattern to give to a friend so she doesn't have to buy it. This would result in a loss of income for the author and is protected by US law. It doesn't matter if the book is out-of-print either; the copyright still exists for the time period discussed above.

    If you take a quilt class, you have implied permission to make one copy of the teacher's class sample. However, if your friend did not take the class, she does not have permission to make a copy too. She would need written permission from the teacher. In addition, you would need permission to publicly display the quilt or to sell it.

    It is easy to respect the copyright law once you know what is permissible and what is not. Simply follow the golden rule.
    ===========

    Hope this helps.

    Trisha in MO

  21. #21
    Super Member vicki reno's Avatar
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    Thanks! I had read the article that Patrice gave the link to, but did not know where to go to research a pattern. Now I am informed and I appreciate your help.

  22. #22

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    Patrice said:
    i think i'll just do as my instincts suggest and wait to see who sues. i don't have much anyway. wouldn't be worth what it'll cost them in legal fees. LOL

    I couldn't do that, knowing what I know now after looking some of this stuff up. I simply couldn't sleep with myself. I'd far rather write the designer or make up my own version altered enough that it's not a copy of the one I saw so that I don't violate the unspoken honor rule. I know if I made a pattern and was making part of my living selling it, I'd be really ticked off if I knew someone was making countless copies of it and selling it without credit, thereby selling it as their design...it's like lying.

    Trisha in MO

  23. #23
    Carla P's Avatar
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    Here is a solution Vicki... Ask Patrice to design all of the quilts you want to make & send her however much yardage she wants as payment for her permission to sell them. Then everyone is happy, can sleep at night, & no one is being sued. :D (She does have a gift for that sort of thing)


  24. #24
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    this is a direct quote from the copyright.gov site:

    "Works Originally Created before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date
    These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047."

    Huh? if i translate this correctly, if it was created before Jan 1 78 but not published before 31 Dec 2002, it's protected until at least 2002. however, if it was created before Jan 1 78, and published before 31 Dec 2002, it's protected until 31 Dec 2047.

    i have a headache and kitty just fainted.


  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatriceJ
    The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well.
    It's the life of the designer plus 70-120 years but at least 2002.

    Trisha in MO

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