Quilting and Copyright Rules

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Copyright law can be a confusing and intimidating topic. Heather Thomas explains many aspects of copyright law including when a pattern is considered copyrighted, what you can and cannot do with a pattern that is copyrighted and what it means to license a pattern.

Copyright

From the moment a designer writes a pattern it is considered copyrighted. While some designs and patterns will have an actual copyright symbol on them and some might not, both are still considered copyrighted. This means that the pattern and design belong to the designer and cannot be copied and reproduced. Heather explains that when you purchase a design you are purchasing the rights to make that pattern for yourself. You can also make that pattern and give it to a friend, however you cannot sell what you have made from that pattern. Heather explains several other scenarios in which you can make a pattern for a friend and receive money and explains which break copyright law and which do not. Heather also explains how you can ‘date’ your patterns, meaning how you can prove how long you have had a pattern by either taking a picture of it next to that day’s newspaper or by mailing it to yourself so that the pattern is in a sealed envelope with a date printed on it. Having a dated pattern can be very helpful when needing to prove if a pattern is yours or not when it comes to copyright.

Licensing

Heather also explains a term known as licensing. This is when you contact a designer and ask for permission to make their pattern to sell. If they allow you to do so, they will often either allow you to make the pattern for a certain period of time for a fee, or ask for some kind of percentage of what you make selling their pattern.

Discussion
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8 Responses to “Quilting and Copyright Rules”
  1. keri

    Wow, I think this could have been presented in a little more tactfully and kinder. Most people don’t understand these rules and we are always trying to save money. I have been aware of these laws for many years and work very hard to support the work of the designers. I know it is a sore spot with some people but she just seemed really annoyed.

    Reply
  2. Lyn

    Hi. As a textbook author I am well aware of copyright, as so often huge sections of my books are copied by educational institutions and used!. If I use a quilting pattern, either purchased or taken from the Internet, I always reference the “author” if I know who it is. With the explosion of technology, plagiarism is so easy and most people don’t realise that they have done it.

    Reply
  3. Lisa

    Patterns have different laws, specifically with clothing type items. The clothing industry is aware of this. Selling an exact copy of the pattern is braking the copyright, but not making and selling of the resulting product. Just make a tiny change, and it is different. Quote where she got this info would have be nice. She actually encouraged me to not purchase her patterns.

    Reply
  4. NONNIE

    What is MS THOMAS ‘S qualifications for stating these statements? Is she a lawyer? A lot of what she says is limited and inaccurate.

    Reply
  5. Kristin

    I wish we had references available of where she got her information. Because I have researched this a bit too, and a few of her comments are conflicting with what I read. We had an instructor come to our quilting guild to clarify certain points about copyright, and it seems everyone has different interpretations. The overall rules are clear, but certain things are still obscure I find. Anyway….play it safe quilters and be respectful.

    Reply
  6. Debi

    So if I see a pattern on pinterest or somewhere else and I “copy” the design and make it myself that is breaking the copyright law?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Debi,

      The short answer is yes. Whenever someone makes something that is original to them (which is very hard to do these days), it is automatically protected under copyright law. That means, that you can not benefit from their design in any way; you can not sell your copy of the design, you can not show your copy of the design, you can not write up your own instructions for the design and sell the pattern, you cannot publish photos of that design. It is not yours. It belongs to the original designer.

      That being said, the pattern you saw, may be a copy of someone else’s work, who knows. It is always best to ask for permission! If you see a pattern you like, ask the maker if it is her/his original design. If it is then ask them if you can purchase the pattern or get permission to recreate the design with your own skill set. There is an urban myth out there that if you change the design at least 10% then you aren’t breaking copyright law. That is incorrect. If the originator of the artwork can prove that your design is based on hers/his, then they can sue you for copyright infringement.

      That being said, copyright infringement is a very expensive battle to fight and most small designers/artists don’t have the funds to go after everyone who makes copies of their work. And no, it isn’t a compliment when someone copies your work. In fact, as someone who has been stolen from on a regular basis, it really ticks most designers off. So, please don’t do it. Ask for permission. If it is granted then give credit to the designer. If it isn’t granted then move on to some other design or try to come up with your own, unique creations.

      My apologies if this sounds harsh, but it is important to honor the creatives of this world and it is also important to act and create with dignity when modeling the work of others.

      Best,
      Heather NQC Video Membership

      Reply
  7. Maree White

    I believe the information you have shared in this video is not correct. Copyright covers your intellectual property the pattern you have designed. Copyright does not extend to the physical product that someone else produces after purchasing your pattern. The pattern maker has no rights to the physical products produced from their pattern. The pattern maker cannot stipulate what the product of the pattern can be used for under copyright law. That falls under contract law. For stipulation of use of the products produced from a pattern a contract must be entered into by both parties prior to purchase of the pattern otherwise a contract has not been entered into. Statements at the end of a pattern such as for personal use only do not create a contract between the pattern designer and the purchaser. Therefore once you purchase a pattern you are legally entitled to make a product from the pattern put it in a show or sell it of your own volition. No permission is legally required from the pattern designer.

    Reply