Copyrights and patterns

quiltedstuffJanuary 22, 2008

I am new here. I make and sell quilted items at craft shows. I am new to that as well. All of the stuff I have sold in the past I have designed myself.

I just bought a pattern to make tote bags. I was all set to make a few dozen of these when I read at the end of the pattern "This pattern is for personal use only. Items may not be made for sale from this pattern. This pattern is copyright protected."

This is a very simple pattern. I probably could have come up with my own design if I tried.

My question is: What happens now if I do that? Come up with a similar design. I mean there are only so many ways you can make a tote bag. Am I running the risk of infringing on someone's copyright?

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I think the best thing you can do is to look up copyright laws online and see where you stand. This past summer or so one of the folks in a forum posted a pic of a decoration she made and the person who's original work it was, got wind of the design and came into the forum and downright told her about the copyright infringement.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 9:22PM
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I've been sewing for over 50 years ago and never have had a problem.Someone told me a long time ago to just change one or 2 things in the pattern and make it your own.For example don't copy it exactly,colors they used,choose a different hairstyle if it's a doll,and/or add additional embellishments.

I used to make a lot of rag dolls,from a commercial pattern,and the only thing of theirs i used were the body parts.Everything else i did on my own.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 10:09PM
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Thanks for the response. I did look up everything I could on copyright laws on the gov web page. It never really addressed selling items made from a copyrighted pattern. That is why I came here. I too have heard about the 10% rule of changing at least 10% of the pattern to make it your own. While I normally would not think that was right, the fact that there are only so many ways you can make a plain tote bag I think I could go along with it.

Thanks again for responding.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Here's one I bookmarked, not sure if you've read it yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: copyrights

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 1:47PM
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I think that is where it gets tricky! If it's something really simple like a tote bag and there isn't much you can change, then the person probably had to copy someone else to get the pattern they have! LOL After all, they didn't create the tote bag! I don't know how someone could even really prove that you used their pattern illegally in this case, either. Anyone know? Add a pocket inside, take one out, make the straps longer or wider? Would that be enough?

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 7:32AM
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If you make an item from someones' pattern, you have to give that person the credit. You can't call it your own design. Typically, it will state that an item can be made for fun oor profit at shows or shops, but you cannot list on e-bay or someplace else.
I own a shop, so I am familiar with this procedure.
Also, changing something doesn't make it different, it's still that persons' design, and you can get in trouble for that.
Believe me, a person will know if you copied their piece.
Just give the person credit, and have fun with it, or don't get patterns, and create something totally unique.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 8:58AM
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But Primgal, her problem is that this pattern states "for personal use only" not-- for personal use or for sales. I don't think I've ever seen one like that. Most designers know that most people will want to make multiples to sell. Might be safest to just go find another pattern. This is a good reminder to all of us to read those pattern packets, huh? Luvs

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 1:04PM
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Changing a pattern 10 or 20 or whatever per cent doesn't make it your pattern. (Any more than copying 10% of your neighbor's test paper in school make it your effort)

You can of course make your own pattern, and sell as many as you wish. Almost any commercial pattern will state that it's only for personal use, whether it's McButterVogue, Simplicity, are any of the independents. Amy Butler's web site used to contain an explanation of why this was not okay, but her site isn't loading for me right now.

Making a pattern isn't as easy as one might think, especially if one considers the effort that goes into figuring out the order of construction, truing the seams, working out the details of size and scale that make one item attractive and a similar one just ordinary.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 9:38PM
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A Federal Judge once said: "If I hold the two items in my hands and can see a definite difference, there's no infringement."

But the tote bags are pretty much all the same, right? What is the difference between the bag pattern you see and the sones sold in Kmart? Sometimes someone will CLAIM to have the copyright, but unless it's REGISTERED with the Library of Congress, they have no recourse.
What gets me is, a tote bag is a tote bag. And the generic ones are not copyrighted. They are in the "public domain". But any printed design ON THE BAG IS copyrightable.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 8:12AM
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The statement on patterns that you can only use it for personal use and cannot make items to sell from it is false.

If you pay for the pattern the person who made it has no right to tell you what you can do with it.

You cannot make copies of the pattern and sell them or share them. The pattern itself is copyrighted. What you make from the pattern is not copyrightable and you do not have to change anything at all.

I used to worry about making things from fabric that said on the selvages that it was licensed and for personal use only. Wrong. The logo or whatever is copyrightable, but once the fabric company pays to print that copyrighted image on the fabric and sells it to you... the licensing has been paid for and they cannot tell you what you can or cannot do with it.

You could not make an apron out of John Deer Fabric and sell it as a john Deer apron. It is not a product of John Deer. But you can make an apron out of John Deer fabric and sell it as a handmade apron made from licensed John Deer fabric.

You should check out : Lots of good information there!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tabberone & Pattern Copyrights

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 3:41AM
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Very interesting site, thanks. Original works of art are protected, I believe, without being copyrighted. Maybe that's partly where the confusion arises.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 9:11AM
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Try selling anything in a large venue with Harley Dsvidson fabric or Disney fabric! I will be selling neck coolers aqt our local fair this summer and will not be using any copyright protected fabric on any of them - our fair is nortorious for closing a booth that has any copyright infringerments of any sort - ps our fair runs for 12 - 14 days - almost 4000,000 paid admissions. They are serious around here about infringement and lack of knowledge is not an excuse... I don't do it - yes, I lose sales, but I honor it...

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:21AM
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Yes, grandma bonnie, I'm in Ca. too & a lady few yrs ago made some kids or dolls clothes with Disney fabric & Disney was all over her & she was in a heap of trouble. Never did hear what outcome was but earlier in 1980's it was really sad the trouble some poor mom trying to make a few bucks got Stories of people losing their houses, going thousands in debt trying to get out from under the mess they were in. We have group out here in Orange County called Piecemaker's, I think. They have 2 floors of a building that was new 1st time we went there. Ladies were dressed like pioneer women ,they had quilt fabrics in 2 rooms, laces & ribbons, it was great fun, lots of gift items, clothing & they had classes for knitting, crocheting,quilting, embellishing sweatshirts or jean jackets. Rooms with all kinds of lace doilies, fancy stationary, etc. They were thinking about teaching young women to make bread, we took 1 class from them, it was wonderful, all the rooms they taught in had lots of natural light,they were very helpfulwith our sweatshirt jacket projects, it was worth the 60mile trip! About 3rd time we went down everyone seemed "off" no smiles, disorganized, late opening,etc. finally we asked what was going on. The FBI had raided the place & they were roughly taken out. 1 older lady trembled as she talked & then broke down. Seems they had taught breadmaking & served sandwiches & they were accused of violating all kinds of laws & something having to do with religion. They had a little folded paper telling that they were all some religious group but never mentioned their beliefs when we were there. Several times since they have been raided. Apparently didn't find anything as still in business as far as I know. We loved the place but after seeing the bruises on lady in her late 70's we couldn't afford to go back as we had families. They all said they did nothing to resist & I tend to believe them more than officals that spoke on TV about it. Just part of living in a weird state I guess!! But trouble can find you if you make a mistake. Jan

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:18PM
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How sad... I see character fabric used for everything and just can't tske the chance of being "busted"... I try to play nice, but they keep changing the rules!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 10:39PM
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Its interesting that site about copyrights lined here is pretty clear that once you buy something (fabric or a pattern) what youdo with it is up to you. You just cannot reproduce the fabric or the pattern. I tend to think that is true with the letter of the law. However it doesn't matter what is legal if a big corporation or a person with a lot of money goes after you unfortunately. Some people in a neighboring state tried to keep a public right of way open over (tho the road may not have actually been his) some land that a rich person bought and he sued them and it cost them so much money that they all backed down. He even sued people who wrote letters to the paper. I think we have the best country in the world, but its still true that justice isn't the same for everyone. We coddle big corporations while the small employers and self employed (where job growth happens by the way) people pay the price.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 6:54AM
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Kathy - trust me... Do NOT use Disney fabric - they will come after you. Harley is the same way. They have enough money and time and I don't...

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:28AM
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