Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Few More Words About Copyright...

Just a few more words about copyright that I think are worth talking about...
(Remember, I am not a legal expert.  I am only speaking and writing from what I understand.  If you have any legal questions, it is wise to consult with a copyright attorney).

Significantly Similar
There is no magic bullet or formula for how you can change someone else's design to make it your own.  If a work is "significantly similar" to the original work, it is a copyright violation.  You cannot change a design 10% or 20%.  You cannot simply reverse the direction.  You cannot change a design "seven times" to make it yours.  If a "Regular Joe" can see that the new design is significantly similar to the original, it violates copyright law.
I know you will say that there is nothing new under the sun.  But that's still not an excuse to copy, OK?  You have lots of options.
There are things called "common design elements."  Stars, snowmen, geometric shapes, etc.  You cannot copyright these things.  But the more detail you use, the more specific you make the design, then it becomes copyrightable.  Everyone can use a basic snowman design.  But when you draw the snowman, put a golf club in his stick hand, draw a rabbit for his caddy, and the golf bag is full of carrots, then that's when it's your own copyrightable design!

I need to correct myself.  I think I was misunderstood or misspoke in my last post about copyright vs. antique rug patterns.  Remember that anything prior to 1923 is in the public domain.  That means you can adapt vintage/antique rug patterns prior to that date.  I also mentioned that designers often sell these antique adaptions.  But what I meant to say was that if you are going to adapt an old rug design, go directly to the original rug design.  Use your photo of the antique rug and do not copy the adaptation from the designer!  Yes, the design is in the public domain but if the designer added extra "stuff" to the pattern, you are also copying that newer stuff. It's public domain vs. a few new things someone else added.  I think it's a sticky wicket that I would want to avoid. 
I read an amusing story once where old map makers would design a map but purposely put one small error into an inconspicuous spot on the map.  Then they could often identify someone who was copying the map because the offender would also unknowingly copy the mistake.  Pretty clever, wouldn't you say?

OK, I don't know if I'm using the right word by saying "intent" but this is really what I mean:
Patterns drawn out on backing or foundation cloth are intended for one-time use only.  I mean that you cannot buy one pattern on the backing of your choice and trace it or redraw it for all your friends.  It doesn't matter if it is for personal use, you still are violating copyright laws. If you know someone who is doing this, DO NOT take part in this activity.  I know it goes on because I have had people call me and tell me that it has happened with my patterns.  My best advice to you is to not take part in this type of sharing and kindly purchase your own pattern.   I had a friend who once showed me the cutest little goat pattern.  It was an older pattern but certainly not pre-1923.  She said "oh, I know you like it so go ahead and retrace it.  I won't tell anyone."  Nope!  I would not do it.  It would have been so easy because who would have known if I traced it or not? After all, it was for my personal use.  But I could not compromise my core belief and to this day, I'm happy I stuck to my guns.
One other of my conversations with an attorney was about one-time use patterns.  Once you purchase the pattern, you may hook the rug and if you choose to sell the finished rug, you may do so.  The obligation to the designer was satisfied when you purchased the pattern.  The designer cannot prohibit you from selling the rug.

When you purchase my book, Introduction To Rug Hooking,  there are 8 patterns included that you are free to use for your own personal use.  You can use them as many times as you want and enlarge them, add to them, etc.  I own the copyright to the patterns but the intent of the book was for the reader to copy and use the patterns for personal use. There are lots of other books you can buy that offer free patterns too.  But be careful...not all line drawings that appear in magazines and books are for free use.  Sometimes they appear for educational purposes or for reference.  You need to do your homework and make sure that they are for public use before you copy them.  
I believe that most patterns you buy on paper or PDF have the same may copy and use them for your own personal use as many times as you wish.  However, please check for any disclaimers that come with the paper pattern.  They may limit you to a certain number of copies.

I hope this extra information adds to your copyright knowledge.  I appreciate your comments and input!


Ewe and Eye said...

Thank you Kris! Well said!

Lori from Notforgotten Farm said...

Thank you again, Kris, for clarifying the mystery of one-time-use for designs on linen/backing. I had just this conversation the other day and wasn't sure I was making my point clear. I will be sure to tell folks to refer to your easy to understand postings on this subject ~

Saundra said...

Kris, I'm sure you are exhausted after these three segments to your blog; particularly since you really had to type, read, update, save, edit, etc. until you felt comfortable enough to poublish.

For the life of me cannot remember what pattern it was but took a 'permission' slip of sorts from the orginal designer for me hook put the pattern on linen. OH!!!!!!!!! It was a Maggie Bonanomi pattern.

Hope you are doing well and will miss you first week at Cape May. The only week our long lost snowbird could go was week two. Hope to catch another camp with you soon.


Pat said...

Best one yet!! I have thoroughly enjoyed your explanation about copyright no-nos. Unfortunately I have experienced many of your examples. Best excuse is "they won't know". It's a very small world. Many years ago I was flipping through a magazine and there was an exact copy of a rug (my design) for sale. The person claiming it was her original design had been a teacher I took a class from.......the class where I was working on that rug.

One thing I'd love to see with the reproduction of antique rugs it the "designed by". State that it's an adaptation of an antique rug rather than saying "designed by" and give some history.....approximate year and maybe from where. Those antique rugs are part of women's history. A great example is what Evelyn did with the history of Magdalena's rugs.

Diana Kistner said...

Thanks Kris, you have stated all of this well, now hopefully everyone will think before they draw their next pattern. There is one other situation that I have seen happen, they buy a pattern book that is suppose to be used for ordering and say oh I will just copy this pattern. Boy that one is a no no and I couldn't believe I heard it.

kelley said...

Thank you Kris for opening some eyes to this serious subject...artists need to be respected and Pat said, I would like to see all of those selling patterns based on or exact copies of antique rugs, quilts, etc...make mention of the fact that they are in fact, antique and not original designs...

I appreciate all the designers who so wonderfully keep us inspired with their new designs and wonderful models...I would like to know ahead of purchasing a paper pattern if the designer allows use for different's very discouraging to receive no answer and have to move on...

Julie said...

Thank you so much for all of your information! I am new to this art and appreciate the work you put into these articles. It left me with a very clear understanding of copyrights.