Monday, March 20, 2017

Rug Hooking Etiquette - Part 3

** I have a confession:  I have been working on this post for longer than a week.  Writing, editing, writing, and editing again.  There is so much information I want to tell you but I fear it might get too "preachy" somehow.  So I hope you find this helpful and please bear with me.**

In this post, I am going to be discussing the dreaded "C" word.......


(I can already see some of you passing out in front of your computer.  Or maybe your eyes just glazed over a little bit.)

There is nothing so fraught with controversy than to have a discussion with a rug hooker about copyright laws.  Let me say first that I'm not a lawyer, I don't have a law degree, and I am not an expert about copyright laws.  I have, however, had several discussions with attorneys about copyright law and I have done enough research to feel fairly comfortable when talking about it.  A great resource that I often refer to is the Copyright Office website at Please use it as a reference if there is any doubt. Another great book to read is Copyright Plain & Simple by Cheryl Besenjak.

So there you have disclaimer before I discuss copyright vs. rug hooking etiquette!

Copyright is the legal protection of one's intellectual rights and it protects original works including music, writing, artistic works (including pictorial and sculptural works), movies, photography, and even computer software.  Here is a link to general copyright information (really great information for inquiring minds):

Basically there are two important facts for rug hookers to remember:

1. Copyright laws cover the life of the creator + 70 years.
2.  Anything published before 1923 is in the public domain (no copyright) are wondering how this applies to rug camp etiquette? Well, it works like this:
You cannot hook Sponge Bob Square Pants at camp or anywhere else, even for personal use (yes, this is true.  Sponge Bob belongs to Nickelodeon.  I really did have to investigate this). You also can't copy/hook The Simpsons, or Winnie The Pooh, or anything else that is licensed by a corporation (unless you get permission). This includes sport team logos because they have strict licensing rules.  You can't create designs by copying images/photos you find on the internet or Pinterest or Facebook or Ebay or Etsy without finding out if they belong to someone. In other words, most pictures and images you find on the internet are copyrighted and to use them would be an infringement when you use them without permission.

I realize I am not the police when it comes to this but I can tell you that you cannot hook these things in my classroom.  Nor can you hook any design in my class that appears to be a copyright infringement. And I hope you don't do it in any other teacher's class either.

There are lots of really, really wonderful rug hooking patterns out there by many talented designers.  I like when my students pick one of the patterns from my website because I am familiar with them.  But I never, ever limit what a student can hook in my class to just my patterns, because of all the other wonderful choices (I always welcome any primitive/wide cut pattern in my class).
If you have an eye on a design that you've seen on the internet, or in a book, on a note card, etc, please don't make the assumption that you can copy it for rug hooking!  Do your best to find out who owns the design and ask for permission. It's not out of the question. I've heard of many artists who will allow you to do this for personal use.  Ask.  I love the adage "the answer is always no unless you ask!"
If you get permission, make sure it's in writing so you have proof that you can legally use the design.  But what if they say no?  Or what if you don't get an answer?  Just move on.  Think of all the other terrific design possibilities and find something else to hook.  It's the right thing to do.

One other thing....just because you purchase/own the artwork, whether it be a painting, note card, etc, it does not give you the right to copy it.   The creator still owns the intellectual rights/copyright.  Remember:   lifetime of the artist plus 70 years.

Can you copy an old postcard, poster, or greeting card?  Yes, as long as the design is pre-1923.
Can you copy an antique or vintage rug design?  Yes, as long as the design is pre-1923.

Many pattern designers do offer patterns from antique rug designs but beware!  If they have added a few extra elements (maybe a different border), or put their own spin on the design by adding a few extra doodles, they have essentially created a copyrightable design, and of course you can't copy that!  I often take my own pictures of antique rugs when I'm traveling somewhere or visiting an antique store.  When you do that, you are using your own photo and adapting the design just as you have seen it.

Complicated?  Confusing? You bet!  Will people jump all over me for this?  Probably.  Is this important to our rug hooking community?  Yes, it is.  Let's all do the (copy)right thing!


Lori from Notforgotten Farm said...

and yet another most excellent and informative post on a subject that is extremely important ~ not only to a designer, but to a person who is adapting/creating.
Thank you Kris, for keeping us educated on this often misunderstood subject!

Studio By The Bay said...

Thanks so much, Kris. I unfortunately had someone copy an idea/design I had, stating that she had taken her pics from pinterest(mine were hand drawn from pictures of animals I had photos of and I created a series) but otherwise was identical in idea to mine right down to the color and design. I tried to explain why it is wrong to her and she figured I was upset that she was competing with me and put her work up for sale as her designs.. Not so, I don't compete I create. With that said you have done a great job and I will send this to her hoping she will get the meaning. this too shall pass, but this woman will never be allowed in to my inner circle again as she was a frequent vistor to my home. Lesson learned.

Lori C. said...

Thank you Kris . . . This information is not only important for rug hookers, but for other artisans as well! You stated the facts truthfully and without pointing any fingers. Mistakes will be made out there, conscious ones and unconscious, but hopefully this will help! Lori Ann

Pamela Tasker said...

Not preachy at all. Very well written. Thank you always for educating us. Much appreciated.

Dale Dapprich said...

Nice job on this Kris! Factual and to the point. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all.

Patchdee1 said...

Thanks for a clear explanation. Good info!

Pat said...

Much needed! Thanks, Kris. There are so many people new to hooking who just don't know and some of us experienced hookers who need a reminder now and then. Thanks for pointing it out.

I do disagree with one thing you've said. Adding a border or some other minor changes does not make it your own design. There is a great article published on another great blog, The Blue Bottle Tree that spells out copyright guidelines for crafters and hobbyists. Their research indicates "you would need to have transformed the design so much that a reasonable person would see that it’s not the same as the original. It’s not a percentage thing, by the way. And changing the color or adding a button is not enough to be a “transformation”. The “essence” of the design must have been changed." There's an easy to follow flowchart to help people decide if they indeed created an original design and other great copyright info at. Thanks again. Happy hooking!

Kris Miller said...

Hi Pat, I do agree with you on cannot change something 10% or 20% or reverse the design. There is a misconception that one can "change a design seven times" and then it's yours. Not true. The copyright law says if the design is significantly similar, it could be an infringement. My whole point to the comment about making the minor changes is this: Yes, you can copy rug designs that are prior to 1923 but it would not be prudent to copy another designer's rendition of that same antique design because they could add things that were not in the original, and then you are actually copying them. If you are going to copy a pre-1923 rug design, you should go straight to the original rug and not depend on someone else's adaptation. Does that make sense?
I read an amusing story once where old map makers would design a map but purposely put one small error into the map somewhere. Then they could often identify someone who was copying them because the offender would also unknowingly copy the mistake. Pretty clever.

Pat said...

You and are on the same page for sure! Thanks for the clarification. :- )