Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Groundhog vs. Copyright

Ladies and Gentlemen....let's get ready to RUMBLE!

In the near corner:  the furry, the sleep deprived, the ever-popular February Sweetheart....GROUNDHOG

In the far corner: the tenacious, the cranky, the often-misunderstood.....COPYRIGHT

So I suppose all of you are thinking that the polar vortex has finally gotten to me and I have lost my mind.  What does a ground hog and copyright have to do with each other?  Well, my friends, they both seem to poke their heads up out of their little lairs at around the same time every year.   And I got your attention, right? 

I have been trying to wean myself away from Facebook for a time but I have noticed a recent buzz about copyright again so I am going to address two things that were mentioned.  You are dismissed if your eyes are glazing over.  No, wait, you'd better stay.

Public Domain
Any works (artwork, designs, etc) that are prior to 1923 are in the Public Domain.  This means there is no longer any copyright and it is free to use by anyone.  Yes, Public Domain can be your friend.  For rug hookers that means that any of the old, old rug designs can be drawn by anyone ... even YOU if you have the desire to do so.  It has been pointed out that the same pattern has been offered for sale by several different pattern designers.  Yes, we can all do that and we are not in violation of copyright.  Sometimes designers avoid certain antique designs if it is being reproduced by another.  But it is certainly not an insult to anyone nor is it wrong if two designers are reproducing the same pattern.  I, for one, do not know every single antique adaptation out there and if I see one I really like, I will most likely draw it, hook it, and sell it.  I will, however, take a little more care about writing on the pattern that it is an "adaptation from an antique" so there will not be folks who think I am trying to pass it off as a Kris Miller original.  Never would be my intention anyway.  Let me tell you one more thing before I move on:  if you are going to draw your own antique designs from Public Domain, please do not copy the antique design from the pattern designer.  Sometimes they add extra flowers or animals or a fancy border to the adaptation.  You would be copying these extras as well.  Please use a picture of the original antique rug or take your own picture.  Then you'll have a clean conscience.
Saundra Porter sent me a link for Public Domain and it is interesting to see that as the years go by, the dates for Public Domain will get adjusted.  For instance, in  2020 it will be 1924.

Selling finished hooked rugs from a commercial pattern
I may not be popular for pointing this out but it is part of copyright law.  A pattern designer cannot prohibit you from selling your finished product.  You must purchase the canvas from the designer and then after that, you may do what you want with it, except of course make more than one pattern from it.  A while ago, I received an email from a copyright attorney and this was part of his explanation:

Copying the pattern to resale is a no-no but the design copyright does not extend to the physical product made, or in what manner or material, in which an item is made from the instructions. And it never has. Contrary to what designers wish to claim.

You still have to buy the pattern but no one can prohibit you from selling the finished work.  I don't see anyone mass producing hooked rugs using commercial patterns because it would ring up quite the sales receipt!  But if you have a rug or two that is just not your favorite anymore, rest assured that you are allowed to sell it to a new home.

OK, one last disclaimer...I am not a legal expert so visit or contact a legal professional for the best advice.  There ARE gray areas in copyright but I think we can still stick to the basics and do the right thing.

I've got to do last minute preparations for a show so I'll see you later!

Please be kind to each other today.


Saundra said...

That didn't hurt a bit and my eyes didn't glaze over. Well said.
Hope you do well at your next event.

Lori Ann Corelis said...

Hi Kris,

You stated everything wonderfully. Even tho my main work is not hooking, so many items still apply.
Wishing you a great and peaceful year,
Lori Ann said...

Question: Is it ok to purchase a PDF for a punch needle design and enlarge it once for a rug? I once had a designer who told me I wasn’t
allowed to do that because she also sold a PDF of the same design for rug hooking. I had not realized it and it was several dollars more.
She was furious and said it was against the law. What do you think?

Kris Miller said...

Sheepunderfeet: The situation from which the copyright attorney's email came from was because someone had purchased a rug hooking pattern and turned it into a punch needle pattern. He said that once the pattern is sold, a designer cannot dictate what medium the pattern is used for....however it cannot be used more than once. So when the customer chose to make it a punch needle piece, she could not use it again for rug hooking. I noticed that you have a Canadian maple leaf on your blog. If you are from Canada, your copyright laws may vary from American copyright. Your best bet is to talk to someone who is familiar with Canadian copyright.

Saundra said...

Kris and Sheepunderfeet.... I previously purchased needlepunch designs from Brenda Gervais (American) and asked permission to enlarge it to a rug and was given permission by the designer. Perhaps that is all you have to do. said...

Thanks Kris. It was from a popular American artist.
My hubby deals with some copyright issues and
was quite certain she was in error but I understand
her wanting to make more money off the actual intended
hooked design.