Monday, October 6, 2008

What I Think About When I Can't Sleep!

I have read, with great interest, over the past couple of years, a lot about copyright laws and crafty/quilt patterns given out for "free" on the Internet. My reading comes from the blogs, where the owner gives their interpretation and from the list of a Yahoo quilting group I belong to. These are layman interpretations and to be honest, don't think you can go by them. For that, you need someone who has a degree in copyright law and vast experience in that field. The laws were not written to cover the great access we now have with electronic media.

I have also, read several skirmishes that "designers" have had with folks who they claim are selling their "free" designs as their own or claiming them, or flat out not giving credit where they feel credit is due. I am amazed that anyone can claim credit for a quilt made from a block design that has been around for a couple hundred years or a block design that was made from a computer program with the basics built in. How do you define original? Is there such a thing in quilting? When does the quilt I make with a design I find in a book or on a blog/website become mine? Is it ever mine, even though I may have bought the pattern/book, fabric, thread and notions, used my sewing machine and most of all my labor to make it? I am not talking about quilts for sale here, I am just talking quilts/crafts.

When I pay money for a pattern, or when you give that pattern on a website with no charge, is it not mine at some point? Do the rights transfer to me when there is a cash exchange? Best I can figure, the answer is no unless that designer gives me those rights.

I find this scary territory for all of us. How many times have you seen the same quilt block used in quilts designed by different designers? Who is to say that if you make that quilt, place a picture on your blog and give proper credit where it is due, that someone else might come along and say it is their design you used and you did not give them credit? What if the design you got from a website is a stolen one and you don't give credit to the true designer because you did not know? In a field where nothing is really new except perhaps applique and paper pieced patterns, how can you know what is what?

The chance that anyone would pursue you for a copyright violation is small, who has the money or the legal resources to do that? But, what if someday, a publisher decides to use you as an example that they WILL enforce their copyrights? You, "Mrs Everyday, Quilt for Fun and Blogger" might find yourself in a world of trouble. I know there is abuse of copying and folks out there who steal patterns and profit by them and designers need protection, I am talking about those of us who are just thrilled to have the sharing of free patterns out there. Who will protect us?

The source of this questioning comes from my latest project. I was going through my box (es) of flannel looking for large enough pieces for the burp cloths I am making for gifts. I found enough scraps/remnants from the quilt that I made for Julia before she was born to make another baby quilt. In the interest of scrap busting, here it is. I used NO pattern, just cut the 4 1/2 inch strips, sewed them together and cut the rows. The borders also measure 4 1/2 inches. Is there a pattern out there for this quilt? I am sure there are several. Have I seen those patterns? No doubt........but this one just came about without any written instructions. How many quilts are there out there, that came about the same way, that no one gets credit for but they have been "designed" somewhere along the way and published the same exact measurements and layout? Makes you think twice about sharing your work, doesn't it?

The Momma has claimed this one for a gift for her co-worker. I have the backing and the batting, just need to move on to the next step.


Teresa said...

I have wondered about the same many times. I know my mom and I used to make children's clothing for sale and of course we used purchased patterns - soooo, were we in violation of some copyright law? We didn't sell the pattern, just the end result.

Sue R said...

I found your post absolutely fascinating today, Norma, and you bring up some excellent questions. The only thing I might be sure about though is that only a lawyer would have the answers. With your cute little baby quilt, I think it's a safe bet that you're in the public domain.

Carol VR said...

Interesting thinking. With everything available at the touch of a key, it's often hard to decipher the origina; source.

Katie said...

Are you sure you were awake? Or were you dreaming or having a nightmare? Don't let the "what if's" keep you from enjoying life. And quilting. And blogging. Just giving you my two cents. Oh, after looking at my financial situation, maybe I should keep my last two cents. LOL

Amelia said...

Hey Lady, you are definitely into some heavy thinking when you are not sleeping.

However, you do have a point with the patterns. Guess we will just gamble that the copyright people do not bother us. They probably have bigger fish to fry anyway.

Enjoy your week and try counting sheep instead of quilts when going to sleep....ha-ha.


Belvie said...

I agree with do some heavy duty thinking when you can't sleep.

I think this is a subject that even lawyers don't always agree on.

That's a cute quilt! Hope the copyright police don't come for you! :-)

Sheila in Ohio said...

I think I posted very similar thoughts a year or so ago on someone's blog: the pattern, the fabric, the setting, even the quilting design is all copyrighted, so when does the quilt become ours? I tend to not think about it much anymore.

There are some creative designers who do offer freebies, and there are some very unimaginative designers who offer freebies. Some never cease to amaze me by never giving credit for anything other than their own imagination for their designs even if something similar has already been published. [And, not even considering the issue you're talking about, there are plenty of bloggers who never credit designers.] I have subtly outed a certain someone (it's always the same person, and not she of whom you blog here) more than once on a group list of posting directions to a free quilt she 'designed' using a design I've previously seen in a magazine or even as a mystery quilt, and calling it her own.

I did have a nice (and surprising) experience recently where I saw a quilt online that I'd like to make for charity. I knew I could write out and design it without much thought. BUT, I wrote the blogger and asked if it was his/her design. It was the blogger's pattern that was going to be taught in a class and I was offered the pattern, so I accepted in order that I not be accused.

For what it's worth, I see the same types of thing in the knitting world. In the end, I take it all with a grain of salt and can choose or not to read so-and-so's blog and/or use their designs.

BTW... I'm up with you most nights, but I still have to go to work in the morning (and now I'm gonna be late)! LOL

BTW2: the biscuits were scrumptious. I used butter in the pan instead of oil, so the bottoms turned out great, but the tops were kind of pasty. Next time I think I'll cook them at a higher temp for a shorter period.

Granny Lyn said...

I have had the same thoughts, and wonder how much of an influance all the bloggers have on my quilts, I have only made one quilt from a pattern, all others are from my head...but to think I own the "rights" to them is ridiculous, (I think)

Good post, got us all thinking...