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Pattern copyright

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Michelle posted on Tue, Feb 28 2012 12:16 PM

Does anyone know the copyright law for a quilt pattern.

I have a pattern that is old...prior to rotary cutters.  (guessing late 70's -early 80's)

I would like to teach a class on this pattern.  I have tried to contact the information on the pattern : phone, address and compamy name and cannot find anyone or anything.

What is the public domaine length of time on a pattern if the copyright is no longer in effect? 

Salem, UT

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gini replied on Tue, Feb 28 2012 12:29 PM

I don't know what the copyright laws say, but if you've made your best effort to contact them, I don't see why you couldn't use the pattern.   Is it pieced or appliquéd?   Could we see it?

gini in north idaho

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gini:

I   Is it pieced or appliquéd?   Could we see it?

It is pieced.  It is the Navajo pattern of Two  Grey Hills.

I have made two of these and have no picture of either.  BUT I will have photos as soon as I decide to teach this and make another sample.

Salem, UT

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Kris replied on Tue, Feb 28 2012 2:45 PM

Michelle,

if you are using instructions that you wrote up for this pattern and are not making money off the pattern you should be OK. 

This is what I found on copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office:

      "The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years."

There's a company called "Two Grey Hills" that makes Navajo rugs. Perhaps you can contact them for help.

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Thanks everyone,

The librarian in me says that I should be OK but I'm not wanting to quilt from some jail cell. I have a feeling that the orange jumpsuits are not 100% cotton and that internet time is limited.

Salem, UT

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gini replied on Tue, Feb 28 2012 4:15 PM

It says this is a traditional pattern called two grey hills.   If it is a traditional pattern, it probably isn't copyright protected.    If this is similar to the class you are going to teach, it will be a great class

gini in north idaho

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gini replied on Tue, Feb 28 2012 4:16 PM

Darn the picture didn't show up.

http://stone-belle.blogspot.com/2010/05/2-gray-hills.html

Here's the link

gini in north idaho

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Hi, Michelle-

Quilt patterns are strange beasts when it comes to copyright. If it's a traditional pattern, then what is copyrighted is the instructions. 

Here is a diagram to help figure copyright by age.

http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/copyright-duration1.html

The situation you are talking about is called an "orphan work," in copyright-speak. There is legislation pending that would make users who have made a good-faith effort to contact the copyright holder less exposed to legal action.

I am all about respecting copyright, but let's be practical, here. You are conducting a local quilt class. You have no access to patterns actually produced by the company, and therefore you may need to make, say, ten copies. Maybe more, maybe less. At any rate, you are not selling this on the Internet. You are not publishing it in a book. Frankly, in this case your liability would likely be limited to the price you would have paid for the pattern. After all, you are not selling the pattern, and you are not selling kits. You are selling your class.
Am I a lawyer? No. But I am a graphic designer who has had to explain basic copyright theory to a whole lot of people.
You could just avoid the whole problem altogether and write your own instructions. After all, you said the pattern predates rotary cutters, which I assume you will want to use. Make your own illustrations, make your own instructions. 
Have fun! You're not going to jail, quilt or otherwise, for teaching a class.
-Lisa

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gini replied on Wed, Mar 21 2012 1:46 PM

i had another thought on copyright.

what if i made a quilt for a friend as a gift , from a copyrighted pattern.  can she sell it?  she wouldn't know it was a copyrighted pattern.

gini in north idaho

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Yes, she can. The pattern is what is copyrighted. That is the design and the instructions. Anything made using those instructions does not fall under the copyright issued to the quilt pattern. The pattern is what the copyright holder is selling, NOT what has been made from it.

I have found a really good page about copyright and quilting that explains these concerns very clearly. 

http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Quilting/Quilting.shtml

Again, I am NOT a lawyer. :-)

Lisa Y in Rockford, IL

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gini replied on Wed, Mar 21 2012 2:56 PM

i'll check that  page out,

 it was my understanding that we could not make a quilt from a copyrighted pattern and sell that quilt.   i can see not selling the pattern,  i didn't understand why i couldn't sell the quilt, if i made it, picked my own colors etc.  

gini in north idaho

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That's a myth, Gini. It doesn't matter whether you know the pattern was copyrighted or not. You bought the pattern. You can't copy the pattern and sell it, but you can certainly make a quilt.

Same with licensed fabric. It doesn't matter what the selvage says. You can make and sell whatever you want, as long as you make it clear that your product has no connection with the company who granted the fabric license. They lose their right to tell you what you can do with their fabric when they sell it to you. The licensing notice means that the company who made the fabric is allowed to produce fabric with the licensed character, design, etc. Anything besides that: non-commercial use only notices, etc., is unenforceable. As the website listed above states, telling you what you can and cannot do with your fabric is akin to General Motors telling you that you can't drive your car wherever you want.

That said, It would be inadvisable to advertise your product made from licensed fabric using the copyrighted character or company. For example, if you made potholders using Mickey Mouse fabric, you could sell them, but you could not advertise them as "Mickey Mouse" or "Disney" pot holders, which would be a *trademark* infringement. You could also not sell potholders in the *shape* of Mickey, since the head and ear designs are also trademarked. 

There's an old saying... "Don't mess with the Mouse." And with good reason. Some companies are more litigious than others. It usually has to do with how deep their pockets are.

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Sheila replied on Wed, Mar 21 2012 3:22 PM

Michelle:

Thanks everyone,

The librarian in me says that I should be OK but I'm not wanting to quilt from some jail cell. I have a feeling that the orange jumpsuits are not 100% cotton and that internet time is limited.

 

Michelle - not only are the jumpsuits probably not 100% cotton but, the only interesting pieces of fabric in your quilts would be the pieces that had stains on them and...well, I'm not certain I'd want to delve into those very much. LOL - just had to interject a grin!

 

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Pat M. replied on Wed, Mar 21 2012 5:28 PM

I own several quilting books published by C & T Publishing.  It states, in part,---"These designs may be used to make items only for personal use or donation to nonprofit groups for sale..."  So copyright is a very complex thing.

Pat--"Keep Calm and Carry On"

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