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What is the public domaine length of time on a pattern if the copyright is no longer in effect?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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Pat M.:
So copyright is a very complex thing.

My goodness, I never knew there were so many rules to copyrighting.

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Lisa Y. replied on Thu, Mar 29 2012 11:01 AM

Hi, Michelle-

I did a little research to find some "official" information about this. Here is what the says:

What Is Protected by Copyright

Copyright protection extends to a description, explanation, or illustration of 

an idea or system, assuming that the requirements of copyright law are met. 

Copyright in such a case protects the particular literary or pictorial expression 

chosen by the author. But it gives the copyright owner no exclusive rights in the 

idea, method, or system involved.

Suppose, for example, that an author writes a book explaining a new system 

for food processing. The copyright in the book, which comes into effect at the 

moment the work is fixed in a tangible form, prevents others from copying or 

distributing the text and illustrations describing the author’s system. But it will 

not give the author any right to prevent others from adapting the system itself 

for commercial or other purposes or from using any procedures, processes, or 

methods described in the book.

In other words, you are not allowed to photocopy the instructions (which you weren't going to do) but you can make the quilt, write your own instructions for how to do it your way, and do pretty much whatever you want with the quilt that you make. 

There are several publications that include notices stating that their quilts may only be produced for private use or for non-profit organizations. These statements are unenforceable wishful thinking at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. You choose which you would like to believe.




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