ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Copyright Conundrum, Part 2

Last October I published a post called The Copyright Conundrum. I shared some of my experiences of once upon a time being a "newbie" quilter and being completely ignorant of copyright laws and ethics. I wrote that post primarily to help students meander through the confusing issues surrounding the use of photographs taken by other people as a basis for their quilts. I believe most copyright violations occur simply out of ignorance and not malice. I am following up on that first post at this time because Canadian Artist, Anna Hergert, published some great articles about copyright last week, and I would like to link to them.. The first of her posts encompasses an article she wrote in the Spring 2013 issue of the Canadian Quilter, plus some additional commentary. In the second post she goes into more depth, and shares some of her own personal experiences related to original, derivative and copied work. There is a lively and informative discussion going on over at her blog.

I've had a few questions from students about copyright issues related to the use of patterns. I would like to address patterns today, and move on to original work in my next post. I think the simplest and most basic thing I have to say with regard to working with patterns is that if you have purchased the pattern or found it in a magazine or book, and you are making the quilt for your own personal use or as a gift, you have no reason to fear copyright at all. Copyright issues only arise if you decide to photocopy a copyrighted pattern for your friends, if you decide to sell or exhibit a quilt made from a copyrighted pattern, or if you teach a class based on someone else's pattern.

If you are Canadian I recommend checking out copyright guidelines by Kathleen Bissett on the Canadian Quilter website, as well as Anna's posts. I also received some guidelines from the American Quilters Association in my mailbox this week.  You can check those out here.

I don't use other people's patterns to make my work and I do not make my living from designing and selling patterns, so I don't pay as much attention to the laws governing copyright and patterns. The above links should answer most of your questions. I do provide patterns in two of the classes I give because it is a great way to learn the method in one day, but I also explain in the classes how you can design your own.

While conducting research to write this blog post, I came upon some very ugly discussions about copyright on-line. The subject seems to cause a lot of strong feelings to be expressed on both sides of the issue. A lot of people feel that the entire quilt community has historically been organized around the copying and sharing of ideas. That may still be the case to some extent, but the quilt world has changed so much (hasn't everything?). It is wonderful that some people are able to make a living, or at least part of their living, in a field they love.Without the designers who share their creativity and beautiful works, quilters today could not have the plethora of patterns and designs available to them. As a professional myself, you can probably see which side of the issue I sit on. I think the quilt world is doing a fabulous job though of educating quilters who want to exhibit their work in shows, just what they need to do to respect copyright laws. The answer there is simple: give credit where credit is due. So much about copyright comes down to being able to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and seeing the world from where they sit.

Now here's how I feel about work made from my patterns and work started in workshops with me. I don't care if you sell the piece or show the piece. However, if you do so, it would be very much appreciated if you gave credit to me as the pattern designer and the workshop instructor. In fact, most shows require this anyway (as you will find in the guidelines I shared above). Once you start exhibiting at shows beyond your own local guild, you will actually find that many of them do not accept works made from patterns or started in workshops.

I also have no problem with guilds or shops, or groups I'm teaching for, sharing photos of my work on their websites and blogs for the purposes of  promoting lectures and workshops, or even sharing about the events afterward. As long as my name is associated with the photos this is good publicity for my lectures and classes. I suppose some teachers and artists might object, so it is always a good idea to ask.

For those of you designing your own quilts or aspiring to designing your own quilts, stay tuned for Part 3.

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