Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who Owns the Copyright?

[UPDATE: More on the subject -- and another comment from Kate. Go here to find out.]

I just had a chance to read C&T publisher Todd Hensley's response to the whole Kate Spain/Emily Cier situation. (I won't recap that in detail here -- go to my original post/update if you need a refresher course. Many thanks to the Alert Reader who mentioned C&T's blogpost.) 

     In brief, a fabric designer threatened to sue a quilt designer/author because she used Designer's fabrics without crediting in a book. (Manufacturer yes, designer name no.) The quilt in question used only that designer's fabrics. [There were two versions of the quilt.]
     On a tote bag. And in, of course, the book.

Hensley asks the important question:
     So who owns the copyright?
         *The author, who designed the quilt pictured?
         *The person who designed the fabrics used in the quilt?

Or is it the photographer who photographed the quilt?
The publisher who published the book's photos?

There are arguments to be made for every side of this convoluted case. The author wants people to know she designed the quilt. The designer, on the other hand, wants to be sure people understand those are her fabrics.
    But the photographer doesn't want others to help themselves without permission. The publisher sure doesn't want this, either! (The fact that Hensley is married to a fabric designer, Jennifer Sampou, makes this even more interesting.)

   When I first began writing, there was no question -- the copyrights went to me, the books' author. In recent years, however, some publishers argue that they should keep the copyright, since they bear the expenses. (And they refuse to publish your book until you agree.) I'm not saying C&T does this -- they don't. But others, like the American School of Needlework, do.

And if you own the copyright, you call the shots.
Except in this case.


ann hermes said...

I have been reading a lot about the fascinating topic of quilts and copyright, even before the latest incident was brought to the attention of the blogging community. The one of the best references I have found on the topic of copyright, quilting, and fabrics is here:

One of the important take aways from this website for me is that while a fabric designer may hold a copyright protecting the design on a fabric, the fabric designer cannot limit how a person uses the fabric once it has been purchased. The copyright prevents you from reproducing the design of the fabric on other fabric or paper or plastic, etc, but there is no limit on what you can do with the fabric you have purchased. (even if the selvedge says "personal use only") According the author on the website, there is no legal standing for such a limitiation being enforcable. You can sell the fabric, you can make it into a dress, you can make it into a quilt, you can sell the quilt, you can sell 10 quilts, you can photograph the quilt, you can post a photo of the quilt and so on.

So check out that website for interesting reading, which is backed up with actual court cases.

Cindy Brick said...

Thank you, Ann, for mentioning this interesting reference...

I think Ms. Spain was arguing that "the design of the fabric" WAS reproduced on plastic -- i.e., the tote bag. The fact that the fabrics were in the form of a quilt not designed by her, but Emily Ciel, was not considered as important.
In fact, she said something at one point that if the tote bags had been made with the actual fabrics, she wouldn't have had a problem with it.
Tell that to the Disney people, who have made some crafters' lives hell for daring to buy, use and sell items made from Disney prints. (The bounders!)

And the book's a whole 'nother issue, of course.
Thanks so much for posting...and visiting.

Cindy Brick said...

Oops...couldn't get Ann's link to work. Try this one:


ann hermes said...

Agree. There is case to be made against the tote but not the book in my non-legal opinion. The tabberone site also talks a lot about the Disney type fabric issue.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for bringing this to our attention. I am sitting here with raw pricked fingers madly trying to finish quilts for my first book. I thought I was aware of copyrights laws. I see I have lots to learn. Like you fabrics in my quilts are from my stash. Applique takes snippets of this and that and a bit of ink that changes the shading or the color all together. I guess I am glad I am old fashioned and not into the big prints. Even the designers wouldn't recognize their own fabric in tiny pieces. But just in case I am going to go and tear off the salvages and put them in a book so I will know.
Thank you

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