Thursday, July 06, 2017

Copyright and Derivative Work

I had an interesting thing happen to me last week.  
Do you all remember my free for personal use pattern Cheddar Jack?  
This is the cat in my banner on the blog.  
My friend, Kim and I worked on this design from an antique quilt that she saw.  
If you like, you can make this block too!  
For personal use only please. 
You can find the pattern on my blog right here.

I realize he is adorable and that he came from an antique block design but this is our cat to share. 
He is derivative from an antique quilt that is now in the public domain. 
The idea for this version of him came from us.  

When you are Googling for something like a cat block that you want to make, every artist out there knows that you can copy our blocks and make your own.  Often times you can do so without our patterns.  It is difficult to prove that you copied our work especially when you only use it for your own personal things.  You should not, however, copy something you see and like, draft your own pattern (exactly the same) call it your own design and sell it!  That is stealing!  Even derivative work should be acknowledged as such.  Most of the time with minimal effort you can track down where you found the image of the thing you liked and credit the source.  So if you are not outright copying something exactly, or your work is based on something you have seen AND you are crediting the original source you should not be in trouble.  Even a pattern offered as free on a blog or on a website are still copyrighted to the designer and not available for anyone else to put into a design to sell or distribute without the original designer's permission!

I looked up the information provided by the US government regarding copyright.  You no longer need to put the little copyright symbol on your designs for them to still be copyrighted.  Once it is published (even on the Internet) it falls under copyright if it is original work.  This requirement was eliminated when the US adhered to the Berne Convention in March 1989.

It states that copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the US to the authors of "original works of authorship" including (...) artistic and certain other intellectual works.  This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.  It gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following."  (I am only listing a few of the things that pertain)

*Prepare derivative works based upon the work
*display the work publicly
*distribute copies of the work to the publicly sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease or lending

It further states that "The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Copyrightable works include pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.  Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created and the work is "created" when it is fixed in a copy for the first time.  Copies are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Why, you may be asking, am I bringing this up?  I am talking about this because Cheddar Jack was copied and used in a "for sale" pattern.  Someone sent me a photo of a finished quilt that used the pattern.  It was in a Row By Row pattern from another state.  I contacted the shop and the owner/designer of the row, told me that she had Googled and found the cat.  She then drafted her own.  The cat was recognizable to someone as Cheddar Jack.  She did not even change the direction the cat faced or the colors (orange cat with a blue bow). She claimed that she had never been to my blog and didn't know the cat was protected.  THIS is why I am writing about copyright.  Ignorance of copyright is not a defense.  Most of the time you can find the original source of something you like on the internet! After a few emails, she offered to credit Kim and I as the designers of the cat and stated such on the front of the pattern.

I realize that the Row By Row patterns are "free", but when you put them into a kit or sell them after the RXR is over you are technically making money on something that does not belong to you.  We decided to leave it at that.  I extended that if they would like to work with us in the future to please contact me.

I know this post has been a lot of words and few photos, but I thought it was important to remind everyone that pattern designers work hard on their patterns.  If you see something you like and you want to make it, either buy the pattern or contact the designer to see if you can use what they have done.  Most of us are happy to try to help, but not so happy if you don't ask first!

**Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and this is not legal advise.  It is just what I found on the US government copyright site.**



Frugalina said...

did you set the image preferences off copyright?
depending off what i need, even for facebook, i search for all free use and modification off image. if the image you post has no preferences set it will show up as free on everything...she might really just not be aware

Mama Spark said...

Julia, I am not sure what you mean off copyright? I can't find how to email you directly but please email me at and we can discuss. It should not matter, as according to the US copyright office, any original work is automatically under copyright. I think she most likely did not know and this is partly why I wrote this blog post, to inform people that might not know. Thanks!

Frugalina said...

I am in europe and the laws are probably diferent. I read this carefully because i am interested in the topic but i knpw its easy to make mistakes. i will try to explain what i mean with links

General search: cat patchwork block
I get all this :

I am positive there most off this have copyright but if i just look at the image and get what i want why should i?

filtered search labeled for non comercial use, a setting i changed in tools

A very diferent result. I do not know how to label images for the internet, but i am sure 90% off people do not know this

I am agreeing with you! But most off this comes from pure ignorance, people really do not know that in the internet it is still stealing

I would love to have those laws here, if it is publish it has a owner. Really good!

Crazyquiltgirl said...

Great post!!

CA Bobbie said...

Great post. I love Cheddar Jack

Mama Spark said...

Thanks for the comment. It is interesting that when I put in your first link, I see another cat design that the same row by row designer copied into her row. I wonder if the original designer even knows that?
Yes, all images, of original work are under copyright by the fact that they are published. The US Office of Copyright says that the images do not need the copyright symbol to still be under copyright. As a shop owner and "designer" though, you should minimally credit where you got your "idea" (ie you are making a derivitive work) and should ask permission if you are using it in a design you plan to sell. It becomes stealing then! I would think that someone here in the US in this field should know better and just because you are ignorant of the law doesn't mean you are not breaking the law.

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