One of the fun thing I was able to do at Quiltcon West in Pasadena, CA a couple weeks ago was to be on a panel called Copyright and Your Work. We had a wonderful panel of people and an even better audience for this. The discussion was so interesting and well received that I decided to give a recap here.
The panel was moderated by Rossie Hutchinson of rossiecrafts.com and my fellow panelists were Suzanne Paquette of ateliersixdesign.com, Amy Marson (@amymarson on Instagram), Publisher with C & T Publishing, and Linda Augsburg, Editorial Content Chief of the Better Homes and Gardens Crafts Group, allpeoplequilt.com.
Here are some of the questions that we answered with our collective paraphrased answers:
- What is one or two things that you think should be general knowledge about intellectual property law amongst quilters?
- If a company pays you to create content for them, they own that content, not you, unless you have specifically spelled out an agreement with them (such as one time use, only for one year, etc.).
- You cannot copyright a technique (like paper piecing).
- Their is no such thing as the 10% rule, as in if you change something 10% from another idea, you can now call it your own and copyright it.
- Documentation of an original idea is your best tool for being able to prove that something is in fact your original idea.
- What are the most common misconceptions that you come across?
- The 10% rule (see above answer)
- People often want to copyright a technique rather than an actual piece of art or pattern.
- It is not okay to buy one pattern, and make copies for all your friends. I know you aren’t selling the pattern, but you are also not allowing that artist to sell that pattern to the people that you just gave it to.
- Most companies and people are reasonable people. If you are ever in doubt about whether or not you can use something, call and ask! Most people and companies will work with you.
- If you could change one thing about the reality of copyright or intellectual property law, what would it be?
- Copyrighting and copyright law are not as black and white as we would like them to be. There is not an exhaustive list anywhere of all the ideas and works of art that have already been copyrighted for someone to just go and look through.
- It is also entirely possible for two people to come up with a very similar idea at the same time and not actually be copying each other.
- If we could change one thing, we would eliminate the idea of the 10% rule and make everything a little easier to navigate.
Copyright and intellectual property can make your head spin, especially if you are new to this world. I found this wonderful chart by Ginger Davis Allman on The Blue Bottle Tree that can help you navigate these foggy waters.
Ginger also wrote a very extensive blog post talking about copyright and the crafting world here. She is a polymer clay artist but the concepts apply to any crafting hobby. If you are looking for more info on this topic, her blog post is a great place to start.