Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Rose by Any Other Name

I've been thinking about quilt designs and copyrights. 
There is a persistent myth among quilters and other crafters that if you like a design, you can change it ten percent and then call it your own, publishing, exhibiting or selling finished work, etc.  In reality, this is theft, and actionable under copyright laws.  We like to say "It is only ninety percent theft."

In the literary world, copying someone else’s work and putting your name on it is called plagiarism, even if you change it a little.  When a writer or any artist makes his own work and signs another’s name, we call it forgery.  In the case of translations, the currently accepted and legal way to market a literary work in translation includes a prominent acknowledgment that the work is indeed a translation and the translator’s name not only goes on the cover and title page, some contemporary translators receive royalties from sales in addition to a translation fee.  A translation marketed without the translator’s name is a forgery, as it is not the work of the original author.  If a translated play is advertised, performed, or published without a prominent statement that it is a translation, that too is a forgery, as the buying or viewing public is not informed that the purchase, whether a ticket to a play or a script, actually is not entirely the work of the original artist.   

It seems unlikely that anyone else will attempt to market a design with Jinny Beyer's name on it.  It would be far more reasonable to say "inspired by Jinny Beyer."  As quilt designers, we expect that people will make quilts from our designs, selecting different fabrics, and enlarging or reducing the size. (My sister calls this smallinating and biggifying.)  However, we don't expect quilters to publish our patterns as their own, or to photocopy patterns except for their own use.

This issue is sometimes confused by the fact that individual traditional quilt blocks cannot be copyrighted.  What we can do is insist that the instructions, photographs and drawings, and presentation is unique and therefore cannot legally be reproduced or sold by another designer or quilter.  So, make my quilt, but acknowledge that the design is mine.  If you want to sell a quilt made from my pattern, please make sure the label and sale materials clearly state that it is a Victoria Rose design.  If you want to teach a class using one of my designs, you cannot legally photocopy the pattern instructions.  Legally, you must purchase a pattern for each member of the class.  You will find that quilters in general are perfectly willing to pay for their patterns. 

So, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but this statement will forever belong to Juliet in WIlliam Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, however many times I type it.

And yes, I am working on a Wild Rose quilt.


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I always think on a quilt label you should include "inspired by -----" if you have used part of someone else's pattern. I actually get a lot of ideas from someone else's work and then at times change it up a little - I don't always change it a lot and it is oblivious who's pattern I got the idea from. I totally agree with you - one should not claim someone else's design as theirs

Kanchan Mishra said...

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