Copyright Loose Threads

This is my final post on copyright, hopefully.  But it comes because not only did Ms. Spain put up another post on her blog, the New York Times ran an interesting editorial on stealing, which, in discussing the charges against Megaupload, a music file-sharing site, started out with this thought:

From its earliest days, the crime of theft has been understood to involve the misappropriation of things real and tangible.

From there the Times article notes that:

When Industrial Age Bob and Joe started inventing less tangible things, like electricity, stocks, bonds and licenses, however, things got more complicated. What Bob took, Joe, in some sense, still had. So the law adjusted in ad hoc and at times inconsistent ways. Specialized doctrines were developed to cover the misappropriation of services (like a ride on a train), semi-tangibles (like the gas for streetlights) and true intangibles (like business goodwill). . . . In 1962, the prestigious American Law Institute issued the Model Penal Code, resulting in the confused state of theft law we’re still dealing with today.  In a radical departure from prior law, the code defined “property” to refer to “anything of value.” Henceforth, it would no longer matter whether the property misappropriated was tangible or intangible, real or personal, a good or a service. All of these things were now to be treated uniformly.

The article goes on to discuss illegal music file-sharing, but it turns out that most don’t see this as stealing: “lay observers draw a sharp moral distinction between file sharing and genuine theft, even when the value of the property is the same.”

But the bit that jumped out at me was this line:

People who work hard to produce creative works are entitled to enjoy legal protection to reap the benefits of their labors. And if others want to enjoy those creative works, it’s reasonable to make them pay for the privilege.

So, if you sell me some fabric, haven’t I paid for that privilege?

In True Up’s post, titled “Fabric and the Man,” written some time ago, she notes that the use of licensed fabric cannot be restricted after its sale, pointing to a website of Tabberone, who discusses this at great length.  I was also referred to this website by a comment left here by dmdezigns and her view is that:

Once a fabric has been sold, the copyright holder can’t control what’s done with it.  You can resell it, make something with it, sell what you made, etc and they don’t have any control over it.

Which brings me to the picture at the top of the post.  It was sent to me by my friend Rhonda, who has been following the copyright muddle. We wondered if greed, or commerce, or as my Dad would say, The Almighty Buck, is the motivating force behind all of this.  We in the quilt world have enjoyed a pleasant sort of comradery thus far with sharing being the operative word.  Perhaps in the new attempt to get at a slice of the Quilt Commerce Pie, we’ve brought this on ourselves, as many commenters expressed their frustration with people selling quilt patterns of blocks that have been around since forever, yet claiming original design.  Ms. Spain, in her latest blog on this subject tries to smooth over everything by extending an olive branch to Emily Cier, sort of saying “no hard feelings, eh?”

Except this last weekend, as I was working on a scrappy quilt I pulled a range of favorite fabrics from my shelf to cut up into strips.  But I paused when it came to Kate Spain’s fabric.  I thought about all that I’d read over the last couple of weeks, paused, and put it back up in the closet.  I don’t know if my reaction parallels any of yours, but I’m much less inclined to use her fabric now.  Or buy it.

An unfortunate, unintended consequence.

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9 thoughts on “Copyright Loose Threads

  1. I would hope that you send Ms. Spain a link to your blog. I feel the same way about buying her fabric now. Who knows if the next quilt I make is the one I want to send to a show and share with the whole world. I certainly won’t want to have to worry about a lawsuit from some fabric that I spent my money on and added to my stash. I applaud shops that won’t carry lines of fabric with that caveat on the selvidge.

  2. You’ve given me pause for thought. Even though I am not currently selling my quilted items, I would be hesitant to use copyrighted fabrics so as not to invite any interference to me monetary-wise, reputation-wise, artistic freedom-wise, etc. I haven’t been paying much attention to the copyright notices I’ve seen on fabrics as I thought that meant mass manufacturing, which I do not do. Many of my friends won’t consider buying any fabric at all with a copyright notice on it even for charitable items like pillowcases and neo-natal quilts. That’s probably a prudent decision in this increasingly litigious-minded society. How sad for our quilting community.

  3. I have learned much from these posts. It has caused me to think. I did receive Kate Spains latest post. Now I may buy a piece I like. I thank you for your information and your time. I look forward to all your posts. You are a favorite.

  4. It’s truly amazing how convoluted everything gets nowadays. The internet and technology are developing faster than we can come up with rules for it. And things happen so very fast, information travels faster and farther than it ever has, and we all just stand here dizzied. It’s unfortunate that the whole mess happened. It’s unfortunate that people are scared, angry, confused or off put by it.

    People become so concerned with precedent and ownership. I try to ask myself what I would want on either side of the coin and come up sad for both. It’s too bad that it has extended to your feelings about the fabric. Maybe in time you can separate your feelings about the stash you have and the incident. However, I completely understand your hesitation to buy more. I have a hockey sweater with the name of a player I greatly respected on the back. Then I found out that his political views were fundamentally opposed to what I believe in. I wear the sweater still, to support team and the talents of the hockey player, but I always wonder whether people will associate me with his ideology or whether they can separate player on ice an off.

  5. And if you buy just a fat quarter, you may never see the selvage with the licensing notice. Does the quilt shop have to worry about that?

    • Oh my gosh. What a great point! I have tons of fat quarters and am always irritated when I can’t remember what line it’s from and the selvage is missing.

  6. I didn’t think I had any Kate Spain, but I just saw the other day that several of the FQs I picked up for my rose star quilt are hers. I almost feel bad for her, only because I always feel bad for someone who is feeling bad, which I’m sure she is, even if it’s only because she’s blacklisted herself in a way. Know what I mean? Anyways, as Judy said above, you’re a favorite. I love your posts. Every word is worth reading and I love that.

  7. my sentiments exactly. i believe too i would think twice before using kate spains fabrics. sad. and i agree with your dad….greed is what makes the world go round

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