Friday, 12 August 2016

Copyright/ Copywrong

I've been thinking about design, copying, and originality a lot recently (with a side sprinkling of copyright law to complicate the matter). I have been specifically interested in where the borders between "inspirated by" and "copied from" lie.

I will admit that this blog post has languished, half written, in my computer for a wee while as I have wrestled with the question of whether or not to post it. It makes me feel kind of vulnerable to write, but in general I think it is no bad thing to be honest and to share my successes and failures on this blog.

Seeing the Modern Quilt Guild's post on Derivative quilts, and Gnome Angel's post on imitation in the latest Love Patchwork and Quilting, I thought that my personal views and experiences were topical and perhaps relevant.

You see, it's all very well for quilters, artists and crafters to get up on their high horses and scold people that "copying is bad- don't do it!" I think we would all agree with that sentiment, but sometimes the borders between copying and being inspired by things can be very fine. We are part of a community which grows and breathes through taking old ideas and reinventing them. The trick is to do that in an honest and respectful way.

I think that the Modern Quilt Guild tried to approach this subject, but I am not at all convinced that they initially got it right. I am very glad to see that a resulting discussion is flourishing and I definitely look forward to seeing how that discussion progresses.

I am worried that the current Modern Quilt Guild's heavy handed approach will scare people away from sharing their inspirations and put them off the idea of entering quilt show. To me, the term "derivative" pours scorn on an age old tradition of building on the works of others before us.

Depending on the angle that you approach the issue from, your perspectives can be very different. It's also likely that the exact legal interpretation of terms such as copyright  will vary depending on the country that you live in. We live in a complicated international marketplace where a myriad of different laws are at play and as such each time that I think that I wrap my head around these issues, another perspective or angle pops up.

The majority of what has been written specifically about copyright and quilting refers to US law, but I live in New Zealand- so does it apply to me? Is US law a good framework for me to work around? I'm in New Zealand, so surely New Zealand law applies to be, but what if I send my quilt to a show in the States, which laws apply then?... AAAARGH! STOP IT!! My head hurts!!!

Every design has to start somewhere, there are very few people who can pluck a completely original idea out of their head every single time that they sit down to create. It is natural for us to be influenced by the colours and images that we see around us in every day life, but the degree that we are influenced and the form that this inspiration takes in our work are crucial.

The animals that I sew are not necessarily native on New Zealand, so I am forced to make do with finding inspiration from images rather than seeing and experiencing the animals and birds in real life. I am not that super talented person who can sit down and draw a perfect representation of a wild animal off the top of my head and as such, my designs are often based on photographs. I need a framework to build my design on. I love the detail that using wildlife photography allows. In the majority of cases, the final design looks nothing like the original photo, especially when the design is interpreted in beautiful multi-coloured fabrics.

I am pretty confident that nobody would ever be able to tell which photograph the original zebra design is based on. I changed the dimensions of the face, altered the number and dimensions of the stripes, I added some details and took other details away. I made the face look a lot more symmetrical than it is in real life. In short, I made the design work in fabric.

Was I inspired by the image? Definitely!

Was I copying- no. The zebra face may have been based upon a wildlife photograph, but the resulting zebra, the background riot of colour and the resulting quilt were far removed from that original photo.

Is this a derivative quilt because I used a wildlife photo to give me the bare bones of the zebra design? - I would say no!

Other times the interpretation of the photo in my design is more exact.  When I compared the barn owl element in my latest quilt- Hunted, with the photograph that it was inspired by, I felt a pang of guilt. The interpretation seemed too literal and I felt that anybody who used the correct search in google images would find the image straight away. I had purchased a copy of the photograph, not just downloaded it from the internet, but still it didn't feel right.

Granted, the barn owl was not the sole subject of the quilt, but it dominated the composition to such a degree that I felt I needed to ask permission of the photographer.

I listened to my gut and contacted Graham Jones, the photographer. I explained that his photo had inspired a quilt and asked if he had any objections. Luckily his mother and sister-in-law are both avid quilters and he was really excited by the idea. He has been nothing but supportive.

Was I inspired by the image- definitely

Was I copying- I don't know, you tell me. I guess that strictly speaking I was.

Is this a derivative quilt- perhaps, I don't know, maybe!?

Did I need to contact the photographer? Some people around me have said that it was overkill and unnecessary. I feel happy with my decision to play it safe (although I must admit that I would almost certainly have felt differently if he had given me a different answer.)

Would I be upset if I paid to enter this quilt in an international quilt exhibition only to be told that it is a derivative and that it is not eligible for either judging or prizes?
You bet!
A lot of time, thought and energy went into creating this quilt and just because the major element is based on a photograph does not take away from the skills involved in turning it into a quilt pattern.
Or the construction.
Or the fabric choices.
Or the quilting.
Or any of the other skills involved in creating it.

The last scenario is one that I am not proud of.

When I was designing my recent series of three dog mini quilts for Love Patchwork and Quilting, I REALLY wanted one of the dogs to be a Scottie dog. I wanted to offer an alternative to the traditional scottie dog quilts that you find.

I searched the internet for hours but couldn't find a suitable photo to base the design on. Nothing showed the amount of detail that I needed or a clear enough silhouette. Finally, I saw a random bad quality clipart. It was uncredited and I don't know why, but the usual filters in my brain which stop me from using other people's artwork were bypassed. I am generally very careful to avoid paintings, drawings and original artwork of any kind.

I didn't think to do a simple search to find the artist who created the clipart, I just went ahead and used the image telling myself that nobody would know.

I created the quilt design, sewed it, sent it to the magazine and didn't think about it.

The day after the magazine was released, I received a totally unrelated email from somebody wanting to use a very close replica of one of my other designs in their new business logo. I'm not going to lie, I didn't really like the idea of my design being used to sell her business. That said, since that quilt design was loosely based on a photo, I wasn't sure that I had a right to complain. It felt like I was a link in a creative chain and it didn't feel as if I had the right to object. I discussed the matter with various people around me and most were very indignant on my behalf. I felt conflicted and didn't know what to do.

It got me thinking about copying and permissions and that whole rabbit warren of issues.
While doing that, I suddenly realised that without thinking, I had stolen someone else's artwork (the Scottie dog) and passed it off as my own.

A brick grew at the bottom of my stomach and I felt bad.
I felt really bad.

After stressing all day, I decided to take responsibility for my actions. I did an internet search and discovered that the bad quality image that I had used was a copy of the work of Ann Kallal of Maggie Ross Dogs.

I will admit that I was more than a little bit intimidated to email her, as her website had a very prominent copyright message which preached respect. I sent her an apologetic email and offered to make amends. I was quaking in my boots that I might have inadvertently dragged a magazine (to which I was a first time contributer) into a legal battle- yikes!

I was blown away by the long and generous reply that I received from Ann. She explained about the issues that she has with big Chinese companies stealing her images and selling goods. She was flattered that I had used her image and more than happy for me to keep using it as long as I credit her for the original design in future mentions. Her only request was that instead of sending the Scottie dog mini quilt to her as I had offered, that I donate it to an animal welfare auction. I am more than happy to carry out this request (if anyone knows of a suitable auction please let me know!).

I wish that I had remembered to ask permission earlier or that I had used a different image, but it was a good learning experience for me.

I still don't know exactly where the line lies and suspect that everyone that I ask will give me a different answer. I am kind of proud to say that once I realised my error, I tried to act with integrity, I just wish that I hadn't got myself in that situation in the first place. For me at this time it is a moral issue. Treat others as I wished to be treated.

Was I copying- yes
Is this a derivative quilt- yes
Will I do this again- no.

Going forward I will always do my best to use copyright free images or possibly to combine a few images to make a completely unique view. Where these things are not possible, I will continue to credit the photographers when I feel that it is relevant.

I guess that some of you will wonder how I dealt with the logo question. Well with the whole Scottie Dog mess fresh in my mind, I felt that I was in no place to take the moral high ground and object to the logo. I contacted the lady and gave her my blessing to use it.

I feel as if there is a lot more that can be written on this issue, but I am not a lawyer and I do not have all the answers.

For me personally, the key is to act with discretion and grace. I want to treat artists, quilters and fellow creatives in a way that I would want them to treat me. As a general rule of thumb, I will listen to my gut and do what it tells me, follow my own moral code.

We do not create in a vacuum so lets give credit where it's due and get on with creating beauty!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject.


  1. Wow, such and interesting post. To an extent I think we all copy and are inspired by quilts/images whether old or new that we see, when we recreate blocks, make quilts, paint, draw etc. I guess the difference too, is whether we are using them for personal or commercial use. Good on you for contacting the artists involved who inspired your beautiful works.

  2. Another thought provoking post Juliet. Nothing is ever really 'new' and I feel whether 'inspired by' or 'copied' that checking in with the original artist/quilter, and to credit them where relevant seems to me a great way to acknowledge this. I'm also thinking the playing field all changes yet again if the intention is for commercial use.

  3. Thank you for sharing this post. These are issues I've wrestled with myself. I totally agree with your comment to act with discretion and grace.

  4. Sometimes people do go too far. I was contacted by a prominent person in the Modern Guild one day and "told" to stop teaching a technique of sewing scraps back together because it was "hers". I have literally been doing this from the beginning of my sewing career when I was a child. I was shocked that she thought she owned that technique!

  5. Excellent! Love your honesty, humility and grace. Because you are turning your images into a completely different medium I would never even have thought that using a photo could be seen as copying - colour me educated! Love you, love your work - very inspired by your approach xxx

  6. Very thought provoking post. There's information about NZ copyright on the IPONZ website.

  7. Lovely post. You nailed the incredibly complex world we are always navigating. Brava! ~ Sam / Hunter's Design Studio

  8. I love the honesty in your post. I have wondered about these issues myself. So far, any pattern I've made was for a swap, and so I feel like it's a small deal, but maybe I should be thinking bigger picture.

  9. If I purchase a pattern, I feel I can alter it in any way that I want. If I get a free pattern off the internet, I try to copy the link where I got it from, and, if I make it, I try to give credit and supply the link to the original. If I use something, I frequently ask first, just in case. I have a friend who will photocopy any pattern and hand it out to anyone. She gets mad at me because I won't let her copy purchased patterns. I do send her the link to other patterns, and she can print them off herself. She doesn't seem to see a problem, and her hubby is a retired lawyer. This is an issue that we all have to deal with. I had someone contact me and threaten me if I didn't remove a tutorial, since she said she had copyrighted a block. I took it down, and purchased her pattern, but, I've found the same pattern, made the same way, by several others, decades before her copyright. I don't think someone should copyright a previously 'public' block, and say that it is theirs ONLY. Copyright is a can of worms.

  10. This is such an interesting issue that has come out of the MQG's new derivative rule. I have been developing a mini idea of a national park here in the US. I collect the early 20th century art that inspired it. Since so few of the original prints exist, I have no idea if this park was actually the subject of a poster. I am really turning this over in my mind. Is the art now public domain? Could I enter this mini in a show? I agree with you that the burden of these questions may make people shy away from creating and/or showing. What a great, thought-provoking post!

    1. I think that if the original art is a scene of the park, as in a place you can go and see with your own eyes, you're safe. If it's a stylized thing, or a "version" of a view of the park then you may want to ask whomever you enter the mini. Each show has different rules :)

  11. Very interesting. I think the intent to commercialize or profit from others work makes for a difficult situation, especially with direct copying. There is a quilt in a local show that states in the blurb that she saw the pattern online and didn't want to pay for it so she made up her own pattern for it. It was not a traditional quilt or block and was fairly innovative. Her quilt is for sale and she did not list the original designers name. All wrong. There are many patterns and designs which are derivative of ones that have been around 100's of years. I don't think there's a problem with copying those. I do have an issue with people not wanting to buy a pattern for something new or interesting and making their own and profiting from it or even just claiming it as their own.

    I hate it when people use my work without permission. Especially since they rarely mention that it is Not their work and my name is not mentioned. I would probably give permission if they had asked.

    I made sure to ask permission of photographers when I used their pics as quilt inspiration mosaic for a bee.

    I also think there's a lot of grey and white area when you are changing the image and making it your own

    1. That is totally wrong! That is where karma kicks in...she will be sorry she did that one day!

  12. Great post! I love (and appreciate) your honesty. It strikes me that a lot of what matters in this space is whether copying is intentional or inadvertent (although that may not matter under the law), but also your integrity and gut feeling about the way you've acted. I suspect a lot of people who're copying know they're coping and know it's not right, whereas others can feel that brick in their stomach and realise they may have erred, and work to make it right. I hope the recent discussions on this topic can steer more people towards the latter behaviour than the former!

  13. I have had many of the same thoughts as you... For several years I've had in my mind, a quilt with pictures I've pinned on Pinterest. Of course, they aren't MY photos. So far, that's as far as I've gone, because just the thought of trying to find the copyright owner of the pictures is daunting. There are so many photographers!! One day I may break down and start the process, but I don't feel I can just print the pictures and put them into my quilt without asking. I understand your dilemma very well....

  14. With regard to using photographs as inspiration for quilts:
    1) I am a photographer (and a quilter), and I won my share of photography awards back in the days in which I was competing.
    2) I would be honored if anyone used one of my photos as a basis for a quilt design.
    3) One of the questions a judge would ask in a copyright infringement case is, "Could one reasonably confuse the 'inspired' work (in this case, a quilt) with the original (photograph)? I think the answer is a resounding, "No!" This is certainly true of both the zebra and barn owl quilts. Not having seen the original Scotty dog, I could not form an opinion on that art.
    4) It is a fact of U.S. copyright law that patterns for any useful objects, such as clothing or quilts, cannot be copyrighted. The instructions can be covered by copyright, however.

    1. It has been explained to me that you have to be the one taking the photograph for your quilt to be original and not a derivative. If someone else took that photo, permission given or not- no amount of altering matters. Even if the zebra you make into a quilt, is pink with green stripes, swimming in an ocean, when you are not the one who took the photo, it's a derivative. I don't live in a bubble- my inspiration is everywhere and I have a hard time with these MQG "rules".

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. I noticed on Maggie Ross' website that she had made some drawings of Presidents Kennedy and Obama. Now, perhaps both of these gentlemen sat for her, or she photographed them. However, if this is not the case, then she based her drawings on other works, such as photographs. Do I think this is copying? No, I do not, for I doubt that one could reasonably confuse her drawings with the original photographs.

    1. I was delighted when she contacted me, to learn that Juliet thought my Scottie Silhouette was spot-on enough to use it in her quilt design AND that she was being recognized for her wonderful work. That meant to me that I had accomplished what I wished in representing a Scottie dog in silhouette sufficiently to attract her discerning eye.

      The basic answer when we are wondering if it would be alright to use that nifty image which is so inspiring to us is: No. It is not alright. EVERY image belongs to someone. Copyright protection does not require an official application or registration with some government office. Copyright protection is instant and automatic.

      Many countries follow the rules of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (also referred to as just the Berne Convention) which requires protection for all creative works in a fixed medium be automatic, and last for at least 50 years after the author's death for any work except for photographic and cinematographic works. Photographic works are tied to a minimum of 25 years. Cinematographic works are protected for 50 years after first showing, or 50 years after creation if it hasn't been shown within 50 years after the creation. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

      US law reads: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain is investigated by the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation and is punishable by fines and imprisonment.

      So you see, discussions like this one are very valuable (thank you, Juliet) because we can talk about these matters and gain knowledge from the input of others.

      k9dancer - LOL - No, the Presidents did not sit for me.

      My drawing of President Kennedy was accomplished as I sat in my living room, watching his funeral on TV back in November of 1963. My model for that sketch was a photograph in the Chicago Tribune newspaper for that day. I was 21 years old. . .and only worked in pencil in those days.

      The President Obama portrait was created on my computer in 2008, from another newspaper image, scanned into the computer, and built up with images cloned from stones to create the dark and light planes of his face. Just to see if I could do that.

      They are each for sale in my online shops on various products. Fortunately for me, images of political figures are in the public domain.

      I learned about copyright protection in a very embarrassing way. Back in the late 1990s I discovered eBay and immediately set up a shop to sell some of the items we had collected over the years. I had purchased a new black and white scanner which I then used to copy images from a really pretty coffee-table sized book on Dog Art, and printed the images. Almost immediately after I listed my "prints" for auction on eBay, I received an email from lawyers representing the author of that pretty coffee-table sized book on Dog Art telling me that I had better immediately cease and desist offering his copyrighted images or they would prosecute.

      I was fortunate, I have since learned that some folks are never warned about infringement, they are simply prosecuted. And, no, ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse!

      Ann K.
      Maggie Ross Dogs

    2. Maggie, what is your source for this: " Fortunately for me, images of political figures are in the public domain."
      If you take a photograph of any political figure, do you not own the rights to that photograph, whether or not you publish it on the internet or on the front page of the New York Times? I do understand that public figures are fair game for being photographed in public places, but I'm not sure that any photo automatically becomes public domain. Even you said that every image belongs to somebody. Would this not be the case here? Photos created by the US government are automatically public domain; works created by individuals, I would think are protected.

    3. K9dancer, I appreciate Ann of Maggie Ross Dogs coming and giving her perspective. I welcome your opinion and all healthy discussion relating to the post, however this is not the forum for criticising Ann's use of presidential photographs. Any further comments which do not relate directly to this post will be deleted.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. Juliet, I apologize if I sounded critical. My intention was merely one of clarification, not intended as criticism. I did observe that her work could hardly be copying, since it was very different from a photograph. We are discussing public domain art, which is alright for anyone to use, versus copyrighted work, which requires permission. Derivative, as we have discussed, is murkier and confusing. I believe I asked a legitimate question; I am not, repeat not, criticizing or attacking anyone's actions. I truly apologize if anyone interpreted it in that way. That was never my intention.

  16. A very interesting post, Juliet. I think we are all influenced sub-consciously with the images and techniques we see online. So much is filed away in our heads and when we create something new, we draw from what has previously been stored away. A direct copy is just that. Anything else is in the grey area. If I'm inspired by another person's work, I always like to credit and link back to them.

  17. Beautifully written Juliet! Thank you for such an honest portrayal of your own journey down this road - you make me proud to be a happy supporter of your art!

    My views on this situation are very similar. I think all creatives struggle with the dance between whether our work is "original" or just a wee bit too much influenced by another's work. As you say, it is very rare for any art to be fully formed without having been influenced in some way - if not impossible. I think it is important to give credit to those who have gone before us and led the way. But it is unreasonable to think that we would not be influenced to create our own art after having been inspired by theirs. It is the way of art and always has been.

  18. What a great post, so much wonderful info....I had no idea. Love your honesty and humility. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Very interesting post and discussion Juliet. There needs to be a greater awareness of these issues - and not just amongst those who design either. All quilters need to understand and appreciate what goes into designing a pattern.

  20. I agree this is a great post and love your honesty. But it's interesting how the image creators you contacted have been keen to encourage you in your quilt interpretation of their artwork. I agree with an earlier commentator looking at the owl photo is completely different to your interpretation - I know I've just seen Hunted at the Festival of Quilts!! It is absolutely stunning. Thanks for sending it over and I'm sure you won't be easy until it safely arrives back with you in NZ. And for the record having checked with one of the show organisers, the UK takes a much more relaxed view about derivative quilts. Indeed the comment was aren't all quilts derivative! It didn't detract from the quality or originality of the quilts shown for the simple reason I suspect that originality in the eyes of judges will always beat a straight copy of a pattern etc every time.

    1. Thank you for your kind words about my quilt.

      I think that the reason that I wanted to credit the original photo for the Hunted quilt is that it is such a stunning image in such a distinctive pose. If I had tried to take a similar photo it would be a black blurry dot, which would be half out of frame. Some people might say that you can't copyright nature, but I would argue that you can respect the skills of those who catch it on film and that by acknowledging them, we make the world a warmer and more generous place. Creating a photo like that takes skill and hours of dedicated birdwatching, it would be wrong of me to ignore that.

  21. VERY well written. So glad you finally put it out there. Not being a designer, per se, I still always credit where my inspiration comes from, ask for permission when necessary, and respect others who do, too. Thank you for sharing your views.

  22. I very much enjoyed reading your post about copywrite etiquette. You set it all out so clearly and reading how you resolved your own problems about researching where your inspiration originated was excellent. I am sure everyone who does any sort of craft uses ideas that they have consciously, but in many cases subconsciously, picked up along the way. We all dip into so many books, magazines, photos on blogs, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram etc that our brains are bound to store those ideas away and then one day they pop out when you get an idea for a new quilt. I applaud your honesty and tenacity in attributing the idea to the original person wherever you can. Well done! If I have knowingly based a quilt on a certain pattern or blog writer etc I always attribute the source in my blog or Flickr page but I am sure many of my "own design" quilts use ideas I've picked up along the way and have no conscious knowledge of the source.

  23. Me again! Just wanted to tell you that I saw your Hunted quilt at the Festival of Quilts. Great work. My sister loved it too.

  24. There is a lot of information on 'fair use' at the US government Fair Use Index site . You can click on 'search cases' and then select jurisdictions as well as categories. I have looked through some of the cases, and have found that while one court may rule a use as 'fair,' another court may see a similar case differently.
    I have also found that my previous assertion, that the work be substantially different so as not to be confused with the original, may be valid in some cases but not in others.
    So the bottom line is, when in doubt, ask. If you can't ask and still have doubts, don't use it.

    1. Thanks for the link. I will definitely go and have a read.

  25. Great article. I too read the Modern Quiltcon rules for entering quilts and I think they are getting carried away. When the Modern quilt world started popping up, I remember it was a lot about simple quilting;but now when I have seen online of the last two Modern Quiltcons that there is a lot of dense quilting and way more than simple line quilting. I think they are getting away from what they initially started out.

  26. The concept of derivative work with respect to quilts and similar textile works seems mostly ridiculous to me. I am 62 and grew up making quilts at my grandma's side and I've seen thousands of quilts over the years and made hundreds. All my quilts are inspired by what came before me and I can't imagine trying to parse out exactly what my influences are. Obviously if a maker creates a quilt using a purchased pattern or participates in a "quilt-along", they are by definition creating from someone else's design or idea but that isn't what I think most of us are thinking about when we worry whether our quilt is a non-credited derivative of someone else's design.

    The unintended result of the MQG's "guidelines" is to reduce participation in their events at least for me. I am a member of the national group and an active member of a local chapter at least for now but maybe not for long.

  27. Juliet, what a well written balanced approach to this discussion. I am not as good a writer but would like to chime in on a few points:
    I do feel that the modern quilt guild are looking at this "problem" from their own perspective and that is covering their selves and having to have certain rules for their shows. That kind of agenda often strangles creativity - not allowing people to use their own sense of integrity and common sense. I feel you did a very good job of showing your journey with various examples.
    2. I am fairly new to quilting but bought a book last year where the well known author has taken age old blocks and renamed them... I really don't understand why she would do this - it is misleading to new quilters and shows her to be quite egotistical.
    3. I came to quilting after my joints became too sore after decades of being a potter. While I was a potter I taught students for 21 years how to copy me !! I know that they will breathe their own life into their own works and I'm happy to have helped them along the way - as others helped me.

  28. This is a great post. Best of all it opened communications on the topic. Thank you for being honesty and sharing your journey. I never think twice about printing something at home, just for me, but would never try to use it for gain. If I think I want to sell something I always check to see if the person has given permission. Or if I want to use a bellydance routine from YouTube or Zumba routine I always ask. I certainly would not enter in a contest, but it sounds like these rules indeed will make me standoffish. I was hoping to enter something in the coming year. Also people tend to think that if you put it out there on the Internet they have a right to copy it. Copyright can be so confusing, but first people have to care enough, and desire enough, to do the right thing.

  29. Good post. I tend to ask more often than most. I was once refused permission and I was so glad I hadn't invested too much time, effort and emotion on the project...I would have been heartbroken! (btw...I've had Scotties most of my life and love what both of you did! Can you tell me which issue of the magazine that was in?)

  30. Thanks for the article. I saw a soft sculptured bird in a magazine and wanted to make it with handwoven fabrics to sell at a place where I volunteer. The artsans there are blind and make beautiful fabric. Although the issue was a few years old I googled the artist's name, showed her a picture of my birds and she gave me her blessing to go ahead. Except for the outline shape our bird's design was quite different. I was glad I asked permission.

  31. Juliet, I'm so glad you decided to be brave and post your heart spoken article.
    Copyright can be a confusing topic for many, and sadly there are many people out there that never give it a thought. I applaud you for sharing your story. It will hopefully make people more aware that they should not claim ownership of a creative work that isn't theirs, nor freely copy and distribute copyrighted works. On the flip side, people trying to lay claim to a quilt block that was designed in the 1800's need to get a clue. Yes, a quilt pattern sold and designed with that block can be copyrighted, but they can't claim ownership of the original block design. Likewise a technique. You can lay claim the name of an originally created technique, but cannot prevent others from using or teaching the technique itself. Copyright can indeed be very complicated.
    I LOVE your zebra! Thanks so much for your thought provoking post.

  32. Hi Juliet, thanks for continuing the discussion on this emotive issue. I have been feeling lately that quilting is starting to get bogged down by rules and regulations designed to protect the financial interests of individuals rather than the art and craft of quilting. People who wanted to learn to create art used to apprentice to artists and copy their work and learn the techniques then they would go out on their own taking on their own apprentices etc. I learned to paint in this way copying the work of the old masters - Titian, Carravaggio, Rembrant. You see people actively copying the great works in museums all over the world. Quilting has been around for centuries with techniques and patterns passed along by family and friends, in groups and individually. Hundreds of charities all over the world benefit from the selfless way that quilts are given, and many homeless are kept warm with these quilts. Sometimes I think, in our pursuit of the new and innovative that quilts were made of scraps of other things, designs were used and celebrated and that quilts kept people warm.
    I was recently asked if someone could use one of my designs for a show quilt. I was very excited that my design had inspired someone enough that they wanted to make it and possibly take it in a new direction. I can hardly wait to see what she does with it.

  33. Juliet, thank you for your post and the following discussion. I have found it very helpful. I also am a great fan of yours. You always capture the animal so well, incorporating the lines that perfectly capture the essence of that animal and the action.
    The copyright issue can be very confusing. I have been inspired by photographs and have sometimes used them in coming up with designs. The first time I did this I made a stained glass window from a magazine advertisement photo of a rearing horse. It was altered slightly to make it workable with glass. That same summer I saw the same copied image in a painting at a local art show and sale. There could be no doubt that his painting and my stained glass were of the same photo. That was 30+ years ago.
    So far I have only made quilts for friends and family. But I have learned to be very careful when posting a photograph of a quilt to always credit the maker of the design. Once I posted a photo of my progress on a sand hill crane wall hanging on a quilting forum. (QCA) Previous photos had given credit to the designer. But one did not. I had not appliqued the eyes yet, and stated I was looking for pictures of sand hill crane eyes to get it right. Well, later that week when I googled images of sand hill crane eyes, there was my photo! With internet these days, one really needs to be careful to credit the designer whenever a photo is posted. On google images one can "visit page" and it will include what was written about it when the photo was posted.


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Sorry, I have decided to disallow anonymous comments again, the spam was getting a bit too annoying. If you want to contact me, feel free to email, there is a link in the sidebar.


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