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On the subject of copyright

On a recent visit to a local quilt shop, I noticed a sign near the books and patterns that read, “Due to Copyright Laws, patterns and books cannot be returned.

Huh?

What a crock of hooey!

NOWHERE (and may I repeat NOWHERE) in federal copyright law does it specifically state (or imply) that a quilt shop or other retailer cannot accept returns of books, patterns, embroidery designs or software.

That’s a retailer policy – not state or federal law.  Most bookstores will accept returns of books and magazines that are still in good condition as long as you have a receipt.  Most fabric stores will accept returns of uncut and obviously unused patterns with a receipt.  Most retailers will also exchange the opened software if it is somehow defective.  This particular quilt shop simply does not want to fool with returns on these items.  They are free to make that policy.  I am equally free to purchase my books and patterns from other retailers with reasonable (to me) return policies.

As a librarian, I support and try to model the ethical use of information to the best of my ability.  I pay for or secure permission to use certain images before I post them, if I did not take them myself.  I give credit where credit is due (or I pay for the right not to have to fool with it).  When I teach a class, I make sure each student has his/her own copy the book we’re using (either in print or digital format).  I have refused to copy CDs and DVDs for coworkers (and made them mad in the process).   I make sure to have a valid license for the software I use – and any “evaluation copy” or other software is removed from my computer the minute the install disks and licenses are passed along to someone else.  (I am not an attorney, although I worked in the legal field as a legal assistant/paralegal and law librarian before moving to a school library setting.)

Copyright adherence is really simple:

If you buy a pattern, you shouldn’t copy and share it with all your friends or repackage and sell it as your own work.

Here are a couple of links for a well-thought out explanation on copyright law as it pertains to crafters:

Pattern copyright law 

Licensed fabric usage

Interesting discussion about the use of licensed characters in handmade items for resale isn’t it?  To avoid the hassle factor, though, it might make more sense to avoid using licensed cartoon characters and sports team logos altogether.  Put it this way, I would not mass produce items for resale using these fabrics;  however, if a friend commissioned me to make a baby quilt for her nursery using sports team fabric, I would be more than happy to do so.