Copyrights: If In Doubt, Check It Out!

Marian Brown sent an email to me with this question: “If a pattern is purchased and a painting made from it, or a painting is done in a class, what are the rules for showing it or selling it?”

I am going to attempt to give some broad information that may be useful for all of our members.

First, a disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and if the issue of copyright infringement is ever brought against you, you will need one to explain the language and give you proper legal guidance.

My advice is standard: Read the information on the lesson. If there is a © on the design there are restrictions connected to that symbol. Some teachers give very broad latitude in painting and selling their designs. Others are very restrictive. Contact the designer and ask for permission in writing. Ask for clarification of the parameters in which duplication is allowed. While you may think the teacher is stern, please remember that this is their livelihood and there is usually a reason for their specifications. For example, Mary and my copyright appears on our designs stating that:

Permission is granted to teach this project within a 100-mile radius of teacher’s home studio. Written permission is required beyond this point.

Permission is granted to reproduce the line drawings, color maps, and written instructions verbatim for teaching purposes only (one copy per student) and may not be resold, nor may it be rewritten into a different format, nor reworded into teacher’s own words.

We sign seminar contracts that restrict us from teaching in competition with other businesses within a certain area and we must be able to control that aspect. We do not allow rewording of the design since errors occur and the misinformation reflects on us. We do allow color conversions and changes in color choices when we are contacted and will even help in the process.

You will find that we are quite generous in giving permission. Most teachers are, but take the time to write and you will stay out of trouble. Write to the teacher; state what your intentions are, where, and when. Include a line giving you the permission and ask the teacher to sign, amend or edit.

A response is more likely if you enclose a SASE. An email may be iffy in the legal sense. It is always safer to have the signed permission. There is an adage that it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask for permission. That is not true when it comes to legal matters. Protect yourself and ask for permission, then you won’t need the forgiveness. There is a myth that you can change seven things on a design and then it is your design. Don’t believe it. If the design is recognizable as a derivative, there is a problem.

Museum and antique pieces may be reproduced since they are in the public domain. However, the copies of the painting cannot be the same size and should be signed “After Da Vinci, your name/date”. Some decorative artists require that a painting of their design should be signed in the same way, such as “After Jane the Artist, your name below”. The instructions or lesson plan that would accompany the painting are copyrighted.

Many teachers assume that there is fair use implied when a lesson is purchased. That fair use extends to your own personal use, but teaching the lesson requires permission of the copyright holder. Some designers require you purchase one pattern per student, or specify an amount of copies you can duplicate. The copyright may or may not extend to mass reproduction of the item for sales at boutiques, etc. This is because some designers are under licensing contracts by manufacturers. Wood designs are not usually copyrighted, but if they have moving parts, they may be patented.

If in doubt, check it out.

Ann Kingslan MDA/TDA
http://kingslan.com/
(402) 397-0298

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