Sunday, November 22, 2015

Copyright Laws for Fabric and Selling Quilts

How fabulous are these prints? 
I bought them at JoAnn's. 

One of my online friends commented she was glad to see I also bought fabric there. When I did more home dec and garment sewing, it was my main source, but quilting fabrics are different. I buy quilting fabrics at my LQS or online, but I do use my local JoAnn's for many other items. They are gracious to offer space for our sewing group, and I am grateful for that. They're also a pretty nice group of folks that work there, and I support the store to keep it open. For the longest time I refused to buy fabric there for two specific reasons. One, the quality fluctuated from quite decent to poor.

Two, the printed warning in the selvages. Do you read the fine print, and if so, do you know what it means? Do you realize it is intended to restrict how you use the fabric you purchase? Honestly, that bothers me a lot.

Let's address the quality issue first.

No time to press before I snapped these shots, but some Jennifer Paganelli fabrics caught my eye from their Designer Quiliting Fabrics aisle. In my opinion, JoAnn's selection is visually more appealling to me these days. 

Koko Lee, Modkid, & Buttercream are a few I picked up with an eye toward spring. I did a side by side touch test when I brought it home with the quilt store fabric below by Moda, Kona, etc. I could not tell the difference, and I'm picky.

JoAnn's carries Cloud 9 organics, Lotta Jansdotter, and Alexander Henry, too. They carry many others, but these are the some of the designer collections I like most. I'm not adverse to the less expensive aisle there, but I think you have to scrutinize the quality more. I've used some very sucessfully. Again, I'm picky about what I buy. The typical fat quarter at JoAnn's is not a quality piece of fabric, in my opinion. 

Quiltbug has a good article explaining what constitutes better fabrics. It's worth the few minutes to read. Better fabric = a better product, and I support the advice to use the best materials you can comfortably afford, and know what you're buying. That said, there have been a few fabrics even at my LQS that I was not impressed with. Quilt stores buy a wide selection of fabric, and those can vary in quality, too. 

Now back to the warning on the fabric.

Yesthat is a warning or disclaimer, and is legal-ese by the manufacturer telling you how you may use it.

Typically any copyrighted or trademarked fabric like Disney, NFL, cartoon character, etc. was what I expected to see. Then I bought the Lotta Jansdotter at JoAnn's (above), and saw it on it. When I purchased fabric by the same designer at my LQS, it was not there. I actually paid less at the quilt store, too. This experience got my nose out of joint, and I plunged mysefl into a lot of research. The following are some of the better articles, and a small portion of what I've read.

Quickie Guide to Copyright Law

Legal Zoom: Why Are Copyright Laws Important?

An Etsy Discussion On Copyright Infringement

An Avvo Discussion on Using Trademarked Fabric

I was pretty darned confused at this point.

Top Spot 4 U's Logical Discussion on How to Use Licensed Fabric

Can I Make and Sell Clothing Using A Designer's Fabric?

This was the most concise article, and alleviated my concerns.

Tabber's Temptations on Licensed Fabrics

If I have purchased this fabric above with the intention of making a quilt, and then offer it for sale, I believe the law states I am within my legal rights. I would not advertise it as an Elizabeth Owens quilt, etc., but I could legally sell it, as far as I can tell.

Would I do the same with these two?

Probably not, because even if I was within my right, the legal battle could be costly. I still couldn't sell it on Etsy even if I wanted to either. That's Etsy's call. Notice that the Suess fabric is Robert Kauffman fabric sold through quilt stores.

A Legal Disclaimer

A legal disclaimer would be a prudent thing to include wherever you choose to market your items. An online seller could list it with the item saying it was "neither associated nor affiliated with the original copyright owner." If you peddle your wares, use a sign in your booth. The First Sale Doctrine should protect you, but you also want to cover yourself from those companies who might try to take legal action anyhow. The intimidation is enough for many of us, and legal defense is expensive.


Claire said...

Maybe if enough quilters stopped buying fabric with those scary notices, the companies would notice the loss in profit and change their ways. I appreciate your links and will read the articles later. Claire aka knitnkwilt

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

Thanks for the important information! That warning is something I had never noticed. I do buy fabric at Joann's once in awhile, but ever seem to find the designer fabrics that you mentioned. Interesting that the price can be higher. Something to watch for, or use a sale coupon for!

Teje Karjalainen said...

Thank you Julie for sharing your research. This is quite confusing and worrying. I have met only once fabric wich had text on the selvage: not for children's underwear, and I really couldn't understand reason for that. I thought it could be something with the colour or material. Very strange also if you saw the same fabric with and without that 'warning' - doesn't sound logical. Perhaps this converdations continues and we'll learn more. x Teje

Angie in SoCal said...

I'm bookmarking this post, Julie, for when the conversation comes around to this topic (as it will). Thanks.

Pat A said...

l think you might be wrong about why the warning is on there. It is not about copyright at all. Instead it about children's clothing and flamabitity. See this link:

Julie said...

There are 2 parts to it. I agree it states it shouldn't be used for children's sleepwear. Safety regulations are there because cotton burns, and synthetics will just melt. (Truthfully, I'm not sure which is less harmful!) but the copyright issue is so you don't market the copyrighted fabric as an 'official' product. That I understand, too. Say, an NFL or college fabric in a quilt as one for that team. for instance, an 'Ohio State stadium blanket.' My gripe is when a rep can come into a quilt show bazaar, and say you have to remove an item made with Winnie the Pooh fabric, as an example.

Sandra Walker said...

Information upon which to I haven't ever marketed quilts I make, I don't have to worry! Wonder if the laws are any less restrictive here in Canada. I guess I could look into that. Some pretty sweet finds you have there!

Sue @ Quilting the Green Star said...

What a useful blog, thanks so much for sharing this. I bought Disney fabric for making a dress for our little girl and. i could have sold dozens more to her friends, but the selvedge warning put me off.

Stitchin At Home said...

Lovely looking fabric. I'm with Sandra don't know what the Canadian laws are.

Unknown said...

Thanks Julie for all your research! I guess you're saying it would be okay to sell my quilts if I wanted to. Not that I've reached that point yet!

Tu-Na Quilts said...

Great post, Julie!! It cleared up a lot and opened up more questions. I bought some not so good fabric from my local quilt shop and obviously was not happy with it. I've bought some from Joann's and have been really pleased. There again, the caution to use your brain, eyes and hands (to look at the quality) and not just buy with the heart might be good advice.

Nann said...

Thanks for taking time to do the research. I think it is difficult to state concisely what the intention is -- there isn't much room on a selvedge! I agree that the idea is to keep a commercial outfit from making and marketing a logo or other trademark as an officially-sanctioned product. I'm a long-time Joann's shopper, too (Gutermann thread works just fine in my machine). I bypass the flimsy fabric and search for the good stuff, especially when it's on sale. I got many Joann's precut FQs as retirement gifts, and that stuff IS flimsy.

Julie said...

Karen, I suppose it's not the best thing for the fabrics, but using 'clean hands' I do pet the fabric. By far, Art Gallery is the silkiest, and I turned into a junkie for it just based on that. I have some beautiful plaid woven sitting ready for cutting, but I keep hesitating because it has a real texture to it, and I'm not drawn to it. Also, I've never experienced anything like Minkey quilted as a backing, and hunt for ideas to use it for the tactile aspect.

One big red flag that the coarseness sends up for me is an uneven weave. We've all seen places in a woven plaid or similar where there was a little knot or the thread bunched, and invariably you get a tiny hole or open spot. I think this whole thread just warns us to be informed consumers.

Pedal Sew Lightly said...

Thanks for the great info!