By Mary Ann Jones & Matthew J. Booth


The staff of Needlepoint Now and Booth/Wright give permission for you to download and print this article. In fact, we urge you to print as many copies as you would like and give them to your friends.


You just took a class and got a great stitch guide for a canvas that your friend has too. Or, you saw a great pattern in a magazine. Your friend does not get the magazine but you know she would love the pattern. After all, you have paid for the class or the magazine, she paid for the canvas and she will purchase threads. You are not removing the designer’s name. You are not going to delete the reference to the magazine. Everyone is going to get credit where credit is due. We all want to make our dollars stretch as far as they will go, so we can continue to add to our ever growing stashes. We want to be nice to our friends and share our finds.


All the best intentions in the world do not change the fact that you have just infringed somebody’s federally protected copyright, and you might have even committed a federal crime. You have stolen someone’s work product. You are a thief. You have just begun the cycle of ending the very thing that you cherish. That wonderful magazine that you eagerly await, that wonderful class you took, the teacher that was ever so patient in helping you get that stitch laid in just so and sharing all those great tips and techniques; these wonderful pleasures will all begin to go away.


Whoa! You did not intend to do all that. What did you do that was so wrong? You have just violated U.S. Copyright Laws. You can be sued and you can even go to jail. If you are sued, you will have to hire a lawyer, you may have to go to court. If the designer whose work you have infringed has registered his or her work with the U.S. Copyright Office, not only will you have to pay your lawyer and whatever the judge and/or jury sees fit to award the designer, you may have to pay the designer’s lawyer as well. If you do not have money to pay these costs, you may find that you have liens filed against your home and property.


Only the designer has the right to reproduce a design, prepare derivative works, or distribute copies to the public by sale or lending. And, only the designer has the right to publicly display or sell the work produced by the pattern.


So, what can you do with a pattern, stitch guide or magazine? You may make a copy for your own use or consumption, i.e. to enlarge an area to be able to see it more clearly, to doodle on and make notes, etc. You may give your stitch guide or magazine to someone if you do not make or keep a copy. You may display your final stitched piece in your home or office, give it as a gift or sew it into an article of clothing or an accessory and wear it proudly. Any other uses of a pattern or stitch guide require that you contact the designer directly or contact the magazine or publication in which the design was published.


In recognizing and respecting a designer’s rights in their work, you are helping ensure that those designers will continue to keep creating their magic, the very magic that gives you hours of pleasure. When you recognize and respect a magazine’s rights in what they publish, you are protecting your future fun of opening the mailbox and seeing that it’s time for another glorious issue.


Designers have their part in this, too. Designers must actively and aggressively protect their work because just as there are no needlepoint police, there are no copyright police. For the fullest protection of the law, designers should register their copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office because only registration of the work before the infringement will allow the designer to get attorney’s fees in a lawsuit. No registration, no attorney’s fees. Registration of copyrighted material puts you in the strongest possible position in infringement matters. Think of it as an insurance policy and a cost of doing business.


Another easy technique for designers to further strengthen their hand in protecting their copyright is to always put the copyright legend on all work they create (e.g., “© Copyright 2002 John Doe. All rights reserved.”). This mere addition of a couple of words attached somewhere to the work eliminates the innocent infringer defense. (“Judge! I didn’t know that the design was protected by copyright!”) Again, this is cheap insurance.


As a final note, we have heard over the years of self-help techniques for protecting ones’ copyright, some of them have risen to level of urban legends. For example, regardless of what you’ve heard otherwise, mailing yourself a copy of your design through the US postal system will not confer copyright protection on the work. Argh! The best protection for designers is registering the work with the US Copyright Office.


For legal questions about our Web site, copyrights, or trademarks, please contact our attorney, Matthew J. Booth at the law firm of Booth|Wright.


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