Friday, October 19, 2007

What is a Copyright and Is Blog Material Copyrighted?

All over the blogging world, bloggers are talking about, complaining about, criticizing others about, or are being criticized for.... copying, imitating, or plagiarizing...others ideas, photos, tutorials, techniques or the specific names of any of the above. I've been led to believe that unless one actually has something copyrighted, meaning you apply for the copyright such as for a brand name, or you have something published, that there are no 'real' copyrights on ideas, creation, techniques or tutorials, etc. My idea that you don't have a copyright on ideas is correct, but how they work, and what they are, is a little more complicated.

According to the US Copyright office:
"Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work."

This pretty much excludes almost anything that we, as artists, or quilters, do, create, or make. Because quilting has been around for generations, and there are only so many lay out a quilt, create a color scheme, figure out a technique for creating it, or even giving it a name....the ideas, themselves, cannot be copyrighted.

Using a similar, or even the same technique, using similar colors, re-writing or changing the technique...that becomes our own creation, design or technique.. That is not a copyright violation. But if it is published, in a book, on a television show, or on a manufactured pattern...that, is then, copyrighted. The use of that specific wording, the use of the photos or graphics...that is a copyright violation. The name of something might be copyrighted, the variation of its technique, is not. Especially, if you re-create it, using different ideas, your own photographs and your own name for it.

So, if someone copies the technique and photos from a book, and uses those photos and claims the technique is theirs, they are in violation of the copyright. Credit has to be given to the author, the poet, the photographer or the creator of that quilt. The same goes for anything published and copied on the Internet. You give credit by name or a hyperlink.

If you post words, or a tutorial, or photos on a blog post and you "blog publish it", then you have a 'poor man's copyright' just by doing so, you don't even necessarily have to say in, "the words on photos on this blog, belong to, or are under the sole ownership, of the person who blog published them." That is not a legal copyright, but it can be considered a 'poor man's copyright' if you actually created a lawsuit.

If someone actually copies your blog: your own photos, your own poem, your same text, and republishes it under their own name, then they are in violation of an understood ownership right. And you have cause to complain...if you can find someone to complain to. However, if you create your own title, use your own photos, and write your own words, then you are not in copyright violation. That would be similar to using published references in the writing of a term paper or your own book.

If you have an idea, or a pattern you create, or even colors and pattern together, and you design something and put it out in a blog, or a book, or a pattern...and you did not specifically seek to exactly copy someone elses published work, then the two of you just had the same idea, or a variation on some already existing idea. Remember: ideas and the method of doing them, cannot be copyrighted.

You don't need a legal copyright to claim that your poem, or your musical score, or your song, or photographs belong to you alone, but you do need a legal copyright to take legal action against someone who you believe has stolen specific photos, text, music, poetry...from you.

There can only be so many ideas in this world, so many variations, so many words, or photos of the same or similar thing...before at some point, we are all thinking of the same thing, describing the same technique, rhyming the same words, or making the same quilt with similar colors, in the same or similar pattern.

Linking to another's blog, or post, or idea, or technique is never a violation, it simply sharing a link to source. For additional information on the General Copyright laws, go to:

For additonal info on Quilting and copyrights, see:

Copyrights and Quilting
Dangers of Photo Sharing Programs

What is IP via US Patent and Trademark Office

“Who Owns What?” via Stanford University



Tools for Artists: | reverse image look up | The importance of watermarking 

LEGAL GUIDE FOR BLOGGERS: Intellectual Property  




quilt block shown at top:a block from my "Orphan Train" quilt, it is from non-licensed, pre-printed fabric and meandering freestyle quilting

thought for today:
It may be easy to find lemons, but it's not always easy making lemonade!