Oct 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: http://www.loc.gov/copyright/faq.html#q45
"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 ways....to 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 so...as 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: http://www.loc.gov/copyright/faq.html#q45

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:

http://www.tineye.com/ | reverse image look up
http://scottwyden.com/importance-of-watermarking/ | The importance of watermarkinghttp://www.rightsforartists.com/ 

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!


Shelina said...

This copyright business is certainly a tricky thing. I think a person must use their ethics as well as the law in copying something. If someone came up with a new technique, they should be able to profit from it. Copying the technique and using your own words and pictures may be legal, but it doesn't sound moral to me. Of course, you can take the technique and improve upon it, in which case the world is better for it.

Paula, the quilter said...

Oooo... copyright. You know, doncha, that I've been pursuing permission to use a song title in a quilt? After 6 weeks of writing snail mail here and email there I finally got a definitive answer: I don't need permission to use the song title, but if I were using (reprinting) lyrics then, yes, I need permission. The title in question is also in the lyrics, so do I have permission or not?

Nellie's Needles said...

There really is nothing "new"... just variations on what's been around "forever". Also, I believe that there is a time for a particular idea to be "born" ... that a number of individuals working with the same materials in the same culture can independently find their way to the same result.

Michele Bilyeu said...

You're all right in different ways for different reasons! Shelina, it is complicated, but we do have the right to use ideas and improve on them...that's called progress and inventions. Yes, Paula, use the title, they gave you permission. As far as even lyrics go...a person would have to use a whole paragraph of them to be copying, not just a few words. And Nellie is absolutely correct. In fact, in studies on the 100th monkey syndrome, once 100 monkeys (substitute humans) reach a method or conclusion...everyone spontaneously reaches or uses or assumes it. And there is nothing new under the sun. We recycle, endlessly, in the quantum domain. There is no 'real' copyright on anything, especially now that we have the 'web'. We've always had it, now we can 'use' it. It's only because we are attached to things and possessive that we think we have the 'right' to own or possess them. But I totally understand why we all get upset when we are 'copied'. We all want to create and be creative. We may like 'flattery' but we sure hate doing the work and watching others take the credit for doing only part of it !
4:08 PM

Norma said...

Thank you for putting this in understandable terms. I believe that because quilting has been done for so long that if it can be done..........someone has already done it so nothing is new. Not that it means we can just take what we want and say it's ours to do as we want, but to claim anything is orginal is way out there.

Mary Johnson said...

It's certainly a hot topic. I've seen a lot on the subject and not all of it's accurate and much is open to interpretation.

Here are a series of articles by QNM on copyright as it relates to quilting.


atet said...

If you're interested in a discussion of copyright and how technology and the law are being impacted (as well as the ability of creative work to be made) check out this link:


A really well written book that deals with copyright issues in language that is easy to understand. And it's even written by a lawyer -- go figure. Oh, and did I mention it's avaiable for free?

Browndirtcottage said...

Very good Michele!! This answered some questions I've had about seeing some of those good ole traditional blocks and patterns being published in some our current quilters. I bookmarked this one too. I think I will want to read it again!!!
Thanks bunches!