A Call to Stop Forgery and Design Theft in the Quilting World

I have several friends whose beautiful artistic quilted creations have been “copied,” or attempted to be copied, without permission and without acknowledgement and passed off as their own work.  In the rest of the art world, if an artist had painted, or otherwise crafted, a wonderful work of their own, and someone else had copied it to pass it off as their own, this action would be called “forgery” and would likely be a crime.  We in the quilting world should stand firmly against this kind of activity in our own craft.  I am sure that there are many of my friends who agree with me.

Note that I am not talking about quilts designed with blocks that have been in the public domain for years and happen to end up similar to someone else’s quilt, but I think that should be clear.

It is a wonderful thing to be so impressed by someone’s work that you are inspired to go work on your own piece.  Inspiration does not mean copy however.  And even if you do not copy, but create some similar subject, you need to acknowledge where the inspiration came from.

Let’s look at this a little bit.  I do not use other people’s quilts for my own fabric artwork (unless I bought a pattern or kit and am using it for my own utility quilt), but I might use someone else’s painting or drawing or photograph.

If I want to use someone’s artwork as an inspiration, or even a design, for  my quilt work, I will not even start it until I have contacted the artist and asked permission.  This has occasionally resulted in my not being able to make the quilt, but there are thousands and thousands of wonderful ideas, artworks, and photographs out there to try again, or even design things from scratch.  Sometimes, this has resulted in my having to buy the rights to use the artwork as inspiration or even the design for the making of a quilt. In addition, even if I obtain the rights to use it, I still feel it imperative to acknowledge the artist.

In the course of my work, I have gotten the following responses to my requests to use their work in some way from the artists:

  • Sure, no problem (the usual answer)
  • You cannot use this on your website (they didn’t read the request and were a little insulting)
  • The rights would cost $600 (I didn’t make that quilt)
  • The right for one show quilt would be $200 and you can’t use the art otherwise commercially (I made that quilt)
  • I make you a present of this design and would be honored for you to use it. (Designs in progress or quilts made)
  • You can use four to ten of the designs in each coloring book for your craft (Dover Publications standard use statement…but you cannot make another book using these designs and sell it.  Make no mistake this is not Copyright Free as many report Dover Publications as being, but is instead permitted use and is Royalty Free.  This doesn’t make much difference to us as quilters, but should be acknowledged).  I have used many Dover elements in my designs when I couldn’t draw it better myself.  I love Dover publications and thank them for their generosity.
  • And finally, when the work is way too old and is now in the public domain and the artists have been gone for centuries, you really don’t have to ask even if some unrelated organization has taken it up and tried to make it theirs.  Public domain means just that.  IF you know who the artist is, however, it would still be nice to acknowledge him or her.  I used elements from eleventh and twelfth century art as the basis for some of my work, but there is no possible way of knowing who the artists were.  We can safely assume they are in the public domain by now.  LOL

Sew join with me in helping to stop the forgery of the fabulous quilts and theft of designs within our quilting world.  Put it in your blogs, make a point of it if you are teaching a class, maybe even put up signs at quilt shows.  I don’t know all the ways, but people need to be made aware that just because it is a quilt does not mean it is free to be copied without request or acknowledgement.  It is like any other fine art and needs to be treated as such.

Sew happy everyone!

2 thoughts on “A Call to Stop Forgery and Design Theft in the Quilting World

  1. Annabelle H. says:

    Betty Jo: You should be interviewed for the podcast called “I Just Wanna Quilt”, https://www.justwannaquilt.com/. It is a research podcast and project run by a law professor at Tulane University, and explores the relationship among quilters, the quilting community, copyright and entrepreneurship. The professor is Elizabeth Townsend Gard and you can contact her at townsend@tulane.edu.

    Just Wanna Quilt: An Immersive Research Project of Copyright Research Lab

    Tulane University Law School

    Weinmann Hall

    6329 Freret Street

    New Orleans, LA 70118

    Senior Program Manager – Janice Sayas jsayas@tulane.edu

    Plus, I’m sure your business will get a boost and more recognition if you are interviewed on this podcast.

    Good luck! –Annabelle, Project Linus Fairfax County Chapter

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