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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Publication Replication ©

It always seems to me that quilt magazines are the least understood and most abused form of pattern publication. Folks seem to feel when they buy one, they own what's in it and can copy at will without hurting anyone. After all, the magazine gets tossed out at the end of the month and a new issue replaces it, right? Wrong. I've often wondered if it's because a magazine is a collection of projects from various designers compiled by a big anonymous publishing house...and thus distanced a bit from the individual creator...that sparks this attitude. I've even heard people say that anything published in a magazine is free for using as it puts it out in the public domain. As Judge Judy emphatically declares, "riDICulous!". Publishing a piece does not put it into the public domain; it is still governed by copyright. And even though that magazine may be viewed as disposable, the copyrighted material within it is not.The rules for copying what you find in a magazine are no different really than when you purchase an individual pattern, and are clearly spelled out in the front of each issue. Here's the notice found in the front of Quiltmaker magazine: Copyright ©2011 by Creative Crafts Group. Reproduction in whole or in part in any language without written permission from Quiltmaker is prohibited. No one may copy, reprint or distribute any of the patterns or material in this magazine for commercial use without written permission of Quiltmaker. Templates and patterns may be photocopied as necessary to make quilts for personal use only. Quilts made from any element of a Quiltmaker pattern may be publicly displayed at quilt shows or donated to charity with credit given appropriately in the following form: "Pattern Name, designed by Designer Name. Pattern appears in Quiltermaker month/year." Sounds clear to me. Notice that provision is made to preserve the moral link (discussed 2 blogposts back) between the creator and the work.

So how did the magazine get permission to share the designer's instructions in the first place? Speaking from the perspective of designer (and thus copyright owner) I would like to explain the various ways books and magazines are given permission to publish patterns. In previous posts, we discussed RIGHTS and began by saying that the creator of the original design (and all derivatives) holds the copyright to the design. He or she can decide how to assign those rights. It's different than selling a pattern to an individual; in that case, the individual purchases the pattern for their own personal use and is not allowed to copy or share the pattern. Books and magazines are different because the publisher needs permission to copy and distribute the pattern. To do this, they purchase the RIGHT to do that. There are various standard agreements an author can make with a publisher; one can sell ALL RIGHTS, FIRST RIGHTS, ONE TIME RIGHTS, or SIMULTANEOUS RIGHTS. When I began publishing in magazines in 1989 my very optimistic goal was to be in every quilting magazine on the market. I soon learned that some magazines offer contracts which did not appeal to me and for that reason I have not worked with them. In a nutshell, if a designer sells ALL RIGHTS to a magazine it's just what it says - ALL Rights. The designer no longer owns the copyright to the design and would have to then abide by the terms of use set by the publisher, the same as everyone else - including not offering the pattern for sale. I object to selling ALL RIGHTS because it feels like selling a piece of my soul, and even though I have done it a couple of times to get my work in books (or on covers) it isn't anything I favour. I usually sell FIRST RIGHTS OF PUBLICATION. This means that the magazine purchases the Right to publish the pattern before anyone else, including me. When the magazine goes off sale - usually 3 months is the term on the contract - then the Rights revert back to me, and I can print and sell the pattern myself. There are several patterns for sale on my website which have previously appeared in magazines. If the issue sells out and is not available as a back issue, then this allows someone to legally purchase the pattern without photocopying the magazine (which is illegal). My Selvedge Tote, published first in McCall's Quilting, is a good example of this. The pattern has been hugely popular, and the magazine quickly sold out so no back issues are available. After the Rights reverted back to me, I had the patterns printed, adding a selvedge gadget bag, and offer them for sale on my website. If I had not done this, one of 2 things would have happened: either the pattern would not be available at all, or folks would illegally photocopy and share the instructions from McCall's Quilting (in other words, I've saved you from a life of crime! :) If a magazine (or book) wants to offer a design which has previously appeared in print obviously they can no longer buy First Rights. This time they purchase One Time Rights. It allows them one printing of the pattern, and then the Rights go back to the creator. Simultaneous Rights is a trickier deal, this means that both a publication and the individual copyright holder are sharing the Rights to print the pattern...and both can have it for sale at the same time. Confusing? Here are some examples from my own experience (please overlook the weird colours in these shots, they were done late at night under artificial lights): this is Starry Night. I designed this quilt to enter in a contest run by The Nova Scotia Museum in 2000. It won me tickets to the Ship's Company Theatre in Parrsboro.
It's a pretty quilt, unusual in that it is sewn using all solid fabrics. I decided to submit the design to a magazine, and Quilt World purchased First Rights of Publication (First Rights, because I had not yet published the pattern). They featured the quilt on the cover of their July 2000 issue.
About a year after this, I decided to offer the pattern for sale myself, and had it printed and packaged for sale. It is available in stores and on my website.
In 2003, Leisure Arts contacted me to ask if they could include Starry Night in a book they were doing, entitled Through The Year Quilts. They wanted to purchase All Rights, but I didn't want to do that, so we agreed on One Time Rights Of Publication. This meant I could continue to sell the pattern on my own, and if their book went into a second printing, we would need to sign another contract for One Time Rights. I am glad I did this, as they featured the quilt on the book cover.
Here's another example of how things work. House of White Birches published Scrap Quilting Made Easy and included 3 of my designs in this hardcover book. (Two of them are pictured on the back cover) I sold ALL RIGHTS to these designs. Several years later, they decided to do a "best of" soft cover version (shown on the right) which included all three of my patterns. Because they owned ALL RIGHTS they didn't need my permission to do this, but they were kind enough to offer a royalty payment for use of the material. A royalty is a payment made by one party (the "licensee") to another (the "licensor") for the right to ongoing use of an asset. They determined that using the designs a second time constituted ongoing use. We mostly hear about royalty payments made to actors for TV shows which go into reruns, and it's the same idea - ongoing use.
In addition to selling off various aspects of a copyright, one can also sell a license to use a design. The Disney characters you see printed on fabric are an example of a license. Disney has not sold the copyrights to the character to the fabric company, they have awarded them a licence which permits the characters to be used without penalty. On the other side of the table, I had to purchase a licence to pattern my Anticipation quilt. The Anne Of Green Gables Licensing Authority keeps tight control (rightly!) over the usage of Anne and one needs approval and a licence.
There is a cost involved in all of this; I paid a flat fee upfront for the license and am required to submit royalty payments on the sale of each pattern (an ongoing activity). This is why the pattern retails higher than the others...and why that fabric with Disney characters costs more. The licence fee is reflected in the price.
Book publishers do not always obtain control of Rights; sometimes they seek permission to print the material on your behalf without purchasing the copyright. Diane Shink and I continue to hold the copyright to the material in our book Canadian Heritage Quilting. Like most book authors, we receive royalty payments from the publisher.
Because of so many options available for the correct publication of copyrighted material, you are probably asking yourself how you would know who owns what or how you are supposed to proceed. Easy. Look in the front of the book or magazine. Read the terms of use. If you cannot find the answer to your question, find an email address or a phone number and contact the publisher to ask. You can also find contact information quickly through a Google search. The publisher can tell you who owns the copyright and who to contact for permission to use the design for commercial purposes, or for display in a show. If you are unable to make contact with the publisher, then get in touch with the designer. He/she knows what the agreement with the publisher is. It really doesn't matter to you who owns the copyright - all you need to remember is that if it isn't you, it's someone else...and you need permission to use their work.


  1. I am thoroughly enjoying this series Karen - thank you for posting it! I am learning a lot.

  2. Great information. Thanks for describing all the angles...I will refer to this in the future.

  3. Thank you for this post. Very interesting and informative. Khris

  4. Thanks Karen!
    In this session you've answered so many of my questions regarding the magazines and the rights of designers. Very interesting read.

  5. Thank you Karen, very informative and as a designer myself you have assured me that what I have told others about copyright and my rights as as a designer/creator are correct.

  6. Thank you for making that so clear and easy to understand.

  7. You are one savvy business woman Karen! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I thought I was just meeting you when we connected on CyberQuilters but after reading this post I see I have "known" you almost my entire quilting life through your designs!! Now that we are enlightened about licenses and copyrights for patterns, I think someone will have to step forward and do the same about fabric pretty soon.