Copyright Violation has been a hot topic in our pattern group, whether we're talking about images and people stealing photos, or making clothes out of licensed fabric, or embroidery designs, every one's got something to say. A great site for future reference is Tabber's Temptations; bookmark it if you think you ever might need info about sewing and copyright issues. You'll find lots of great info there, and I promise you will discover that a lot of the things you think are true about copyright restrictions and sewing are, in fact, not true at all!!!
Since this is such a huge topic, we're going to have to tackle it in baby steps, so today we invited Tina Lueders to drop by the blog with some of her expert advice about embroidery, a service many of our customers provide, and how they might be effected by copyright laws. Thanks, Tina!
Copyright - Mickey Is Making Me Money!!!
Well, not me personally, but he's helping many vendors on Etsy, Facebook, Ebay and other commerce sites. And probably the majority of the vendors are breaking the law, some by ignorance of the copyright laws and some by just ignoring the copyright laws.
Copyright - always a heated discussion. What can I sell as a small business or boutique owner. Hey I'm just trying to make a few bucks to help the family out in this downward economy. Right? Wrong!!!!
I own a small embroidery business that I run out of my home and I wish I had a nickle for every time someone wanted me to embroider copyrighted Disney characters, professional and college sports teams, Nike logos, Harley Davidson, and the list goes on and on. NO WAY!!! Sorry, I like my little business and don't want to risk getting sued or the investment it would take just to fight over a few dollars. It's not worth it.
During a recent "copyright discussion" on my embroidery business group, one of our admins, Don Hanson with Terradon Embroidery summed it up this way:
I think we need ask ourselves only a couple of questions.
WHY do we want that design/logo/character/etc.?
Is it because SOMEONE ELSE spent their hard earned $$ to make us want it?
If so, it belongs to them and no-one else. Without their investment
in the logo/character/etc. why would anyone want it? If we want to
develop our own character, wouldn't we want to earn the profits from
If we want it because SOMEONE else invested in making it desirable,
it's not ours to use/share/profit from.
I would go a step farther and say that of even those who have read the
license agreement very few, if any have the knowledge of both copyright and
trademark law to understand what they read applies to them.
They think that because nothing happened before, it must be OK. I can just
imagine their outrage when they get a speeding ticket...after all, they did
it before and nothing happened!
Being in business is all about taking risks. But, it is also all about
balancing that risk against the potential rewards. Disney, sports leagues,
John Deere, Coke, Harley Davidson, etc. make a very significant income from
the sale of various products that contain their trademarks. The value of a
license increases in proportion to how aggressively a company protects its
trademarks. So, when assessing the risk of some action being taken, the
amount of licensed products is a good indicator of the probability of a)
being caught and b) not liking the action taken...legal fees, judgment or
settlement amounts, distraction from and disruption to your everyday
business. The other side of the equation is the amount of profit that you
would make from the job.
I was dumbfounded when my IP lawyer said that I would spend about $10,000
just to have him defend me through a trial. It was then that I realized that
I could win the trial and still be out $10,000. That's a big loss to me!
Even if I was 'lucky' and only received a Cease and Desist demand, it would
still distract me and disrupt my days while I responded.
Here are some examples of what is ok and not ok to sell:
For those who are interested and would like sell Disney items legally, here is some information from their licensing department.
They have 3 requirements in order to be licensed by them. They are as follows:
1) Your company must have a minimum of five years experience in manufacturing and distribution.
2) Your company must be a manufacturer, NOT a middleman or distributor.
3) Your company must have five years prior experience in the product category being proposed.
Now, here's my first disclaimer: I do not pretend to be the most knowledgeable about copyright issues and am constantly gaining new knowledge. So please don't think of me as the be-all and end-all when it comes to copyright. But I have been in business for over 15 years and I'm sharing what works for me. I've been on both sides of the copyright issue - even having to send a "cease and desist" letter to a person making show clothes for sale using my designs.
Just some things to think about when *you* decide to use Minnie Mouse ears on your garments.