Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pondering copyright issues

I have been reading all the recent postings about copyright issues to the QuiltArt Yahoo group with interest. Many members hate the idea of someone taking a photo of their quilt and showing it to someone else, without using their name, or putting it on a blog or website without their consent. Others worry that someone might take their quilt and put it on a coffee mug. Others worry (and rightfully so, in my mind) that someone might steal their design and use it to make money. Paula Nadelstern's designs were used, in clear copyright violation, on carpeting in the Houston Hilton Hotel connected to the same convention center where the International Quilt Festival is held each fall. Everyone draws the line (between acceptable and unacceptable to them) in a different place.

Makes me think about my own feelings about where I would draw my line.

Personally, it does not bother me at all when people take photos of my quilts at quilt shows and take them home to share with fellow quilters or members of their guild, or even to post them on a website without specific details like my name and the name of the quilt, as long as they are not taking credit for my work or trying to recreate it. Heck, I don't even have a problem with them putting it on a coffee mug as long as it was for personal use. I'm honored that they like my work and want to tell other people about it.

There are a lot of people who never go to a big quilt show (or even a little one) and if they see photos of art quilts and think "wow, that's cool!" then art quilts have won another victory. More exposure, more understanding, more people figuring out that what we do is art, more demand for it, and maybe more money for quilt artists.

I know there may be people who take photos for the purpose of copying my work. And if an occasional person takes the trouble to do this, then I say, "Go at it!" I can't control the universe, and I can't control the ethics of people who think this is okay. I am reminded that it used to be that art students sat in art museums and galleries and learned how to paint from copying the masters. (Maybe they still do; I did not go to art school.)

If they sold my image, or put it on merchandise and sold the merchandise, THEN I'd have a problem.

I am a big fan of the Dave Matthews Band, and they were one of the first bands to actually encourage fans at their shows to record the music, make copies of it on CD, and give it (FOR FREE) to their friends. As a result, they got a lot more exposure, and a LOT more fans. Those fans went out and bought studio albums. Lots of them. Then they bought tickets to concerts. Lots of them.

Result? The Dave Matthews Band is now one of the most popular bands in the world, and they are NOT hurting for money. The are among the top grossing acts of the last decade. They would gross even more, but they don't charge as much for live performance tickets as many other big acts. If people try to sell the concert CDs rather than give them for free, the fans go rabid and report them. So it is self policing. The band does not have to pursue copyright issues because the fans do it for them.

If you take this example and apply it to quilts, I wonder if we should all be giving away photos of our quilts, and not worrying too much about these copyright issues. The world has changed... the digital revolution makes everything different now, and I think we have to learn how to turn these changes to our advantage instead of getting bent out of shape over them.


  1. I agree, wholeheartedly. Thanks for posting this!!

  2. We had someone at our last quilt show -local guild show- photographing quilts to turn them into tiles (?) I was told he was photographing my quilt. It didn't even occur to me that would be a problem until some explained to me that he has to ask persmission. I love when you said you can't control the true.

    great example with the DMB.

  3. Bravo! I agree 100% with your comments! You expressed most of what I was thinking while reading the posts you mentioned! Thanks for sharing your thoughts - you put it in perspective.

  4. I am also with you. However, please read Alison Schwab's blog and mine....


  5. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. I wrote several posts and never sent them because I couldn't seem to pull all the thoughts together, as you did. One QA poster said it well, something about people needing to get hold of their huge egos on this issue. Yes, Paula's issue was rightfully (and successfully, thank goodness) pursued, but I think the rest of us should just chill.


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