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Copyrights and the Sewing Industry: Part 2 
Fabrics & Embroidery Designs

by Susan Wigley, Paragon Patterns


This Month I'll talk about copyrights on fabric and embroidery designs. The same Copyright rules apply to fabric and embroidery designs that apply to patterns. 

Many fabrics are licensed, such as Disney, Warner Brothers, any other cartoon characters, & Joe Boxer to name a few. These companies, as well as others, strictly prohibit the use of their fabrics for manufacturing. Printed materials such as these are for personal use only.

Just because you can purchase the fabric at a fabric store doesn't mean you can use it to manufacture your items, or sell them at craft fairs. All of the companies I just mentioned require a licensing agreement before you are allowed to use their images for sale in any way, including any fabric, embroidery or screen-prints. If you are in question & want to know if a fabric requires a license, ask the distributor or better yet, go directly to the company that owns the copyright and find out before you use it.

The general rule of thumb is that if the fabric is a cartoon character, images from TV or the movies, OR if it is fabric is used by a manufacturer, such as Joe Boxer, you can't use it for your business without a licensing agreement from that company. If you get caught using these fabrics or images without a licensing agreement it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, or more in legal fees and fines. 

These companies often send spies out to trade shows and craft fairs to seek out the offenders and prosecute them immediately. They seize the property with their images & fabrics & it can very ugly in a hurry.

Embroidery Designs are almost always copyrighted and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Unless they state on the disk or download, "copyright free design", don't use it without permission in writing from the copyright owner. 

On the other hand, there ARE companies that have embroidery designs you can use for your business or Craft Fairs for a nominal fee. Dakota Designs, for example, has a huge catalog of designs that you can reproduce. You purchase a disk with the design you pick out of their catalog and it's yours to use as you wish.

Again, if you are in question about fabric or embroidery design, always ask the copyright owner what their policy is before you use their designs on your work. It's important to remember that the individuals who originally designed the work make their living off of their ideas. When you use it on the work you are selling, it dilutes their ability to profit and make a living. Please respect that, and always get permission in writing and pay the licensing fees they ask for. After all, the work these designers do is helping you make money too, and that is only fair.

For more information on copyrights, you can visit the Library of Congress Copyright office website at www.loc.gov/copyright, or contact a Copyright Attorney or one who specializes in intellectual property rights.

Copyright 2002 Susan Wigley. All Rights Reserved.

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