Copyright and Weaving Patterns

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn
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madelynv@interweave.com

Hi Madelyn,

If someone makes a project from Handwoven magazine and then puts it in a guild sale, is that against the law? If the fiber, color or size is altered, then is it acceptable?
 
—Leslie K. Alperin

Hi Leslie!

In the season of guild sales and gift giving, it is always good to bring this issue up as a reminder. If a weaver uses the instructions in a magazine (or any copyrighted printed matter) to make an item (number of threads, draft, yarns, colors, sett, finishing methods), it is a copyright violation to sell it or to enter it in a show of original work. The written instructions are copyright protected, not the actual item. Simply changing a color or a yarn would probably not be regarded as enough of a change to avoid violation (and might be regarded as a change made only to avoid it). 

As we all know, however, many of our projects look very similar to each otherwe use the same drafts over and over and the same yarns. Only the maker may really know whether she/he actually used written project instructions to make an item. I've seen jurors give Best of Show to pieces that were exact duplicates of magazine projects. The juror didn't know, but the weaver did. (It is also true, however, that some weavers mistakenly think it is craftsmanship that is judged in weaving shows and that the work does not have to be original.)

It is always OK to give projects woven from written instructions as gifts.

Thanks for writing about this,

—Madelyn

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