Sunday, July 30, 2017

Not For Sale

This is a PSA of sorts with the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer or a legal expert. If you need legal advice, please seek it from an attorney. Legal terms are linked to explanations. 

I thought long and hard before posting this. I hope you find it useful and informative.

Hello, friends. 

This post is intended to answer some questions and concerns that have cropped up recently. I think with the volume of messages I've been receiving on this topic, this deserves a full explanation.

This is long, but I hope you'll stick with me.

I'd like to start with a short story.

In 2004 or so, I wanted to make a Harry Potter quilt. At the time, the blue line of licensed HP fabric from Spring Industries was already getting hard to come by. I had already designed several of my own patterns so I decided to try designing my own.

Fast forward a year and I had dozens of Harry Potter inspired quilt block patterns designed and tested, well on my way to that quilt I wanted to make. With the encouragement of friends and family, I sent letters out to publishers inquiring about publishing these patterns that I was so proud of. The weeks that followed were agonizingly slow. 

Eventually, the letters came back. "No" after "no" flooded my mailbox, most with some variation of "we love your designs, but..." Finally, the last letter I came. It was also a "no," but it had some advice, too. A helpful person went on to explain that their lawyers had checked into licensing for Harry Potter and at that time it was six figures, over $100,000, well above what a first time quilt book author/designer could ever be expected to see in returns. There was an explanation as to why Intellectual Property had to be licensed in order to be published. Prior to that time, I had a vague idea about Copyright, but this was mostly new information to me. The very helpful person went on to say, off the record, that my patterns were great, and I should share them for free.

So I did. So I still do.

In 2011, Fandom in Stitches was born out of a need for a home for the growing number and variety of Fandom-themed patterns myself and my friends were creating. 

Our quilt community was growing.

During the early months of Fandom in Stitches, I received legal advice completely by accident when I was put in contact with a patent attorney during a newspaper interview. My part of the interview never made it in the paper, but the lawyer gave me some free advice: Keep sharing patterns for free as derivative art, which is generally covered by Fair Use. But, he said, be diligent about making sure that visitors and volunteers alike understand that these patterns are not to be sold or used for manufacture. Most Intellectual Property owners, he said, are appreciative of fans and understand that we buy their licensed merchandise like movies, t-shirts, plushies, etc., and that fans make stuff out of love for their properties. It's generally seen as free advertising. But, he also warned me, those same companies are legally compelled to protect their property if someone is trying to sell unlicensed merchandise.

Other designers than myself have received the same advice: Share, don't sell. Keep your distance from unlicensed merchandise in any capacity.

That's what we've done. Sometimes it has been painful. I've been called names and received hate mail after asking creators to not sell quilts made from our patterns. I've had harsh words slung at me for refusing to post unlicensed for sale patterns and merchandise. I've been argued with and rationalized to. I have, more than once, cried real tears of frustration. In the end, the name calling and the cruel words don't matter. What matters is nurturing the Fandom quilting community I love so much and the legal advice I was so generously given, not once, but twice, in order to do my best to protect it.

Our intentions are all over this website...

At the top of every page on Fandom in Stitches you'll see this:

All patterns on this site are derivative art, free for your personal & non-profit use ONLY. 
Patterns not to be used for distribution, resale or manufacture.
That means no selling stuff using these patterns. For more info, please visit our FAQ page.
All patterns posted with designer permission. No infringement intended.

At the bottom of every post, you'll see this:


Fandom In Stitches and it's designers do not hold copyright on any of the fandom titles represented on this site. Respective Designers reserve copyright on patterns only and request that out of respect for the fandoms we love, that you use them for personal and non-profit reasons only. The Designers at Fandom In Stitches receive no payment for any of the patterns posted and expressly forbid resale & manufacture.



I'm sharing all this so that you know exactly where I stand, where Fandom in Stitches stands, and why. 

Which brings me, finally, to the point:

I have recently been contacted by multiple trusted sources warning me know that lawyers representing Intellectual Property owners have taken note of fandom quilters, specifically those selling unlicensed fandom quilts & unlicensed quilt patterns online. 

So far, the fallout as it relates to us, is that fandom designers, even those sharing for free, are having the their patterns that fall under this IP removed via blanket Cease & Desist from pattern sharing & selling platforms. Sellers have been shut down. Patterns have been deleted.

Edited to add: This isn't the first time this has happened, but it is the first time to my knowledge that free patterns have also been taken down.

Unlicensed merchandise is a hot, hot topic that I'm not here to debate. If you're curious, search Copyright in Etsy Discussions, the debate rages constantly.

Today and every day, I have all of Fandom in Stitches to think about. That's volunteer designers who matter to me as friends and our hundreds of free patterns. Our community is quite literally held together with needle, thread, and the Internet. If we were to receive a Cease & Desist letter, this website and it's community would be shattered. The thing that I never, ever forget, is that the company's who's IP we love...it's their business. Literally. Selling licensing and merchandise is how they make money. If they decided to say we're done, we're done. Poof. Gone forever.

The designers here are all volunteers. I pay all of our fees out of my own pocket. We make a tiny amount from selling Fandom in Stitches t-shirts and mugs, which covers postage for the prizes we share with our community. The rest is all me and I'm okay with that. I've always done my best to be as transparent as possible about my intentions and how this website works. I tell you this to let you know how important the community is to me. Fandom in Stitches is my passion project. The only thing I've asked in return is that our visitors not sell merchandise made from our patterns and that these patterns not be redesigned and/or reposted without permission out of respect to hours of work our volunteer designers have put into them.

So far, we've been okay. Most people understand and are helpful when sharing the "why" of the no selling/no manufacturing, etc. with new community members.

The community that has grown up around Fandom in Stitches is one of my favorite things about my online life. I have had genuine friendships blossom, fun collaborations happen, and innumerable other rewarding experiences. 

Our patterns are free for you to use for swaps, for charities, for gifts. And we love it. I love it. I love seeing Fandom quilts hanging on school library walls and knowing that our designers helped to make that happen. I love seeing our quilts being donated to blanket charities. I love it when someone who has never touched a sewing machine learns to sew just to make "that one pattern." We don't get paid, but we are certainly rewarded.

There were a lot of questions answered here, both asked and unasked. If you have a question and I can help or point you in the right direction (keeping in mind...not a lawyer!), please email ofenjen@fandominstitches.com.  Comments have turned off on this post to try to avoid a heated debate. We're a quilting community, and a super friendly one at that. I'd like to keep it that way.

As Mad Eye would say, 
Constant. Vigilance.

 


  Fandom In Stitches and it's designers do not hold copyright on any of the fandom titles represented on this site. Respective Designers reserve copyright on patterns only and request that out of respect for the fandoms we love, that you use them for personal and non-profit reasons only. The Designers at Fandom In Stitches receive no payment for any of the patterns posted and expressly forbid resale & manufacture.