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Q: Quilting and Copyrights ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   7 Comments )
Subject: Quilting and Copyrights
Category: Sports and Recreation > Hobbies and Crafts
Asked by: chuckbutt-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 07 Sep 2004 19:10 PDT
Expires: 07 Oct 2004 19:10 PDT
Question ID: 398157
I am looking to the answer to a couple of related questions about
quilting and copyrights.  They are:

1. Can you sell quilts made from fabric that you purchase when most
fabric designs are copyrighted?

2. Can you sell a quilt made from a copyrighted pattern?  And if so,
what are the restrictions and rules that would apply?

I run a site called that offers information on
how to make money with your quilting, and these are some of the
questions I receive from my site visitors.

I am looking for some definitive information, and not just copyright
generalities.  I want to be able to provide a very good answer that
will be posted in an article on my web site.
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
Answered By: easterangel-ga on 08 Sep 2004 00:01 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi! Thanks for the very interesting questions.

I will try to answer them point-by-point.

1. Can you sell quilts made from fabric that you purchase when most
fabric designs are copyrighted?

The first question is the hardest among the two and there are
different interpretations among the side of the fabric makers and
crafters (like the quilters) as regards to this issue. Just like in
any legal matter, nothing is absolute and not everything is black and
white since there will always be exceptions in different cases.

Our first link provides a very good answer to this question.

?Many companies release licensed figure fabrics at retail while
objecting to the crafter using the licensed figure fabrics to make and
subsequently sell the products.?

?The First Sale Doctrine is part of Copyright Law. Basically, the
First Sale Doctrine says that once the manufacturer of a copyrighted
item releases that item into the stream of commerce, the original
owner of the copyright loses control of what is done with that item.?

?Some companies refer to these hand-crafted items as unauthorized and
unlicensed products. That?s trademark territory, not copyright law.
But, trademark law refers to ?unauthorized use? in conjunction with
counterfeiting someone?s trademarked image or product, not the
legitimate use of their product. But this argument scares a lot of
crafters. These companies also argue that making these products and
selling them could ?cause confusion? in the mind of the purchaser as
to the origin of the product, thinking it was licensed.?

?The only federal court case directly addressing the use of
copyrighted fabric is Precious Moments v. La Infantil, 1997, 1st
District. Precious Moments lost in its attempt to stop La Infantil
from making bedding from licensed fabrics. We have been in federal
court with M&M/Mars, Disney, Major League Baseball, United Media
(Peanuts) over the use of licensed fabrics. Every one of them objected
to the making and sale of fabric items. Everyone one of them wanted to
settle after being sued.?

?Using Copyrighted Fabrics? By: Michael M. & Karen D., eBay's Tabberone 

Here is a copy of the sole federal court case of copyrighted fabric by
Moments v. La Infantil. The official conclusion is as follows:

?For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff Precious Moments, Inc.'s, motion
for a preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 6) is hereby DENIED as to the
copyright claim and GRANTED as to the trademark and unfair competition
claims to the extent set forth above. Defendant La Infantil shall
modify the tags included with products manufactured from Precious
Moments fabric in accordance with this opinion.?

?PRECIOUS MOMENTS, INC., Plaintiff, v. LA INFANTIL, INC., et al., Defendants.
Civil No. 97-1635 (PG). July 29, 1997.?

So in a sense, the crafter did not totally won since the latter was
still ordered to modify the tags included with the products to
properly cite that the plaintiff was the owner of the copyright for
the fabric.

2. Can you sell a quilt made from a copyrighted pattern?  And if so,
what are the restrictions and rules that would apply?

The short answer is NO. But if you ask for permission from the
original maker then she may gave you the license to sell the quilt
with some method of shared profits of course.

?How does copyright apply to crafters and quilters? Copyright provides
author/designers with a monopoly to benefit from their original ideas.
The copyright owner alone has the right to make copies, reproduce or
distribute the work, or prepare derivative works as explained above.
Others must secure written permission before using another's
copyrighted work.?


You cannot also give it away even if you are not going to make a
profit from the quilt, like for example you just want to give it away
to your neighbors. However you may contact the copyright holder and
discuss with him or her about using her copyrighted quilt design.

?I?m not going to charge anyone for the copies ? doesn?t that make it OK??

?No. "Commercial purpose" is only one part of the fair use test. Fair
use applies to using a small portion of the copyrighted work, as for
review or commentary. Even if you meet all the requirements of the
fair use test you still cannot publish the entire thing.?

?So is there any way to make and distribute copies of patterns??

?Maybe. Contact the copyright owner to request permission. It may take
a couple of tries because it?s not always clear who owns the
copyright, but the owner may be willing to share, especially if you
promise to give them attribution. Be sure to explain why you want the
pattern and how you would like to use it since that will influence her
decision. Or she may be willing to sell you a copy or license to make
a certain number of copies or copies for a certain group.?

?Copyright & Quilters a FAQ & Links? 

Search terms used:
quilting copyright issues
"Copyrighted Fabrics"
"Precious Moments v. La Infantil"

I hope these links would help you in your research. Before rating this
answer, please ask for a clarification if you have a question or if
you would need further information.
Thanks for visiting us.                
Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by chuckbutt-ga on 08 Sep 2004 06:17 PDT
Hello Easterangel-ga,

I would like a bit of clarification on this answer...

1. In the answer to the first question, it appears that you can create
a quilt or pillow or article of clothing from a licensed fabric as
long as you do not represent the finished article as being produced by
the original licensor (such as Disney or Precious Moments) and you
state that the trademark and/or copyright belongs to the licensor and
not you.  It also looks like you should clearly indicate that you
manufactured the item, not the licensor. Is this the gist of what the
answer is saying?

2. In the second instance, I have found some conflicting arguments to
the "no" answer to selling a quilt made from a purchased pattern. 
Here is a link:

According to this information, you can use a copyrighted pattern you
purchased yourself, and once you've purchased it, you can sell or give
it away, and sell or give a way the quilt made from that pattern.  It
does not give you the right to make copies of the pattern or to mass
produce items from that pattern for sale.

If you could provide a little more clarification on this issue - it
seems that making a quilt from a pattern is fair use and selling it
seems to be fair use as well - that would be great.


Request for Answer Clarification by chuckbutt-ga on 08 Sep 2004 06:38 PDT
Sorry about the bad link.  The correct link to the article I
referenced when asking for clarification should have been:

There was a problem with the frames from the site.


Clarification of Answer by easterangel-ga on 08 Sep 2004 07:31 PDT
Hi again!

1. Yes that is the gist of the answer according to the court decision
cited in the answer to number 1.

2. Yes it seems that the author of the link you cited ion the
clarification has a conflicting opinion as regards to this matter. In
fact lawyers usually have conflicting opinions on certain matters,
depending on what side of the fence they are viewing a particular
case. But he was threading on very thin ice when he said this

"Some pattern designers attempt to limit the implied copyright license
by stating on their patterns, "This pattern is provided for personal
use only and may not be used for commercial purposes." However, as far
as I have been able to determine, this language has never been tested
in court, so provided you do not engage in mass commercialization from
a pattern, I suspect there would not be copyright infringement."

What if the copyright holder suddenly decided to go after you? Are you
willing to absorb a headache like this specially if the pattern
designer has much more resources than you to exhaust in court?

However, at the end of the day it seems that asking for the permission
of the copyright holder is the best course of action to avoid problems
like these.

I hope this was of help.

Thanks again!

chuckbutt-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
The answer was very complete, and almost completely answered my
question.  Unfortunately, due to the legal issues involved, I may not
be able to get a completely definitive answer without going to court. 
But, the researcher did a very thorough, professional job, and I would
recommend the service highly.  Thank you!

Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: ipfan-ga on 07 Sep 2004 20:24 PDT
Yes and yes.  Copyright law specifically recognizes a "first sale"
right which teaches that one may sell copies of a lawfully procured
copy of a copyrighted article without liability to the copyright
owner.  Once you have paid the copyright owner the first time (when
you obtained your lawful copy), the copyright owner's right to extract
additional revenue from further sale of the article is extinguished.

I know these are just "copyright generalities," but I will repost with
specific case law and statutory cites later--and since I am not a
Researcher it is free to you!
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: ipfan-ga on 08 Sep 2004 06:31 PDT
The First Sale Doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. Section 109
cuts off the right of copyright owner to exert her exclusive right to
sell the work once a copy has been sold by a lawful owner of a copy,
who obtained that copy in a sales transaction, as opposed to license
(hence, first sale).  The copyright owner?s other exclusive rights
remain intact. The doctrine was affirmed in Softman v. Adobe, (CV
00-04161 DDP [AJWx] , C.D. Cal., October 22, 2001), available at,softman
In the Softman case, after purchasing bundled software from Adobe,
Softman unbundled it and then resold the component programs.  The
courts ruled that such was permissible under the First Sale doctrine,
despite an Adobe end-user license agreement (?EULA?) prohibition
because Softman never assented to the EULA.  The court also found a
sale of software, as opposed to a license, and distinguished between
the two.

It is assumed that you are buying lawful copies of this quilting
fabric from authorized dealers or from the manufacturer/copyright
owner.  If so, under the First Sale doctrine, you may sell those
copies to third parties, who may in turn resell them if they wish.
This does not permit either you or your customers to make copies of
the patterns or otherwise violate any of the other exclusive rights
belonging to the copyrgiht owner (See 17 U.S.C. Section 106 at
 Some incidental copying may be necessary to permit the end user to
actually make the quilt?that is likely a permissible fair use since
the copyright owner certainly understands that a lawful purchaser will
be using the fabric to make quilts, as opposed to, e.g., hanging it on
the wall.
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: ipfan-ga on 08 Sep 2004 08:48 PDT
I'm sorry, this is still really bugging me and I need to add one more
comment for the sake of catharsis.  The answer to question 2 is "yes."
 This is why I referenced the Softman case.  In that case, the
copyright owner tried to place restrictions on the end user's sale of
the copyrighted articles.  The court held that the first sale doctrine
trumps efforts to constrain the end user's resale of the goods that
were putatively imposed by a license.

So, let's assume you buy a quilt that features a copyrighted design
and the seller/copyright owner includes a document with the quilt that
says "Not for Resale" or similar language.  Now I admit that if you
sign that agreement and are aware of it and agree contractually that
you will not resell it, that's one thing.  But if there's a piece of
paper in the box (or whatever) in which the quilt is shipped to you
that says you cannot resell it, that is not a binding restriction on
your statutory right under the first sale doctrine to sell it to
whomever you wish for whatever price you wish.

There seemes to be some confusion in the answer between the right to
resell and the other realted exclusive rights belonging to the
copyright owner.  Indeed, it is true that you cannot make copies of
the pattern, nor can you publicly display it.  See 17 U.S.C. Section
106 for a full list of the exclusive rights.  But none of that means
you cannot simply RESELL it, intact, or even incorporated into a new

Your original question asked: "2. Can you sell a quilt made from a
copyrighted pattern?"  The only way the answer to that would be "no"
is if you signed a negotiated, arm's-length contract with the person
from whom you obtained the copyrighted quilt agreeing you would not
resell it.  Otherwise, the first sale doctrine says specifically that
you can.

OK, I feel better now.
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: chuckbutt-ga on 08 Sep 2004 09:57 PDT
I'm not sure that the First Sale Doctrine is clear on this issue.  If
someone purchases a copyrighted quilting pattern that states it is for
personal use, is that excluded under the First Sale Doctrine?  If so,
why?  I'm not sure that the issues are clear.

It does appear that it would be a hard case for the copyright owner to
win if they decided to sue if the person who is selling the quilt from
that pattern has made only one copy of the quilt for sale.

Anyways, thanks for the comments.  They certainly offer a couple of
new perspectives.
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: ipfan-ga on 08 Sep 2004 11:58 PDT
Dear chuckbutt,

Your last questions, "If someone purchases a copyrighted quilting
pattern that states it is for personal use, is that excluded under the
First Sale Doctrine?  If so, why?" is actually fairly clearly
answerable.  Let's make some assumptions:  (1) you actually BUY (as
opposed to lease or rent) the quilting pattern from the lawful
copyright owner (note--all you are buying is the media, to use a
computer term, on which the pattern is placed--fabric, paper,
whatever.  You are not acquiring title to the copyright in the
pattern--that remains with the owner); (2) the quilting pattern has a
tag affixed to it or a label sewn on it or a sheet of paper in the box
that states that the pattern is for personal use only; (3) you wish to
resell the pattern to your customer.

Let's begin the analysis this way:  17 U.S.C. Section 106(3)
states that the copyright owner also has exclusive distribution
rights.  If the analysis stopped there, you would not have the ability
to resell the article without liability for copyright infringement. 
But the Section 106(3) distribution right only applies to the INITIAL
sale; we know this is true because otherwise Section 109, which
states, "the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made
under this title . . . is entitled, without the authority of the
copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of
that copy or phonorecord," would make no sense.  Therefore, the
Section 106(3) right is extinguished after the ~first~ sale; hence the
name of the doctrine.

So does the First Sale Doctrine truly cut off the Section 106
distribution right?  That's what your question really is, recast into
copyright terms.  The answer is yes.  In Allison v. Vintage Sports,
136 F.3d 1443 (11th Cir, 1998), the court held: "The first-sale
doctrine provides that once the holder of an intellectual property
right consents to the sale of particular copies of his work, he may
not thereafter exercise the ~distribution right~ with respect to such
copies."  (Emphasis added.)  See

Therefore, the tag or label or sheet of paper, which attempts to limit
your distribution right in contravention of case law AND statutory
law, is invalid.  The only way it would be enforceable, as I said
before, is if you actually signed a contract agreeing that you would
not resell it.  I appreciate that the copyright owner wants to try to
restrict the subsequent sale by you since that means more money for
him, but that is not lawful and I would tell him so if I were you.  If
you MUST have the pattern and the only way you can get it is to sign a
contract agreeing to waive the First Sale Doctrine, well, that?s too
bad since I am certain on our assumed facts above you do have that

Now let me be clear on something?nothing I?ve said suggests that you
have a right to COPY the pattern and resell that.  That is certainly
copyright infringement.  I am talking about simply reselling the
actual physical copies of the pattern you bought from the copyright
owner.  You could not buy the pattern or the quilt, copy it, and
resell that copy you made?the first sale doctrine has nothing to do
with that.  You understand that, right?
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: chuckbutt-ga on 08 Sep 2004 13:20 PDT
It's not the re-sale of the quilting pattern (i.e. the physical
pattern that was purchased) that I am concerned about.  It is making a
quilt using the pattern, and then offering that quilt for sale.  It's
not real clear that, based on putting the terms "for personal use
only" on the pattern, whether or not someone could make a quilt from
the pattern for selling.

I can't really think of an analogy, but perhaps it might be something
like sheet music.  Someone can buy copyrighted sheet music for their
own personal use, and could then sell that physical copyright of the
sheet music when they no longer want it, but would not be able to make
a recording of the music and sell it as their own without paying some
type of royalty to the original composer.

I don't think this is complete analogous, but that is what a lot of
quilters consider to be the case.  They are extremely nervous about
selling a quilt they have made from a purchased pattern.  But, many of
the women who quilt enjoy quilting and don't really have an eye for
design.  So... if they want to sell the quilts they make, they are
kind of stuck.

In my eyes (which don't count for much since I'm not a lawyer), it
seems that if you purchased a pattern, it should be fair use to make a
quilt using that pattern, since this is the purpose that the pattern
was made for.  And, especially if you only made one quilt from that
pattern, there should be no reason why you could not sell that quilt,
since you have paid for the pattern and should have fair use of it. 
But again, I'm not a lawyer.  It just makes common sense to me (which
isn't always what the law is about).

Thanks for the comments, and I appreciate your input.
Subject: Re: Quilting and Copyrights
From: ipfan-ga on 08 Sep 2004 15:16 PDT
OK, I understand now.  I was confused before.  Well, you got a nice
treatise on first sale, when what you really needed was a treatise on
fair use!  My apologies.

So you buy a pattern, you make a quilt from it and you want to know if
you can sell the quilt made from the copyrighted pattern.  Got it.  At
first blush, I thought you were asking if you could sell a quilt that
had already been made BY the copyright owner and who also owned the
copyright to the pattern.  On those facts, yes, first sale says you

The answer depends on whether the finished quilt actually contains a
copy of the pattern.  I know that sounds weird, but think of it this
way:  if you buy a set of blueprints and build a house from it, the
blueprints have not been literally copied and displayed in the
finished product.  No copyright infringement has occurred, and you are
free to sell the finished house.

Here, however, it sounds like the pattern must unavoidably be copied
and reproduced in the finished quilt, i.e., if I look at the quilt I
will see an exact reproduction of the pattern itself contained within
the quilt.  Technically, that is copyright infringement, but the owner
of the copyright has granted the quilter a license to copy the pattern
to that extent.  The owner of the copyright is also free, however, to
set other license terms, and if one of those terms is "for personal
use only," that will likely preclude your ability to sell the
resulting quilt.

You might be able to squeeze the sale into fair use?for a discussion
of fair use, see

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