OK, I’m normally a big fan of Boing Boing, because they usually get it–the craft thing. They’ve got a great eye for cool, and they highlight indie artists all the time.

This morning, they had a little post by Cory Doctorow that irked me… He called out a Textile Designer for trying to protect her intellectual property. If you read the message carefully you’ll see this:

60″ wide cotton poplin print by Heather Ross for Munki Munki!
*Please note: This fabric can be purchased for personal sewing projects only. This print cannot be used for items made for resale.

So the reason the fabric cannot be used in commercial production is because it’s already been licensed by the artist (Heather Ross) to a clothing producer (Munki Munki). Obviously, they had overstock of fabric which they are selling through ReproDepot.com.

Actually, if you go to Sewzannesfabrics.com, you can buy the same fabric (for half the price) and you find a much clearer explanation of the Textile Designer’s terms:


The Munki Munkiâ„¢ and Lightning Bugs fabrics are not to be used in commercial manufacturing for resale, and are only for personal sewing projects.

Heather Ross’ policy is developed to be supportive of home sewing enthusiasts.

She (Heather) does not discourage people making things out of her fabrics, and reselling them, as long as they:

Don’t use her name or brand on them.
Are sewing items themselves, in their homes, and selling them directly to consumers.
Are buying the fabrics from a retailer, online or otherwise, who makes their fabrics available to the general public at the regular retail price (not co-ops).
Are not reproducing any of her artwork for patches, embellishments, embroideries or prints on an item that will be sold.
These fabrics are “FOR NON-COMMERCIAL USE” which only applies to manufacturers. This policy is designed to prevent medium and large scale manufacturers who wish to develop lines of products by exploiting or pirating the designs while not working in conjunction with designers on a manufacturing level.

SewZanne’s Fabrics thanks you for understanding, respecting, and adhering to the designer’s resale policy, and copyright law.

Why is this such a big deal? Doctorow compares designing fabric to picking fruit, wondering why should “screening a design on a bolt of fabric magically confer the right to turn what’s obviously a sale into a non-negotiable license?”

Um, Mr. Doctorow–what if I took a page from one of your books or articles and screened it onto a t-shirt and started selling it? Then how would you feel? (Of course, this is not exactly parallel, but perhaps a bit closer a comparison than selling fruit is to designing fabric). After working on this post, and already getting some comments, I’m glad that Mr. Doctorow has stirred things up, as my brother said, “in a vibrant creative environment, creators and consumers of culture need to know where the law and etiquette intersects with the work they buy and sell.”

UPDATE: Boingboing must be getting a lot of traffic around this, they just updated their post with this note: Update: Scott sez, “I’ll just point out that the law is not on their side under the First Sale doctrine. See Precious Moments v. La Infantil, 971 F. Supp. 66 (D.P.R. 1997) (finding that first sale doctrine permitted defendant bedding manufacturer to utilize lawfully acquired fabrics imprinted with the plaintiff’s copyrighted work). “

I’m not sure if that law (I’m no lawyer) would be relevant because we’re talking about TRADEMARK, not copyright… As you can see in Ross’ TOU above, she has trademarked her designs.

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Let’s put BoingBoing on a T-shirt and see what happens…