BTS Blog Hop — Credit Where Credit is Due

When Sam Hunter invited me to be part of her Back to School Blog Hop, of course I said “yes!” She told me that many of the crafters she sees in real life are learning via online lessons, rather than in the classroom.

It started me thinking about classroom lessons. I remembered Robert Fulghum’s famous essay, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” You may remember the list. It begins like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.20.28 PM

The essay was published in Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I am using this excerpt based on “fair use” rules for copyright.

Honestly, we don’t share everything, but I know bloggers and crafters are incredibly generous. Mostly we don’t hit. And as to messes, what happens in your studio should stay in your studio!

But there are three things here I think we should take seriously. One is playing fair, and one is not taking things that aren’t yours. And when we do mess up, we should apologize.

I see two separate areas of trouble when it comes to playing fair and giving deserved credit. One is for bloggers, and the other is for quilters and crafters. Obviously the two groups overlap.

Sometimes, in enthusiasm to share cool stuff and brilliant thoughts, bloggers use work that is not their own. The easiest violation is with photos. I wrote some about this earlier this year.

Are you sharing photos of someone else’s work? (This happens a lot after quilt shows.) Did you give them credit? There are both ethical and legal concerns on this. Legally there are copyright rights to the photo itself, and also to the creative work being photographed, such as a quilt. I am not the best person to speak about the legal issues, but I know enough to be very careful about sharing photos of anyone else’s quilts. In fact, unless I am linking directly to a picture someone else posted, I pretty much don’t do it anymore. (Some photos are in the public domain, meaning there is no copyright protection. Those can be shared freely. Still, information about the creator and the owner of the work should be included.)

Ethically, using someone else’s work without crediting is taking something that’s not yours, and it’s not playing fair. Ask yourself how you would feel if a photo of your quilt appeared in various blogs, but the bloggers didn’t have the courtesy to credit it with your name, or a link back to where they found your glorious quilt. Or even to ask permission to use the picture.

Recently I had something of mine shared in another blog. When I saw it, in a comment I quoted my copyright/copy policy (on the right margin): “You may link to these articles but may not use the photographs, illustrations, or text without express written permission.” I told her to next time please ask permission.

Which brings me to the “say you’re sorry” point of Fulghum’s essay. She didn’t apologize. She didn’t ask permission. She deleted the material and my comment and didn’t say another word about it. I’d have appreciated an apology. But I won’t get it and now I’ll let it go.

Using information from other people might include photos, words, charts, tables, logos, or illustrations. If you’d like more information on posting other people’s content appropriately, see a really helpful post from HubSpot Blogs. It is on citing sources and not stealing other people’s work on the internet.

When it comes to creating tangible (rather than digital) work, there are other ways to take things that aren’t yours. Here again, there are obvious (I hope!) examples of wrong-doing, as well as others that might seem more grey.

First, a lot of people see no harm in copying a pattern that someone else purchased. If your friend buys a pattern and you want to make the same thing, you can just make a photocopy or scan of hers. In fact, your whole bee or swap or small group can have copies, too, right? But there is harm, as it deprives the creator of pay for their work. Imagine working — many hours of effort — to create a product for sale. Imagine someone taking it without paying for it. That is stealing, plain and simple.

Our own Sam Hunter wrote about this better than I can. When a friend-of-a-friend stole one of Sam’s patterns rather than paying for it, it created a sticky situation, to say the least.

And remember, this isn’t true just of patterns that you buy one at a time. It also counts when you didn’t buy your own book or magazine patterns, but photocopied someone else’s instead.

Now comes the harder part, the grey area. Now also comes the caveat. I am NOT an attorney and am not providing legal advice. Most of the information provided below is based on two posts by Jen Bernstein. [Links below.] She is an attorney, but she also is not providing you legal advice. If this is an area of concern for you, please retain your own attorney. 

The design (what a quilt or project looks like) and the pattern (instructions of how to make it) are separately copyrighted. So let’s say you see a quilt and don’t want to buy the pattern. Instead you spend time figuring out how the block is made, how many of them there are, and how big they likely are based on the size of the original. You draw it all out in EQ7 to get your layout and fabric requirements. Ta-DAH! It’s all good, huh? Well, maybe not.

Depending on how closely “your” design matches the original, you may have infringed on a copyright. For more information, see Jen Bernstein’s guest post “Can You Copyright a Sewing Pattern?” on Abby Glassenberg’s While She Naps blog. See also Bernstein’s own blog, Brave Little Chicken, for her post “Quilting and the Law Series: Copyright 101.”

Don’t take things that aren’t yours. That’s the legal part of this. Now I’ll return to the ethical part: play fair. To me that includes acknowledging others for their inspiration and contribution.

That might mean literal acknowledgment in blog posts and Instagram and pins, or on labels. Some people say when you label your quilts, you should include the pattern and designer’s name, or the source of inspiration. I’m not likely to put that stuff on labels (I design my own quilts), but I agree with the intention.

Or it might just mean having an attitude of gratitude when we create. None of us is the first ever to make a quilt. That happened thousands of years ago. Regardless of how original we think we are, how fresh our designs, we were inspired by something.

Even if we are “self-taught,” likely that means learning from online sources or books, which someone else wrote and made available to us. We should be proud of ourselves and our work — we do amazing things! But we can be humble enough to feel gratitude for those who came before us, and for those who work by our sides.

That said, I want to thank Sam Hunter again for the opportunity to join this great Back to School Blog Hop. Please be sure to stop by the contributors’ sites and blog hop posts. Thanks to all of them, and thanks to you for reading. There’s a lot of great information already out there, and lots more to come. Here’s the full list again:

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuiltsDiagonal Pieced Backings
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.comThe Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle DreamsThe Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat QuiltsColor Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design StudioHow to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt StudioCredit Where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3 Little Birds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

29 thoughts on “BTS Blog Hop — Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. quiltbabe

    Recently I discovered an acquaintance entered a recipe I had given her in a local newspaper contest – and won second prize for it. Infuriated me, but even more so because the recipe originally came from a Williams-Sonoma “Gifts from the Kitchen” book, *and that attribution was on the copy of the recipe I gave her*.

    It takes seconds to add an appropriate attribution, and it can gain you a great deal of good will. I honestly don’t understand people who don’t bother. Not doing so out of ignorance is one thing, but using someone’s photos, quilt designs/pictures when you *know* the source but don’t cite it is just plain selfish and mean.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I can only imagine your disappointment and upset. Hard to imagine why someone would do that. If she’d changed the recipe substantially, that would be different.

      Thanks for commenting today.

  2. Lara B.

    Those are great guidelines Melanie. It is sad when people don’t always abide by them. One thing you wrote sums it up nicely: Ask yourself how you would feel if someone did that with your work.

  3. Ellen

    So kind of you to take the time to educate. Virtues seem to be invisible in much behavior these days (and I am not an elder). It is sad.

    Thank you,

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I know I mess up. And there are times, really, when I think I am doing the right thing, but I’m not actually sure. I just have to hope that with good intentions and awareness, I can usually do the right thing!

      Thanks for the comment. I’ll look forward to your blog hop post!

  4. TextileRanger

    I read the other posts you linked to, and the posts they linked to, and all the comments! Wow, what a morass. I try to be careful and to always give proper credit. I used to be afraid to ask permission to use something, but I have had such great and generous responses when I did, that now I look forward to it. Same when people have asked my permission for my stuff – I have made some acquaintances, and also been alerted to great information on topics of interest to me.
    I do have a question that I have not seen addressed anywhere else, though, and maybe you have come across the answer. When I buy an original work of art, do I then have permission to do as I like with it? Blog it, publish it? I have seen in books by living artists where they put under the picture of their work, “Now in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. …” I would think that the artist and the owner both can do what they like with it, but I don’t know.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      “Morass” is a good word for it. The precedents on copyright for quilting/clothing are so mixed that it’s hard to know what “the law” is.

      As to your original art, it is yours to sell or give as you please. But I don’t know who owns the copyright on the work itself. I would guess the artist, similarly to a book. The artist has the copyright and you are free to resell or give the book, but you can’t reproduce it. BUT honestly I don’t know, either. Seems like what makes sense isn’t always the law.

  5. jimfetig

    You have waded into the digital swamp – the deep end no less. My experience has been that most misappropriation is born in ignorance. That may be why You Tube uses bots to automatically remove copyrighted music even where credit is given because the rights to public performance without royalty payment are restricted. Too bad we don’t have a universal solution like You Tube.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think there is ignorance, but also just plain thoughtlessness. Not only do people not know the legality (ignorance), they also don’t think about whether it is “okay” or not. It seems so harmless until you’ve put another moment’s thought into it.

      1. jimfetig

        Welcome to modern society. Thoughtlessness seems to be a universal trait these days. I’ll offer a good example in my next blog post. I will say now that I did not appreciate hiking out someone’s frying pan and fire grate. Stay tuned for the poetic justice…

  6. KerryCan

    Having “grown up” in academe, all of these issues are so familiar–copyright, fair use, plagiarism, etc., and you make some excellent points! My main question is about the fact that quilting is so very thoroughly tradition-based. So many (most?) of the patterns we use can’t be traced to an original maker. Who “invented” the flying geese block or the Ohio star? So, if a quilt designer puts those blocks together, in her colors, can she sell it as HERS and prevent others from sharing that which has been, basically, handed down from our forbears? I sort of think, “How arrogant is that”? That’s what troubles me–where do we draw the line between picking up on the traditions and creating something we can lay claim to . . .

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      This is where the pattern copyright is apart from the design copyright, I believe. If she has written the instructions including yardage, cutting, order of operations, etc, the pattern would be hers regardless of the design. If you, OTOH, believe you can make that design of traditional components (which are arrayed “traditionally”) and don’t need her pattern, have at it. A lot of quilters can’t do that. Does that make sense?

  7. gladys wahl

    I have often thought about the RESELLING of quilting books..
    The author got the original purchase price,, and then that buyer
    used it awhile and then recouped part of her purchase price when it was resold
    Books of all kinds are resold everyday… and it is legal ???
    When quilters go through their books is a purge and take then to their guild’
    they are resold …. should that money go back to the AUTHOR…
    Just some thoughts

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Hi Gladys. Yes, you as the owner of the book have the right to resell it. You don’t have the right to make copies and resell multiple times. It’s a good point, for sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Sarah

    To whom is credit due? Our grandmothers and great grandmothers, for starters. 😉 To quote the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun…. Also, expecting apologies is something big girls get over. The scolded woman took down her post, an appropriate response to your message, I would say. If you had preferred an apology, perhaps you should have said so. Then again, a forced apology isn’t a real apology, is it?

    The virtue your post lacks is gratitude. How nice it is that someone takes you up on your marvelous idea. After all, the sincerest form of flattery is imitation. Indeed, is that not how “trends” start? Personally, I am not that fond of these washed out, wimpy colors right now. That puts me in the minority. When saturated colors come back, someone else will be sad. Everything cycles, and right now, your “look” is coveted. Beats being ignored.

    As we say in the sales world, “SWSWSWN!” Some will, some won’t, so what? Next!

    Enjoy the ride while it lasts. Because if you are that good, you could write a book, get it published and get paid for your ideas over and over and over again.

    You can take down this bit of dissent if you prefer. I won’t mind at all.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with me. If you read to the bottom of my post, I specifically mentioned having an attitude of gratitude, and in particular recognizing those that have come before us. So “the virtue your post lacks is gratitude” is confusing to me. As to getting over not getting an apology, sure. So?

      Again, I am confused. Just what is your dissent? Feel free to clarify if you have more to add.

  9. snarkyquilter

    Oh dear, for years I’ve checked out quilting books and magazines from my library and photocopied material from them. My understanding was this fell under “fair use” as I wasn’t reselling the materials or using them in any commercial transactions. I do try to acknowledge sources of patterns and inspiration, but sometimes it’s hard to even be conscious of sources of inspiration in one’s work. And sometimes two people have the exact same idea, reached independently. BTW, I would take my life in my hands if I were to suggest to fellow quilt guild members that they stop passing around the patterns one person bought and several used. Yes, I understand the need to compensate designers for their intellectual property, but quilters who will happily pay $30 for yet another ruler often balk at $8 for a pattern. I think a bit of education is needed in this matter.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      The library issue is certainly a good point and even in one of the sites I found googling, 4 different attys seemed to disagree on use. Don’t know why any libraries would ever stock any pattern books if it isn’t legal. ?? And no, please don’t go around scolding your guildmates about borrowing patterns! 😉

  10. Jim in IA

    This is a very good post. You bring up many important points. Much of the advice is applicable to many other creative areas. It is a struggle that won’t end.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      For those of us who aren’t intellectual property law experts, we can’t know where the lines are. And in what I’ve read, there is a lot of legal grey area, too. I think we have to go back to first principles and “do the right thing.”

  11. Suzanne

    This is a thoughtful and thought provoking post. Thanks for taking this time to write about such a delicate and important topic. We all deserve the dignity of respect and admiration for our creativity.

  12. katechiconi

    You know my thoughts on this subject, I think. It’s still very painful, and I’m very upset by it. I should get over it, I suppose… The ease of access to other people’s carefully constructed images and words is so easy, people assume they can do whatever they like with them.
    I think you have made some important points. I caused offence recently by refusing to ‘lend’ a pattern given to me by a blogging friend. I pointed out that the sales of her patterns formed part of her household income, but the response was that what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. That’s an attitude we have to work to change.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Being paid for our work is part of being respected for our work. You and I can choose to give our quilts away. But even then that doesn’t create a blanket agreement that anyone can take anything they want. That is not the gift I’m giving. Thanks Kate. It does hurt.


Thanks for your comments. I don't check them often. Please email me if you have questions.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.