Monday, October 21, 2013

Rant # 437862 : Design copyrights

I was very saddened by this incident and needed to vent about it as well as seek everybody's opinion on it.

I know a fellow quilter from my country since one year now. I was totally floored by her work when I saw it. It was absolutely breathtaking. She learned quilting at an institute abroad and it really reflected in her work. I was mighty impressed.

During the one year I knew her, she only managed to make 2 quilts. Both of them nowhere near the ones she had made during her stay abroad, with respect to finesse as well as precision that was a huge 'wow' factor in her previous quilts. I watched her work at one of the workshops and was really unimpressed by the messy stuff she created.

I even had a discussion with her about one of the quilts she had made which I loved - especially one feature of it, which was made as a challenge entry for one of the Facebook groups she is a part of. She claimed it (the feature) to be her original idea and design. She told me she was inspired by a flower/fruit she saw during her stay abroad. Same was true for the other quilt too. That one was also made for a Facebook group challenge.

Fast forward to yesterday, I was browsing pinterest and one quilt caught my eye. It bore an uncanny resemblance to one of the 2 quilts she had made! I checked it out and realized that she had copied the design 100%! Every line of stitching is copied from the original design. That design is just one of the 3 main features of her quilt but it is the main feature of the other quilt. Doesn't that deserve a credit to the original designer? Also, the original designer - a Japanese Quilter - does not even have a blog or haven't put up their quilt anywhere online. The photos I found were all taken at a Quilt Festival in which that person was one of the top 3 winners. That means that the person does not want to share their designs with everybody, and surely wont tolerate somebody blatantly copying their design!

This prompted me to investigate the other quilt that she has made and I traced back the original to a painting by a fellow Indian artist from Kolkata.

I believe that imitation is the best form of flattery, but is it not right to be honest about it? I called up my 'friend' today and just told her that I came across one of her designs online. I told her which design I was talking about and and that I can see that one is the replica of the other. I did not tell her that the quilt was made back in 2009 and she made it in 2012! She thinks that I think that the other person copied her design. I just did that so that she had an opportunity to confess to me that she had indeed used somebody else's idea. But she did nothing of the kind. I also warned her how expensive a copyright infringement lawsuit might cost anybody who did that. But she maintained her stance that it is her original design.

Now what do I do? Do I talk to her again and tell her that I know that she has copied the design? Or do I just leave it at it? Or do I contact the original artists in both the cases and notify them of the copy?

It hurts because India is very new in the International quilting scenario and I am a proud Indian who hates people like her spoiling the image of my country! What would you do in my place?

Just so that I do not leave you with a pictureless post, here's what I'm currently working on.

A Portrait quilt using reverse applique technique!

A sneak peek of the photo.

And my work



  1. That issue isn't limited geographically- it happens everywhere. It is especially prevalent in modern quilting I think. People take older blocks and make them scrappy or change the size and then publish a pattern. That is cheap creativity.

  2. I completely understand where you are coming from (I work for an intellectual property attorney) but with the internet, can anything like a quilt pattern really be protected? If someone has filed a copyright, then yes, but who does this? I agree with Karen - it's hard to come up with something completely original. I think you did the right thing.

  3. I may be wrong, but at least in the US I believe that the design of a quilt is not copyrightable, only the exact instructions for making it. It is like a recipe - you can copyright your wording of the instructions, but not the whole recipe. It is common decency however to contact the person you're inspired by and ask if you can adapt it. Regarding old blocks there isn't someone to contact so to me those are fair game.


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