|image from Graphics Fairy.|
I have no intention of jumping into the copyright laws and fair use argument again. I have already said, quite clearly, that artists deserve compensation for their work. I have also said I respect the right of artists and fabric companies to require a license for use of their fabric in products for sale. Granted, that means that I won't knowingly purchase fabric with that requirement if I intend to use it for sale items. Not as any sort of protest or rebellion, but because I simply do not have the time to chase after a license to use a snippet of fabric in a tiny project I might want to sell. I also have to add, I still have serious concerns about the inadvertent use of such fabric in the form of small cuts, precuts, swaps and scraps.
Which brings me to today's story. I have been making some small projects to add to my Fall festival events. I try very hard to work with upcycled goods, remnants and scraps. Sometimes the lure of fresh fabric is pretty strong and I supplement my re-use stash with my quilting stash. Today I grabbed a large print that is a series of vignettes from an old but ever popular theme. It is one that I was going to use in my challenge quilt this summer. Something to make entirely for myself. I didn't get to it and still had the fabric so I made one mini quilt out of it today. I was quite pleased with the way it turned out. As I was getting ready to cut out another block for a second quilt, I saw the dread notice or at least what was left of the dread notice. "License requi". I immediately stopped what I was doing. Set that fabric aside and started looking around for other ideas.
My search lead me to my favorite Graphics Fairy website. She has old copyright free images for use in projects for home and for sale. I was looking for fun images to print onto my own fabric. 'When what to my wondering eyes should appear????' The exact same images from the 'licensed' fabric. A wee bit of further looking shows those same images being reproduced by as prints and in digital and derivative works all across the internet. Two more seconds of research shows that those very images are well over 100 years old and solidly in the public domain.
To say that the fabric is derivative and thus worthy of a unique copyright is overly generous. They are the images found on the web arranged across a yard of fabric with a neutral color in between. Now perhaps some where on the missing selvage is the disclaimer saying that the images are unique in some special way that I cannot identify from those in the public domain and that the artist and the fabric company have special permission, a license if you will, to use them. Maybe through the vagaries of electronic color representation this fabric embodies a unique and therefore copyrightable color pallet. I don't know. I only have a small cut. I can't tell. And yet, I am expected to ask permission to use it in my work for sale. That seems, some how, not right.
Update: To be fair, some further research shows that there is an external license on the fabric to an entity outside of the US. Further reference shows that an American entity purchased the rights to the same images almost 100 years ago. The more I look into it, the murkier it gets. It has used up enough of my time and energy. I'll just add the fabric to my give away pile and move on.