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Forum > Vintage Sewing > So when does a vintage pattern become public domain? ( Moderated by JEF)

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So when does a vintage pattern become public domain?
The Dreamstress
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The Dreamstress
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Date: 9/21/12 8:12 AM

Someone mentioned a vintage pattern probably being in the public domain on another thread. Any copyright experts out there know the details of when this happens, and the legality of reproducing your old patterns and making them publicly available?

GlButterfly

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Date: 9/22/12 3:51 AM

It seems to me that this topic came up a few years ago and I remember reading that patterns prior to 1928 are in the public domain, but don't quote me on it. A poster may have linked a site where I read that. Until the most recent changes in copyright laws, patterns more than 28 (?) years old were in the public domain.

All of this seems like an awful long time for a pattern!

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That's Gl = for Gloria, not G. I.

JEF
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Date: 9/22/12 6:55 AM

I can't figure out linking on my iPad but if you pull up circ15a on the www.copyright.gov page you will see the summary on time period in the US. It's fairly complicated because of law changes at various times and whether the copyright holder renewed his/her copyright at the initial expiration date. However the short answer to your question for the US is 1923 per the US Copyright Office.

JEF


-- Edited on 9/22/12 6:59 AM --

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"The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you can never know if they are genuine." --Abraham Lincoln

GlButterfly

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In reply to JEF <<


Date: 9/22/12 1:51 PM

Haha. Well---working from memory I was only five years off.

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That's Gl = for Gloria, not G. I.

lifetree
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Date: 9/24/12 7:04 PM

On a related not, there's some debate as to whether sewing patterns are copyrightable at all. See for example, Useful Articles, Sewing Patterns, and Small Time Copyright Bullying.

As for public domain, the number of possible variations on copyright term are mind-boggling, thanks in no small part to companies like Walt Disney (who were on the verge of losing some works to the public domain).

JEF
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In reply to lifetree <<
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Date: 9/24/12 8:39 PM

Interesting article. There is one sentence that I think she got definitely wrong:

Quote:
the largest commercial pattern companies in the U.S. do not hold any copyrights for actual paper patterns.


Why is that wrong? One does not need to register a copyright with the copyright office to have one. Registering changes your enforcement options/recovery for copyright violation but does not actually create copyright.

That info is in FAQs on the www.copyright.gov:

Quote:
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”


JEF

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"The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you can never know if they are genuine." --Abraham Lincoln

dscheidt

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In reply to JEF <<


Date: 9/25/12 0:44 AM

Quote: JEF
Interesting article. There is one sentence that I think she got definitely wrong:



[QUOTE]the largest commercial pattern companies in the U.S. do not hold any copyrights for actual paper patterns.




Why is that wrong? One does not need to register a copyright with the copyright office to have one. Registering changes your enforcement options/recovery for copyright violation but does not actually create copyright.



That info is in FAQs on the www.copyright.gov:



Quote: JEF
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?

No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”




JEF[/quote]
While it's true that, today, you do not need to register the work for copyright to apply, that's not always been true. Further, the pattern companies failure to register the actual patterns, when they do register the illustrating artwork, strongly suggests that they don't believe the pattern itself is subject to copyright. (For one thing, it limits their ability to collect damages on infringement, and for a second, anyone is going to ask "why did you register the drawing on the package, but not the contents?", which combined with case law, is going to look pretty bad.)

Rights holders have a long history of claiming rights they don't exist. It costs very little to write scary words, and it might generate some additional sales.
Terri A
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Date: 9/25/12 10:51 PM

I have noticed people selling pdf copies of vintage patterns from the fifties and sixties, using the original artwork in their shop online to sell the pattern. Always wondered...

CM_Sews
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In reply to Terri A <<


Date: 9/25/12 11:48 PM

Quote: Terri A
I have noticed people selling pdf copies of vintage patterns from the fifties and sixties, using the original artwork in their shop online to sell the pattern. Always wondered...

Could be a copyright violation, but it's hard to tell. Copyrights as they apply to sewing and quilt and craft patterns are incredibly complicated.

What I do know is that copyright violation is generally a civil issue, not a criminal issue. It's up to the copyright holder to track down copyright violators and take legal action; it's not a law enforcement issue. So if someone is selling a PDF of a 50-year-old Simplicity pattern, it's up to Simplicity to take legal action; the FBI is not interested. It's probably not worth Simplicity's time and effort -- if they know about it.

And don't believe everything (or ANYthing) you read about copyright law on non-govt websites. Everybody's got an opinion, but that doesn't mean they know the law. There's a lot of misinformation out there. Some stuff I've read is just plain WRONG, although the author is very passionate and SURE about their opinions. I work in a business (technical writing) where copyrights are a Really Big Deal, so I am familiar with some copyright issues, but hardly an expert.

CMC
kittykate
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In reply to Terri A <<


Date: 9/26/12 9:15 AM

Quote: Terri A
I have noticed people selling pdf copies of vintage patterns from the fifties and sixties, using the original artwork in their shop online to sell the pattern. Always wondered...

I've seen this too and it bothers me but I don't know why exactly. I sell vintage craft booklets and I know I could probably scan and sell but I just want to move the book along. I'm also annoyed with people selling scans or copies of free Singer manuals for that matter.

The pattern scanners have a blurb in the shop (it's mostly Etsy) how copyright has expired but I doubt they've looked up each pattern to make sure.
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