Several commenters raised questions specifically about this blog, The Free Motion Quilting Project, and how I would feel if someone took all 365 designs from this blog and published them in a book.
Quite simply: I WOULD LOVE THIS!
Now that I have you scratching your head with confusion, allow me to explain:
1. Thieves Rarely Work Hard
If a person really wants to rip you off and steal from you, most likely they want to do it in the most simple, easiest way possible. This is simple logic: a person who steals is probably lazy.
Do you have any idea how much time it would take to collect all the information on this site and publish it into a book? All 365 designs are not laid out simply. I slowed the project down and wrote about a whole lot of other stuff in between designs so if someone was able to somehow download directly from Blogger, they'd have to spend a ton of time editing.
I'm betting that it's too much time for a rip-off guy to consider, but just in case, let's go a step further.
If someone did take every single post and every single photo of every single design, that book would look like garbage, and probably read like it too.
90% of the photos on this project are low resolution, some below 50 dpi due to the older camera I was using at the beginning. If a book was printed with those photos, it wouldn't look good. It would look terrible.
I also rambled horribly in many posts. Some don't make sense. When I was feeling lazy or too busy, I didn't post a lot of detail. This is a blog, not a doctorate dissertation!
So if you really wanted to do a good job on a book of all 365 of these designs, you'd need to copy and paste all the content, download all the photos, re-stitch, and re-shoot all the photos that look bad, edit the content down, format it for a book, and whew! then you'd be ready to publish.
If you did all that work, you'd DESERVE to publish that book! I'd love to see it! If I liked it, I might even wholesale it from you and sell it here on the project myself.
Now isn't that a crazy idea?
This is exactly why I haven't published the book of all 365 designs yet. I haven't had time to do it all!
2. These designs can't be copyrighted
I seriously doubt these designs are even able to BE copyrighted, as I explained in the Copyright Terrorism post.
Even if you consider them to be "mine" (which I definitely do not), you do not need my permission to publish them in a book of your own.
I'd love to know if you're doing this, if only to give you a big pat on the back and some encouragement along the way. If you had any questions about a design, I'd definitely be willing to give you pointers and advice, or even proofread your book if needed.
I'd really love to see more books with these designs published and using the same names because it's far less confusing if we use the same name for the same design. Imagine if every time someone wrote about Stippling they had to come up with another name? It's too confusing!
3. Being ripped off would help me, not damage me
Most people think being ripped off is the most terrible thing because it will somehow damage you personally.
Basically it's the idea that if someone took all 365 designs and published them in a book, that would significantly hurt me. It would damage my business, it may even cause my business to fail.
This might have been true 1000 years ago during the Middle Ages when a town would have one blacksmith, and one shoe maker, and one carpenter. Any of these tradesmen would jealously guard the skills and knowledge of their profession because if too many people had the skill to make swords or shoes or wooden stuff, they wouldn't go to those guys for service.
But even then, if those guys had become teachers and taught the best way to weld and bend metal openly to anyone interested, the more minds involved would have innovated faster, more knowledge would have been gained in a collective, and the cheaper their services could have become, thus making demand for their services higher and higher. In essence: more people would have had metal fences, new shoes, and wooden bowls.
And this is what eventually happened with the formation of trade guilds, but even then secrecy and jealously often limited innovation.
It's in our history to be grubby and selfish when it comes to fine crafts and skills, but it doesn't have to be this way.
For the last 100 years, and in America, at least, quilting has had a much more open history of sharing, teaching, and community service. A group of women often formed quilting bees to collectively quilt quilts for each others families. They didn't mind quilting Sue's daughter's quilt because they knew one day Sue, and maybe even her daughter would help quilt one of their quilts too.
This is what brought me to quilting: the ability to share freely.
I once took a week long glass beadmaking class at John C Campbell Folk School. It was my high school graduation present and I had an absolute blast making beads and enjoying that wonderful place to learn.
But I never made a single bead after that class largely because of one conversation that I overheard:
The instructor told us a story about a professional beadmaker who made a distinctive bead. This beadmaker taught classes on how to make this bead to students.
One day she was at a jewelry show and saw a former student also vending and at her booth she was selling those same distinctive beads she'd been taught to make. The beadmaker was angry and upset and pulled all her similar beads from her table.
This is a perfect example of the insanity I've found in other crafts. Even at 18, I was appalled by that entire story and suddenly began questioning everything I was learning from my teacher. If I used what I'd learned from her to make beads to sell, would I also make her angry and upset? Could I use any of this information now?
This brings us to a very simple point:
IF YOU TEACH AN IDEA, EXPECT YOUR STUDENTS TO USE IT!
That goes for anything: a technique, a pattern, a cutting method, a design. If you teach it, expect it to be used for ANY reason.
This includes a student taking the information you teach and teaching it herself. This includes the student writing a book on it, making a DVD of it, creating stitched items to sell, and more. This isn't even being ripped off, this is the normal educational process!
If you teach something, you are putting it out there for the world to enjoy.
That is what I've done here: I've shared 365 designs and taught you how to use them. I'm the creator, but I have absolutely no idea of all the million of ways these designs can be used and stitched beautifully on quilts and other projects. That's your job as my student to take this information and run with it.
You have 100% right take what you learn here, stitch it, enjoy it, master it, then teach it yourself.
And no, this won't hurt me a bit. If anything, it will help me!
Case in point: This year I'm not the only person blogging about free motion quilting. Sew Gal Gal is holding a Free Motion Quilting Challenge and Quokka Quilts is holding a weekly Free-Motion-Quilt-As-You-Go-Quilt-Along.
Rather than pulling traffic away from my site, both of these projects have brought me more followers and interest simply because they're spreading the word further and father about free motion quilting than I could alone.
They're reaching people who might not have known about me, and thanks to bloggers linking up and spreading love, more people are finding out about this site than ever before.
So rather than view either of these blogs as a threat, I'm contributing to both! My flower designs for Quokka Quilts will be posted this Wednesday and I'll be teaching the Free Motion Quilting Challenge for May.
4. Loyalty is stronger than you think - Now what if 10 people all write books of all 365 designs, including me. Who's book will sell the most?
Loyalty is a wonderful thing, and I don't take it lightly. I've worked hard to create a wonderful place for you to hang out and learn. At the outset, I envisioned this site as a huge resource of free motion quilting designs, ideas, and inspiration, a place I would have loved to have back when I started free motion quilting.
Because I've investigated and studied free motion quilting for so long, and shared so much, aren't you more likely to purchase books from me than some other, unknown source?
To some people, a book is a book and an author is an author. Some people wouldn't care who's name is on the cover so long as all 365 designs are there along with the information you need.
But many more quilters would want my name on the cover of that book, and to be able to purchase it from my quilt shop. It feels more personal that way, and in truth, you help support the project most directly that way too.
It's a simple fact: if you give someone a gift, you make that person happy. Whenever opportunity arises, that person will want to give a gift back.
That's what we're doing here: giving and receiving, sharing and learning, helping and supporting.
A quilter without this base, without this body of content and traffic will be hard pressed to compete with me without a significant marketing budget.
Of course, many big publishers have that kind of money to throw around, but guess what they do the instant they get a book under contract? Tell you to stop blogging about it.
Rather than build an audience to sell your book, they insist you stop writing about the book lest it hurt sales. Their heads are is still stuck on the idea that if you give something away for free, it loses all value.
If that's truly the case, why do so many people continually ask for book of all 365 designs, despite the fact that all of them are here online, for free?
And this brings us to the last point:
5. Open creativity is the most powerful thing in the universe.
Do you know how many designs I have sketched and planned right now? Over 700. I could easily come up with another 1000 if I had a month to focus entirely on designing. New designs aren't my focus right now, but it's always a possibility.
So the idea that 365 designs is some finite number, and that I only need to write one book to feature them all is a bit limited. Variations and innovations are endless, so long as I continue creating, new ideas will always come.
Each design is a base that can be changed minutely to create another design with another texture. That next design can also be changed in another small way, and so on and so on.
The number of possible designs is endless! Truly endless!
Of course, there are two areas that can be exceptions to all of these ideas. These are two areas where damage to this project could be significant if someone was being truly malicious.
1. Nasty stuff.
This is one sticky point that many people bring up - what if these designs or this entire project was somehow used to create gross stuff that I don't support, like child pornography or hate propaganda for example.
The truth is, this is extremely unlikely. How often do the porn world and the quilting world meet? Still, it's impossible to stop or control. If someone nasty wants to do something nasty with my work, I can't do much about it.
This gets into the point about using a quilting design - I could probably copyright the photos and the names of these designs if I really wanted to, but I can't copyright the USE of the design itself.
So if a KKK member wanted to use Deco Planks for their hate banner, they could. I have to assume that everyone has the logic to know that I didn't quilt the banner, and I definitely don't support that cause.
If a particular design got famous on a particular banner, and I became somehow connected to it, I'd release a statement to make it clear that I don't support it. As artist and designers, that's about all you can do, but I sincerely hope I don't ever have to deal with anything too nasty.
2. Ripping off packaged content.
Packaged content would be the finished books and DVDs I've created so far. This is one place where copyright is helpful and necessary. I have two books and two DVDs about free motion quilting, and sales of these items help to support this project and my family.
If someone was to make their own copies of these books and DVDs and sell them for far cheaper than mine, yes, this could hurt my business.
But again, I look at this in a rather open light. I could live in fear of thieves and use that as an excuse to lock everything down and shut it up in a box, or I could keep doing what I'm doing and trust that people of that nature are too lazy to do that much work for not very much gain.
It's a balance act with this kind of thing. I choose to focus on what's really happening today, not what might happen tomorrow. I also believe that if this happened, more people would still want to purchase these items from me, not an anonymous, sketchy source.
Now if someone took my videos down from YouTube, such as all the Quilt Along videos, which are posted for free, and tried to sell them as a package, I would have a problem with that.
This actually happened once with an iphone app which was being sold for $0.99. I believe free content should stay free so I contacted the creator and had the app made free.
I don't think it's still available now, but it's a good experience to remember. I was alerted to the app within a few days of it going online, so also remember that the quilting industry might be big, but it's also very small too and if something happens like this you'll usually know about it within a short time.
So if someone was to "rip off" this blog, would it really matter?
First off, as I covered above, I wouldn't consider it ripping me off or stealing at all. I'd consider it a normal cycle of students becoming teachers, and I'd try my best to support it in every way possible.
And secondly, no, it wouldn't matter because there's always more designs to share, more books to write about them, more knowledge on the horizon just waiting to be learned and shared.
I hope I've helped you understand this blog a bit better and to open your mind to the world of free content and teaching.
I truly believe that whatever you give freely, you will get back in some form or another. By giving away all of these designs, I've built a business that supports my family, and that achievement makes me super happy every day.
Had I created all the designs alone, without sharing a single one, would you even know who I am today? Would you care?
And had I slapped a confusing copyright message on them, would you have even wanted to come back here or play with these designs?
Lot's of things to think about today! Now let's finish up with a little more free information:
Advice to Quilting Bloggers / Teachers:
If you want to blog successfully to build a loving, loyal audience, please try the following:
1. Stop displaying confusing copyright messages on your blog. People shouldn't have to ask permission to share your cool stuff, so stop requiring them to do so.
If you absolutely must know when someone mentions your name, use Google Alerts to know anytime your name or specific phrases are written online.
2. Don't blog about things you don't want to teach / share / see used. If you're going to get upset when you see your tutorial sold or your pattern turned into a quilt without your name credited, just don't put it up in the first place. You use it and enjoy it, lock it in a box, and swallow the key. Enjoy the selfish stomach ache that will result.
3. If you do give something away, give it away freely. Attribution in this case would be as desired, not a requirement. Trust me, if someone appreciates the pattern, they will give you credit honestly and openly, and probably far more often because they're not feeling pressured to do so.
4. Share, share, share - Give freely, give daily, and the world will beat a path to your door. Teach and spread your knowledge and influence with everyone in the world and expect them to expand and innovate on it and share it in turn.
It's a big world out there, we all have lots of people to teach and help. I love teaching quilting and I hope to help create a world that's open and giving to information, ideas, and techniques.
It's been in the works for awhile, but very soon I'll be launching a Teaching Program where I give all my teaching information away for free as well. If you'd like to start teaching classes on free motion quilting, this free program will definitely be a great place to get started.
I've also realized while writing the last few posts just how passionate I am about business and making money in this creative field. I'm going to pick a day to write about business and making money with quilting each week.
I've definitely learned a lot over the last 5 years of owning two businesses, and have many ideas I can't wait to share with you. Not everyone is interested in making a living with quilting, but many quilters want to make some income, and this will be yet another way we can learn and grow together.
Whew! Now if you're inspired to write a book of all 365 designs, please go get started!
As for me, I'm ready to shut up and go quilt!
UPDATE - 4/7/2012
I've received many comments about this post and recently many have ran along a certain vein which bears clarification.
There are two comments in particular I'd like to address personally:
Bmayer - Where it seems we disagree, is:if a designer, or an author, throws their blood , sweat, & tears into a project, they have a right to have their work protected from theft. That is why copyright laws exist in the first place. I'm not talking about "locking everything in a box or slapping confusing rules on your work" as you put it. How confusing is "Thou Shalt Not Steal"? I guess we'll just have to respectfully agree to disagree.The fact is, copyright is confusing.
I look forward to just getting back to quilting!
Karen - Leah, You do grasp the fact that copyright laws were written to protect the little person, right? When you get out in the big world you sometimes find that not everyone is as free and sharring as you would like to believe. The way that you are suggesting this industry functions boils down to "the biggest bully wins". That's why the laws were created, to keep people that have more money and more power from taking the things that others create to profit for themselves. I agree with the free sharing of information and learning new techniques that then become your own. What I want to know is where you draw the line between free to use and stealing? In your world does anyone own anything they create?
At no point within this article did I say that no one should copyright anything.
I also did not mean to imply that we should all sit back blithely and allow people to rip us off left and right.
I intended to create a clear explanation of how I view the 365 designs posted to this project and how I'd feel if someone took this free information, condensed it, edited it, and put it in a book. I would have no problem with this because it would require an extreme amount of work, and effort, and honestly, I haven't had the time to make it happen.
Now let's look at copyright of one of my published books: From Daisy to Paisley. This work took a large amount of time and effort to write, edit, quilt and shoot photos for. I would be extremely upset if someone took this work and sold it or gave it away for free.
Such an act would undermine my ability to support my family and continue this project. If I couldn't pay bills with revenue from my quilt shop, I'd have to get a job, and would no longer have time to post so much information so freely.
So yes, copyright is helpful and necessary to protect a physical body of work such as this, and yes, I do believe such "packaged" content should be copyrighted and should be protected by the creator.
Thou shalt not steal is right on the money with this and a great statement to live by.
But the fact is, the average quilter is not looking to steal a book and mass produce it! I refuse to believe this industry is full of thieves ready to rip each other off!
Now, does this mean Kate Spain was in the right to protect her copyright over her fabrics? I doubt my opinion really matters here, but having more time to reflect, I think Spain had a right to demand attribution - her name on the bags and within the book.
Heck, I think all the fabric designers should have their names in that book because it would have made the book better in general!
I just don't know that threatening a lawsuit was the best way to go about it. The negativity this has stirred up, along with the confusion of how to use her fabrics, isn't the best for business.
So why do Karen and Bmayer think I hate all forms of copyright?
The confusion here probably lies in my advice to bloggers. I've shared advice to give away content freely and take down confusing copyright messages. Is this not opening a blog up for mass stealing?
Here's my take on blogs: a blog is not "packaged" content. It is a collect of posts, sometimes linear, but mostly a mass of ideas, inspiration, tutorials, and personal info, depending on what you blog about.
Blogs are designed to build traffic (interested viewers) and funnel them to wherever you want them to go.
You might wish to be a traveling teacher, so a great place to funnel your readers is to your page about your lectures and workshops and how to book you for programs.
But if you slap a confusing copyright message along the lines of "Don't use anything on this blog without my permission," you instantly make viewers nervous.
A quilt guild might want to use a photo to advertise for your upcoming lecture, but is that allowed? A quilt shop might want to write a post about you to build buzz about your workshop, but is that allowed? Should they even ask, or will that make you angry?
By adding that copyright message, you're making everyone uncomfortable about doing the very thing you WANT them to do: share and discuss your work!
Now let's talk about content on blogs:
If you post a tutorial about a TECHNIQUE, such as English paper piecing, please understand that techniques cannot be copyrighted. Otherwise someone would have copyrighted how to stitch a 1/4" seam and all the rest of us would have to use 3/16ths!
What you post - your words, your photos, your write up itself - could be copyrighted.
But the technique itself cannot. Other people can teach the technique, other people can blog about it, other people can write books on it. They have only done something wrong if they've literally copied and pasted your exact tutorial - words, photos, etc - into their blog, book, handout, etc.
If someone really is this lazy - so lazy as to not even shoot their own photos or make their own step outs - all it usually takes is a simple email to request they either take the tutorial down, stop using it, or link to your original tutorial.
Don't sit and stew about it - just send them an email, or better yet, find a phone number to talk to them in person. A phone call is always better for sticky issues like this because you can hear inflection and personality, whereas an email lacks this feeling.
But if someone has done their own work, written an English paper piecing tutorial in their own words, and created their own photos, they are not stealing from you.
This is the main problem with blogs these days - excessive claim of ownership of techniques. Many quilters are teaching cool techniques, but refusing to understand that once you teach something, your idea stops being "yours" and will soon be taught by many teachers.
It also seems that many people assume that if they think of some cool new way of sewing fabric together, they're the "inventor."
Dude! We've been cutting fabric up and stitching it back together for hundreds of years! Do you really think that ANYTHING is original? Do you really think you're the first person to think of using freezer paper with applique? Or whacking up that 9 patch to make cool new blocks?
Lose the "inventor" mentality. We're not doing anything new these days that wasn't being done 10 or 20 or 50 years ago. I don't care if you're using new materials, gluing with new glue, or sewing on your head, you're just stitching FABRIC with THREAD - someone else is bound to think of the exact same technique within a matter of time, with or without your help.
Now here's an idea to chew on: if you post a technique tutorial on your blog, rather than posting a message like "For personal use only" consider adding the message:
"Feel free to share this tutorial with all your friends, and teach with it too!"
Consider making a printer friendly PDF version that includes your name and website. This means that every person that sees this tutorial will know you're the author and they can come to you for more cool stuff like this.
This will bring more people, more interest, and more traffic to your blog. More people will "like" you and will feel comfortable sharing your information and sending their friends to read your blog.
More teachers will feel comfortable teaching with your tutorial, and each student will receive your printed page, complete with your name and website. That's like a personal advertisement, every single time it's taught.
In essence, you will reach hundreds, if not thousands of quilters than you could ever reach if you'd slapped "for personal use only" at the bottom of that tutorial.
This is a suggestion.
This is an idea for how to blog and share and build a community of sharing around you.
This is also my opinion, so you don't have to take my advice if you don't want to.
I run my blog this way and have found it to be extremely freeing to simply give tutorials away, knowing that they will do far more good out in the hands of quilters teaching and learning than if I'd slapped a confusing message on the bottom.
This is how the Heart and Feather Wholecloth quilt was given away. Students could print this pattern as many times as they liked, teach with it, and print it for students. Anything you want to do with it, you can, and you don't have to ask permission first.
I hope this update clarifies this post on copyright. Yes, there are reasons to copyright packaged content to protect a body of work that took a lot of time and effort to put together.
But consider this idea of sharing blog tutorials freely. If you're going to post something for free, allow it to be used for any reason and see what new world of sharing this will create.
Let's go quilt,