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Date: Sun, 09 Nov 1997 20:52:44 -0800
From: Brett and Karen Williams <brettwi at ix.netcom.com>
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To: H-Needlework at Ansteorra.ORG, salazar at spry.net
Subject: Re: HNW - Drawn thread/facsimile patterns/mittens
References: <199711092053_MC2-2789-83B8 at compuserve.com>
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Greetings unto your Excellency, Countess Ianthe-- and the list-- from an
Scot whose manners tend to be a little formal when meeting new folk! I
have not had the honor of corresponding with your Excellency until now,
however some questions with respect to copyright issues concerning
reproductions of old needlework patterns have been raised that I thought
you might help us.
To reply to the list, you will need to subscribe-- or if you simply
reply to mine own address with permission to forward it on, I will do
so. Here is the meat of the matter:
Mike Newell wrote:
> Dear Ciorstan-
> Wow, Thanks for an exhaustive answer. There have been times when I wished
> someone with experience of copyright law would speak up and help explain
> Believe me, the SCA debate on copyright which started in the E.K. some
> years ago made me more aware of what is going on. I am working on some
> needlework books, and I realize that if I decide to use a collection I will
> have to ask, in advance,for permission to reproduce their items. For
> example, I am hunting down needlework patterns. If, for example, I get to
> look at a 16th century lacis tablecloth, and want to chart one of the
> squares, I will ask the institution's permission first, credit them (goes
> without saying) and give them a free copy of the book. I don't think I will
> be in that position for a while, but I realized it some years ago.
> While I have your ear, can I ask your advice? There are several reasons why
> "Flowers of the Needle" is not in print and being sold more agressively.
> One reason is my editor and translator, Mistress Elspeth of Morven. Elspeth
> mundanely holds a doctorate from Harvard and so is an academic of the
> Deepest Dye. She has been having some qualms (after 12 years!) about
> someone suing us. The books we copied were 16th century Italian needlework
> pattern books. They were reproduced in facsimile in 1878 in Italy, and I
> found them in a library. I xeroxed them. Since the original books were
> from the 16th century I figured the copyright had run out, right? So now
> she is worrying that we did not seek express permission (we did not exactly
> make piles of money by sale of the book, BTW). She says that unless we can
> demonstrate that other libraries in the U.S. have some of these books she
> is not willing to put it back into print. Her own experience in the Realms
> of Academe is that if an institution owns a rare object you must seek
I have quoted back the entire message in two parts as it is very
You are asking me for legal advice, which I am not qualified to give.
However, I can give you an answer *to the best of my knowledge and
belief as a layperson*. The distinction is important.
Firstly, I believe Mistress Elspeth is correct in her assessment of the
situation with respect to 'Flowers of Needlework' about her reluctance
to reissue the book on the basis of the lack of permission/credit. She
is correct with respect to the issue of rare item reproduction.
It is my understanding that if retroactive permission is sought (and a
suitable offer for royalty is arranged-- and paid PROMPTLY, no matter
how miniscule), then seeking permission to reprint would not necessarily
be a sticky matter. Seems to me that throwing yourself on the library's
mercy, as it were, offering a correct contractual agreement for the past
mistake and then negotiating a new edition would be the way I'd approach
it. Most times, copyright is assumed to flee on the winds unless it is
agressively and rigorously pursued. People who make a living by selling
rights to intellectual property MUST protect their rights, otherwise
their living fails.
> I have already told her I know definitely of one other U.S. library that
> has some of the books we used (19th century facimiles on microfilm) and I
> am currently seeking more libraries that might have them.
> Is she being paranoid to be so worried? We have seen SCA folk practice
> outright plagarism and not have the Copyright Police knocking at their
> door, or lawyers with briefcases.
> I really hope you can assure me we have nothing (much) to worry about.
> SCA: Kathryn Goodwyn
> "too many centuries..too little time"
However, since you have asserted the fact that at least one other
institution owns a copy of the rare book that forms a heroic portion of
your reprinted work, then the proprietary value of the original
information appears to be substantially less. I am not familiar with
intellectual law to be able to offer an opinion on this point. If I were
advising a business person (or indeed any friend of mine) considering
this issue, I would suggest that getting a legal opinion from a
qualified intellectual property attorney would be a good idea. That has
the obvious drawback of cost.
I do not know why SCA members haven't been drawn and quartered on
copyright infringements in court.
Yet. (Dramatic, hunh?)
It could be a number of reasons-- speculation says they haven't been
discovered, or even there's what attorneys call 'shooting ducks in a
barrel.' Why prosecute someone when there isn't a substantial asset to
foot the bill? But on the other hand, when copyright infringement
becomes a known incident to the copyright owner, they are obligated in
law to protect that intellectual property aggressively, up to and
Be that as it may, I believe the way Countess Ianthe did a perfectly
legal 'workaround' around her various copyright and credit issues ("The
New Carolingian Modelbook") was to redraw each design in her own 'hand'
and credit the source. Why don't we ask her? Madam, have you some
assistance to offer us?
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