Wednesday 14 November 2012

WOW: the Fabric License Question

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays

I cut into some set aside background fabric I shouldn’t have, and this means I had to buy some replacement Moda French General last week. Luckily it’s still in stock and this means I don’t have to change my background scheme for Forget Me Not again.

Whilst I was buying it quickly online, another fabric caught my eye and I couldn’t resist, I snapped it up. I love seeing new fabric and being instantly motivated to use it in one of my pieces.

I simply love it. Red, polka dot and tiny stitch details, perfect!

It arrived today and yes, it’s as lovely in real life as it is on screen and yes, I could definitely use it in one of my designs.

But then, something caught my eye on the selvedge: “License required for commercial use.”

On both sides of the selvedge there was printed advice: the name of the designer and her copyright on one side (which is pretty standard as far as I know) and on the other side the "License required for commercial use" advice, which I haven't seen before today, is this new?

I don't intend to use this fabric commerically, however 'commercial' can mean so many things and you can infringe license unintentionally - for instance, you may use the fabric in a quilt which you then photograph - if you then display the image of the quilt or use the image to promote your work, demonstrate a workshop or sell patterns, etc. then you're 'commercial'.

I have a lot of fabric in my stash and I have never seen this extra licence line before. I've known for a while that print fabrics and designer print ranges can be troublesome for professional quilters so I generally avoid them - I don't need the hassle.

I've been caught unawares buying this beautiful fabric, I didn't know about it's license before I purchased it, so now I definitely won't be using it. I wish fabric suppliers would stipulate exactly what their license terms mean and let us know that its a "“License required for commercial use” fabric before we purchase it!

If I'd known about this at the point of sale,
I wouldn't have purchased it!


  1. What a pain in the you know what!!! I certainly understand why you would not use the fabric; totally not worth the hassle. Definitely puts a grey raincloud on the situation.
    Always, Queenie

  2. I've never heard about this before. I sometimes sell my products, but I've never thought about licenses, unless for patterns. May be I have to start to think about it now.

  3. I would return the fabric to the place of purchase with the explanation of why. Fabric retailers need to stop purchases from companies that have this printed on there fabric.

  4. I would just go ahead and use it. Unless you plan to profit from it by mass producing you should be ok. That's like the Mary Englebreit fabrics. Her fabrics are licensed so you cannot use it to make things and sell from.

  5. I like the idea of returning the fabric with a note that you need a license to keep on file. Or if they are not selling the licenses to please not order fabric from such companies....

    unless we tell the shops we don't want this kind of fabric nothing will change ,,,,, and some where along the line some designer can have a legal hissey fit which as you pointed out is a hassle.

  6. Hi Esther -- it's funny you should mention this - I recently purchased a piece of black polka-dot fabric online and when I was putting it away I saw this in bold print :

    "License required for any use beyond individual consumption."

    The Fabric is "Kensington for Quilting Treasures -".

    Looks like more and more folks are "protecting" their fabric from being used commercially ?

    Seems like it would just inhibit their sales ?


  7. I also would send it back to the retail store and maybe they will be more careful purchasing fabric from this designer. Kind of crazy when they want to sell their fabric and limit you on using it. I have never noticed anything like this but will certainly be aware of it when I purchase fabric anywhere. PS These word verifications are becoming more difficult...

  8. Last Christmas I bought some Christmas fabric from Spotlight - some of it had mention of license requirements. It is thoroughly ridiculous. Many people do "crafty stuff"with this type of fabric for fetes or to earn a bit of spending money. Who do these people think they are kidding. And spots for heavens sake.....who owns the copyright on spots.

  9. This is more clear that I read in this regard:
    I use many remains, some charm and also some fat quarter. They do not have the selvedges, by which I do not know if some have that mention and I'm afraid to use.
    In addition all my purchases are online there is no fabrics as well in my country!
    Each day becomes all more complicated.
    A hug!

  10. some time back there was discussion on scquilters about this problem. think the outcome was that no one has signed anything for a licence and i dont think it is applicable in aux. maybe google about it, or email the supplier for them to explain for Aus. although of course your work goes all over!
    sure it will work out OK

  11. This is totally ridiculous! Do they want to sell their fabric? I wouldn't buy it if I had to pay for or get a license. Crazy!
    You've got it in your hands now and if I were you, I'd go ahead and use it. You have all of us as a witness and you've documented this on the internet - how did you know it required a license - the onus falls back on the person that sold the fabric in the first place while knowing that this was on the selvage - they should be required to disclose this information. You have a license to use it as it was "sold" to you and purchased by you as a piece of fabric, nothing else... just saying.... this so called "system" that we are creating is just plain getting out of hand!

  12. Everyone seems to be over-reacting to things like this; it's talking about mass production (e.g. Target using it to make and sell skirts). Of course they want people to buy and use their fabrics.

  13. Licensed fabric is an issue. I read this about a year ago.

    and this;

    Especially the second link is clear about a lot of things to consider when using designer fabric.

    But the sun is shining and I like your quilts and enjoy your BOM.

    Have a nice day.

  14. Thanks Marion for posting these links, I actually blogged about that very story a year ago too, and I felt that it was a single designer / manufacturer being a bit over the top at the time, but I think it was just the beginning of what is shaping out to be a new fabric environment for quilters.

    I'm concerned that this designer print 'trend' is going to appear on a lot of fabrics now - which is such a shame. I think of quilting fabric as a raw material to use as I like - but this simply isn't the case any more and as quilters we do have to be careful.

    I'm just annoyed that 'quilting' fabrics are being sold without prior warning or notification. I already know to avoid several 'designers' work as I don't want to limit what I can do with my quilts once they are made...but it seems that quilting fabrics are starting to be sold on the expectation that they won't be used by professional quilters... which is fine, but should be advised prior to sale.

  15. It's not enforceable and there is existing case law which made permissible the use of fabric in commercial enterprises. Lots of info here: Copyright Law - Licensed Fabric

    From that site: "There is absolutely NOTHING in state or federal law that gives a manufacturer, distributor or licensee the authority to impose such restrictions upon their product without the prior written consent of the purchaser"


    Check out this link. It sounds like you can do whatever you like with your fabric. You bought it, you like it and do what you want with it. The license is through the designer and the manufacturer for printing the design on fabric and the legal agreements of what the manufacturer can do with it. After that, there's no legal standing.

    Pattern companies are doing the same thing. Look at the back of some of them.

    At the same time, it's a way of protecting what's yours. You design wonderful patterns that are yours as I'm working on "Red December" right now. I can't make copies and sell them at a profit unless you gave me legal permission to do so. If I was a manufacturer of quilts, I don't think I could take your pattern and mass produce quilts (thousands to retail stores) either w/o your permission.

    It's pretty messy out there as with the stupid Kate Spain issue. Although that appears to be a misunderstanding between the publisher, the lady that made the quilt, and Kate, it was handled extremely unprofessionally from all sides.

    If you are able, email/visit the manufacturer website and ask, then explain you will no longer purchase their fabric because the limitations aren't worth the hassle.

  17. I did find this from Amy Butler. Perfect explanations of what you can/can't do. More companies should do this.

  18. Hi Esther,

    That is a gorgeous piece of fabric and before you decide not to use it in your designs, email the artist who designed the fabric and ask what that commercial license clause really means and if you can obtain written permission to use that fabulous fabric. Often times, the artist will grant you permission as long as you give them the "props"/credit for the fabric....

  19. As a quilt shop owner, I order fabric directly from company reps ... and we often see this kind of statement on selveges. As I am told by the reps, this is intended to refer to using the fabric for the commercial production of things like draperies, curtains, doctor's scrubs, etc. Those kind of companies usually buy an entire print run of a given fabric/pattern to use up in their products ... but the fabric company wants other manufacturers to know that the use is available - hence the notice. (shrug)

    :) Linda

  20. If I had bought that I'd return it to the store myself that it was purchased from. And then I would write an email to the one who was the designer telling them you will no longer be purchasing their fabric and tell them why.

    I noticed the line you showed had more names than we usually would see on fabric so I did a quick search for that extra name. Normally we'll see the designers name and the fabric company, in this case Quilting Treasures.
    That extra name said the fabric is licensed by Suzanne Cruise so I searched for her on Google.
    I found her site and it appears this is what she does, helps artists protect their work.
    Here is her site for you to take a peek at. Also read her other page linked at the top, "Our Story" to find out more about her business.
    She may be breaking into the fabric areas now to obtain more business and if so, we could be seeing much more of this in the future. I wonder if Quilting Treasures was even aware of this addtional restriction when they started carrying this fabric and how many others they might have that this woman also is representing as well.

  21. First of all, I´m sewing just for my own, not professional. But never ever I would buy a fabric with this sentence - if I knew before. My fabrics mostly don´t have selvedges (is that right?), most are pieces like fat quarter or smaller.
    Next will be: you buy a chair and the producer tells you who may sit on it.
    Are they crazy? No one should buy those fabrics!!


    Basically, unless you signed a contract saying it was only bought with the intent of personal use, then you are not bound to abide by the printed statement on the fabric.


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