Know Your Rights (and Wrongs)

Know Your Rights (and Wrongs)

A Copyright Primer for Quilters

As quilters, we can be inspired by a beautiful painting, a special photograph, or a quilt we see in a magazine. We want to make a quilt that looks just like that, or a variation of it. May we? It depends. Copyright law is an integral part of the quilt world. Understanding the rule of law and its application, can help us avoid embarrassing situations.


Author Information

Janet Jo Smith is an author, attorney, and quiltmaker who lives in the foothills near Denver, Colorado. Visit her website,, for information on classes and guild programs. Her hand-dyed fabrics and other items are available at


This article is presented in full the McCall’s Quilting issue below.  Click here to purchase a copy.

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Reader Response
We have had lots of reader response to this thought-provoking article. Therefore, we are working with the author of the piece, Janet Jo Smith, to prepare a short follow-up for our November/December issue. Copyright law is a complex topic, one which we would never have space enough to present completely to our readers. But it’s also a very important topic, and one we believe all quilters need information about in order to protect their rights and respect those of other quilters. It was with this in mind that we presented Janet Jo’s answers to quilters’ most common copyright questions. Unfortunately, some readers seem to have drawn inaccurate conclusions based on the limited information presented in the article, and are feeling alarmed about situations where copyright law has little or no application. For example, vast numbers of our favorite quilt blocks and patterns have been within the public domain for years and are not encumbered by copyright law as we understand it. We’re glad the article has spurred such interest and discussion in the quilting community, and hope you’ll watch for the follow-up.


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