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  • Legal Help

    In my wife's never ending battle to keep me mentally grounded she often buys woodworking books for me. I have given up on trying to find the jewelry box I was looking for and have decided to try a Pennsylvania Spice Box I found in one of the Tauton series, "Great Designs From Fine Woodworking, Furniture." I suspect I can use the plans to make the spice box for home use, but is there any specific or implied limitations on the sale of something made from plans taken from a magazine?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • #2
    Re: Legal Help

    Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer!

    I can't imagine there's any such stipulation (home use only) with any typical project plan, but to be honest, I've never thought about it before. Unless there's a statement somewhere in the documentation that explicitly says "not for commercial use" it's probably OK.

    The Template Master from Stots, for example, has a license agreement sticker on it that the user must remove in order to use it (so it's not likely the user will miss it). The agreement states that the user will not reproduce the template for sales purposes or pass it around for others to use for free. But the template is unique in that regard, because it's purpose is "to clone itself" as the Stots website says, so I can see the problem with selling products made from it (itself!). That would be like reproducing (or sharing) the actual project plans, an obvious breach of legal consent.

    That's actually a pretty good question. The magazine editor would know (or find out).

    - djb
    Last edited by djb; 03-03-2007, 07:21 AM.
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    • #3
      Re: Legal Help

      I'm gonna guess that if you copy someone else's design for personal use you're OK. The other side of the coin, copy and produce the same piece for commercial sale, you could be open to being sued. In order for that to happen, I'm guessing(again) that the design would have to be very unique.
      ================================================== ====
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      • #4
        Re: Legal Help

        I emailed two websites that have project plans available and asked them about selling products made from plans. I got this response from one of them:

        "Its up to individual copyright owners to place restrictions on use of copyright material. Irregardless of whether you obtained the information for a fee or for free, the onus would be upon you to contact the copyright holder and express your intentions before you set about selling items made."

        - djb
        sigpic

        A Democracy is 2 wolves and 1 sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

        Restore the Republic.

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        • #5
          Re: Legal Help

          Unless there's a patent on the finished product, there shouldn't be any problem. The copyright usually only covers the printed material. And it's very unlikely that a patent holder would be selling plans for his product to the general public.
          If it's a one of a kind art item, it could be copyrighted, but in that case there wouldn't be any plans for sale.
          If you have any doubts, just make one minor change to your product and it's now yours.

          Just noticed you found it in a magazine. That makes it public domain. The only thing you can't do is reproduce the mag pages without permission.
          Last edited by bobg; 03-03-2007, 11:26 AM.

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          • #6
            Re: Legal Help

            I got a reply from the other publisher today about selling stuff made from plans in their magazine(s). Below is the long version; the short version is "feel free to build and sell the projects you see in our magazines!"

            ----------
            We often receive letters, e-mails, and calls asking us if readers can build and sell projects that have appeared in one of August Home Publishing's magazines (Woodsmith, Workbench, and ShopNotes), on our web pages, or downloadable plans (PlansNow).

            We like to encourage woodworkers, so the answer is yes.

            The artwork, photographs, and words in our plans are protected by U.S. copyright law and the copyright is owned by August Home Publishing Company. This means you can NOT reproduce the artwork, photographs, or words in any media (written or electronic) without prior written permission of August Home Publishing Company. So, for example, you could not print up a brochure or sign promoting your project and include a photograph or some words from one of our magazines in your brochure or advertisement. (You must take your own photographs of your project and use your own words or artwork to describe it.)

            You can also NOT take photo images off of our web pages and just copy them onto your web page or into your advertising to promote your sales.

            One other thing: We own the trademark to the names Woodsmith, Workbench, ShopNotes, and PlansNow. You can NOT call your project, for example "The Woodsmith Dresser" without written permission from us.

            Once again, feel free to build and sell the projects you see in our magazines! But you cannot legally use our photographs, words, artwork, or trademarked names to promote and advertise your projects.

            If you have any more questions about these policies, please feel free to contact me directly. And, best of luck with your project business!

            August Home Publishing Company
            ----------

            - djb
            sigpic

            A Democracy is 2 wolves and 1 sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

            Restore the Republic.

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            • #7
              Re: Legal Help

              djb,

              Thank you for taking the time to investigate and follow-up with the answers from the magazine publishers. At this juncture I have no plans to sell anything I make from plans - I design my own cabinets - but the information is great to have.

              Tom

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              • #8
                Re: Legal Help

                Bobg wrote: "If you have any doubts, just make one minor change to your product and it's now yours."

                also:

                "Just noticed you found it in a magazine. That makes it public domain. The only thing you can't do is reproduce the mag pages without permission."


                Bob, and anyone else,

                As a writer and illustrator I can assure you that "making a minor change" to a design certainly does not make that design "yours"! If the design is copyrighted (and that doesn't have to be a registered copyright either), the designer, or the owner of that design, can come back on you with a copyright infringement suit if you use the design, modified or not.

                Likewise, placing it in a magazine does NOT put it in the public domain. In all likelihood, the magazine is copyrighted... and that means anything within its contents is copyrighted and is therefore the property of the publisher. The publisher and the designer may have their own agreement, but usually the protection and limitations of the copyright are held by the publisher. While it may be clear that the publisher put a plan in a magazine so the reader can make personal use of it, that doesn't necessarily mean that the reader is free to use the plan in a "commercial" enterprise. Therefore, without written consent, any "profiteering" from that design could well land you in court.

                However, one must have some understanding of what the copyright is protecting. For instance, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to prove that any plan covering a popular style, and using common tooling or assembly practices would be unique enough to be copyrighted. In that case, any copyright would be to protect the duplication and distribution of the plan itself, and not the subject of the plan.

                An example would be if I published a plan of an oak bookcase, done in the popular "Craftsman" style. I'd do the illustration, cutting list, patterns, etc. and I'd put my "copyright" on the plan. So, what does my "copyright" protect? Certainly not the oak or the style. Even the piece itself would be tough to argue, in light of the thousands of Craftsman-style pieces that have been made over the decades. The only thing my "copyright" would protect would be the duplication and distribution of my drawing or plan. Only if I had done something "unique" with the design, could I claim a need for copyright protection.

                Copyrights are often taken lightly. If it is obvious that the subject is unique in someway, you can bet it's copyright sensitive. Either way, if you have doubts, it is wise to seek written permission if you plan on making money from someone elses design or "art".

                I hope this helps,

                CWS
                Last edited by CWSmith; 03-11-2007, 01:09 AM.

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