Hello Kitty. Turns out you can make things and sell them from fabric bearing licensed characters.
My previous posts here and on Whipup about fabric legalities garnered lots of interesting comments. People are all over the map with their opinions. One new thing I learned:
I assumed that fabric printed with licensed logos/characters were in a special class and of course you can’t resell items you make from it, but what do you know? I was wrong. One commenter pointed to Karen Dudnikov of the company Tabberone, who has successfully fought against numerous corporate behemouths over this very issue. Companies such as Precious Moments, Major League Baseball, Disney, Sanrio, and M&M/Mars have forced eBay to shut down her auctions because she was selling products made from fabric with their licensed whatevers on it. Check out this audio interview, this article, and this article. Also see her own page detailing the legal battles she has had.
Karen Dudnikov has actually been pointed out as an example in the comments before, plus she wrote her own comment following my first post on fabric and copyright. Sorry for not putting two and two together earlier — I guess it’s because the issues involving copyright, licensing, and trademarks are so confusing and I was trying to separate out the trademark issues at that time.
Then and now … the vintage source (left, from Tumbling Blocks) and the reworked Amy Butler fabric (right)
Also, Amy Butler’s response on Quilter’s Buzz to the controversy surrounding her Chrysanthemum design (within her new line Belle) has been out there for a little while now. Have you read it? Very interesting. I am intrigued by the documentary swatch houses she mentioned. Now that’s the business for me! Anyway Amy Butler says that these houses make sure that the designs are in the public domain. Hmm — I wonder how these places are able to do that, and if they really exclude designs of unknown origins. I also wonder whether “make sure” means “we will take the legal responsibility if the design turns out to be protected by copyright”? I don’t mean to sound accusatory, I’m just curious! But I still don’t think it’s smart or cool to restrict product sales, which, keep in mind, Amy Butler is still doing to those who buy her fabric wholesale. [edited to add: Amy Butler's fabric no longer carries any such restrictions.]
Shortly before that post, Liesl of Disdressed wrote a great post about the Amy Butler affair. It appears that the fashion and fabric industries have always been quite cavalier about lifting or re-working vintage designs. The practice doesn’t seem to have bitten anyone in the ass — yet — any maybe it never will. As I responded to her post, just because it’s done all the time doesn’t make it ethical or legal, but my uppity righteousness on this issue is very much at odds with my desire to see more vintage inspired and vintage repro prints out there on the market.