Can We Talk About Plagiarism?

Back in November of 2011, I made this quilt and shared the pattern for it here on my blog.
I did this tutorial as part of an Accuquilt GoBaby giveaway. It was also a spin on a variation of another tutorial I had done for the R2T block , one of my favorite blocks due to its versatility.
This quilt was fun to make and fun to share. It also got picked up by Jacquie from the MQG as an example of color for the MQG's 100 days of Modern Quilting and pinned quite a bit, so this little sucker has gotten some press time.
Fast forward to last week and my daily browsing of Pinterest. And I stumble on this:
This isn't the actual pin. The one I saw had the thief's blog address on it.
And I think "Aw! How exciting! Someone made this quilt from my pattern! So I looked up her blog (which I will NOT mention here)
And yes!! She used my pattern! And she gave me credit! Oh man, this is killer." (insert big, goofy grin here)
This is a screen shot of her blog.
And she shows more pictures of it. It's really pretty. Love, love the colors she used.
And then at the bottom of her post, she directs readers to her Etsy shop, where the pattern for "her" version of my quilt is for sale.
(insert WTF?! face here)
Is this real life?
So, I hop on over to her Etsy shop and sure as sh*t, she's selling this pattern for $6.50 a pop.
For real.
Like, 80 times.
That's about $500 she's made off of "her" pattern.
And people seem to be viewing this pattern quite a bit.

 So, I sent this woman an email and told her with as much grace as I could manufacture that she needed to remove the pattern because even though it was a free tutorial, it's still my property.

And I even went so far as to say - hey, you like his pattern, redo it! Make it your own. Make it bigger, more blocks, different measurements. Have at it.

Well, she didn't agree with me. She instead proceeded to tell me that even though the quilt was inspired by mine, other factors influenced her design, such as her world travels and university studies. (Annoying ASB) She also argued that she did, in fact, redo the pattern by using different fabric and having her points match instead of the way mine overlapped significantly.

Hmmmmm.  Had to marinate on that one a bit.

No - mama don't think so.

Let me use a hypothetical to argue why this gal is infringing on my copyrighted pattern.

Let's say I send this tart a copy of my book on the house. And she makes every single project in it, only changing fabrics and maybe only tweaking a small element to each one - maybe adding a quarter inch here and there or adding a border.

And let's say this tart then decides to release a new line of patterns, patterns that she "designed" using my patterns as "inspiration".

Is this legal?


What would happen if I took Denyse Schmidt's Single Girl quilt pattern, made it in my choice of colors and added a border and then turned around and sold that "reworked" pattern under my own brand? (or Etsy shop)

You think Denyse might get a little hacked off if I did that?

Uh, hellz yeah she would.

But here's what I'm struggling with....I wrote a book, I'm probably gonna write another one and I'm currently writing patterns. This is gonna happen - people are gonna pick up elements of my stuff. It's part of the business. We all do it.

Do I go after every person who I think is stealing from me? Or worse yet, someone charging people for a pattern that they can get for free? Do I spend the time and energy in takes to make sure nobody gets away with this kind of crap? Even if it's on a small scale like this? And in this case, am I even right? Is she stealing?

I'm stuck here in gridlock as to how to deal with this situation.
Do I go after this nitwit-skank-blowhole? (Dear Baby Jesus, forgive me for that outburst)
Do I let it go and just chalk it up to feeling sorry for someone who has to plagiarize free patterns from blogs for income?
Do I get Etsy involved?

I'd like to know what you guys think. And be honest. I like honest.


  1. 100% get Etsy involved. At the very least they can pull the pattern.

  2. I don't know the legal wranglings but why are to not "outing" the culprit?

  3. Whoa, baby! First of all, part of the reason I love you, despite never having met you, IRL, is your way with words and the fact that you use words like "tart". ;-) You crack me up.

    But, aside from that, as a friend and as a pattern designer, she did steal; it is worth pursuing, even finding a copyright attorney to send her a cease and desist letter. But my first step would be to contact etsy, probably via phone and a snail mail business letter. Ain't right. There is nothing right about what she is doing, nothing!!! and the 80 people who bought her pattern should be pissed as hell that they paid her good money for something they could have gotten for free here.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hard to say what is best. You contacted her and she still has left it on her Etsy. You have to decide what is going to give you some peace with this issue. If contacting Etsy will do it than that is what you should do. Pray on it and see how you feel after that.

  6. Sick the Etsy folk onto the Manky Slapper. Thieving Ho.

  7. It is absolutely wrong. Color placement doesn't change pattern. So my skipping school pattern...if someone wants rainbow colored fish instead of orange and yellow like I did, they can sell a new pattern called Rainbow Fish? Nope. Sorry.

    It *is* a traditional block and I have made it myself many times. Yes people have sold traditional blocks as patterns for quite a bit of money. The difference is layout how the blocks go together..after all, we can't copyright a square. I never in all my R2T block based quilts laid it out like you did. I have made them laid out slanted, in circles, and alternating with squares (my dance steps pattern). If that doesn't make it yours, what would? Fabric choice is an extremely weak basis for claiming a pattern.

    I've had a quilt pattern stolen by someone and you know they made more money and accolades than I ever did. It started as a free tutorial on my blog as well. It has been a very disheartening thing for me, but I do take comfort in knowing they are a sham and will always have to be looking elsewhere for the next big thing. I don't take comfort in wondering who they are stealing their new ideas from. Maybe you should do something for the next person's sake...it will happen again.

  8. It's an E-Mugging ! Would you let this person into your home to steal one of quilts and not follow thru ?
    Contact ETSY and consult with an attorney.

  9. I am inspired many times a day by the creativity of others! I am a person who does not have the ability to create "originals". I am good at taking the creativity of others using it to make items for myself, friends and family. I use similar or different supplies depending on the project, time and costs involved. That being said, I feel that you should report your situation to Etsy. I would also suggest that you check Pinterest and report any pins of the situation to them also. It is, at a minimum, rude to profit from plagiarism.

  10. I have no opinion here (technically, it would be up to a court to decide whether her pattern was dissimilar enough or not though I do think that what she is doing is morally wrong) but a quilting lawyer recently wrote a blog post about copyright and quilts that I think might help you. You can read it here.

    You best bet is probably to contact Etsy unless you want to hire a lawyer. Though I bet a cease and desist letter would put an end to it immediately.

  11. Let Etsy know. They should pull the pattern.

  12. Here's another link on copyright law and quilt patterns: Quilting and Copyright Law. You could send it to her and point out the relevant sections.

  13. Her block is a very traditional block, published and interpreted in many ways over the years. Your block, and I have no idea what inspired you, can be seen as a interpretation of this traditional block - just as a wonky star is a wonky interpretation of a very traditional sawtooth star.

    A 4" block is not that unusual. Neither is your setting - you probably were not the first to come up with an off-center layout.

    Quilters - modern or not - have been doing the battle of copy-right vs copy-wrong for decades. Often no matter how angry and upset we feel, it's not legally a copy-wrong even though it definitely feels like it should be a copyright violation.

  14. I agree a couple other commenters - you're going to have a hard time proving anything with a traditional block, or even a slightly new take on an old block. Your tutorial and instructions do have copyright, but you're probably not the first person to invent this block or this layout (Katie Pederson makes quilts like this frequently, for example). This example stinks because you know she got the idea from you first, but the best thing you can do is to keep moving forward with your own new and original ideas and provide the best value you can for your audience.

  15. Pay your lawyer a hundred bucks to send both Etsy and the said blowhole a "cease and dissist' letter. And ask her for x$ in compensation per sale. That will at least shake her up. I was shocked to find a website for stolen quilts, many of which were stolen from quilt shows! Do take pictures of you work, you may need it for proof that it is yours.

  16. You know a lot of the digitizers that make the machien embroidery designs were haveing a bunch of problems with this same type of thing. And they all banded together and it is definitely against the law. I was told that if you are caught doing this they confiscate your computer and your embroidery machine. Maybe a lot of the quilt designers need to get together and form a group and figure out how to legally tackle this issue. To help put a stop to this stealing. If you can get Etsy or anyone else involved I would go for it 100%..She should be made to reinburse you for all the funds she has made off of the pattern sales. Stealign is stealing and it is wrong..

  17. I say get etsy involved!!!

    I saw another post on this recently check it out...


    the conclusion

    and another post from another blogger

  18. I went on a course 15 years ago and made a quilt very similar to this pattern. I gave it as a cot quilt for my cousin's baby. He is now 14 years old!

  19. I think the key here is that she herself acknowledges that she saw and utilized your pattern first. Definitely get screen shots of that admission if you haven't already. For that reason alone as a customer I would have no interest in doing business with her. If she had developed this pattern without ever seeing your quilt that would be a different matter, because it is conceivable that she could have stumbled onto something similar on her own. I have no clue what legal issues are involved, but she irthically there is no doubt she is doing the wrong thing.

  20. We want to believe that all quilters are great people ... and so it's extra disappointing when we discover someone is not. I would also urge you to contact Etsy, but don't be surprised if they do little/nothing to prevent the plagiarist from continuing to profit from your intellectual property. The notion that changing some small detail in a pattern makes it "original" is wrong, but, unfortunately, still believed by a lot of otherwise smart people. One of my original block patterns was being sold as a video on another site. I contacted them by email, by phone and by written USPS letter and ... I didn't even get a response. it's disappointing, but if the providers are not directly responsible for the content, they tend not to care.

  21. I have no idea about the legal position, but because she has sighted your block as the basis for hers i think morally she is on some pretty shaky ground. I also think it's pretty bad of her to charge essentially for a pattern that you are giving away free, if her instructions are based on yours. If you contact Etsy I'm thinking they would probably agree to ask her to remove it, and i think that's the right thing here. I would have blown my top when she tried to claim her university studies and travels influenced it, because lets be honest, she already admitted you inspired her, my head would have exploded, and nitwit-skank-blowhole might have been the nicest thing i said about her! :o)

  22. Am so sorry you are having such a difficult week in the quilty world!!!

  23. This is the issue that I have with situations like yours. . . .the block is one that is extremely old & has been around for quite a while (I've been quilting for more than 25 years). I know the pattern as Indian Hatchet.

    It also seems to me that I remember something similar in a Fons & Porter magazine from a while back.

    So, is there a case for your pattern. . . . or does it go back to someone either further than you?

    Pardon the term, but with the "dumbing" down of quilt patterns in an attempt to get things done quicker and faster there are just too many situations like this that will arise.

    There are only so many ways to put triangles, squares, rectangles, etc. together. . . .and who is to say that there are not multiple people coming up with the same ideas --- without having seen the work of any of the others?

    If her pattern uses your exact wording, your pictures, etc. then perhaps that part could be challenged.

    But I don't know how I would feel about the rest of the situation.

  24. I'd definitely buy a copy right now to see if the wording matches yours - if so, that's definitely copyright infringement! I'm not quite sure you have legal grounds otherwise. But is it in poor taste to blatantly copy someone's work and profit off it? Definitely!

  25. Worrisome! Definitely tell etsy to pull that listing. I think your analogy of taking a DS pattern and tweaking it with fabric placement and then claiming as your own is spot on. DS and her fans would hound you if you did that. This is all about character and taking too much liberty in this world-wide neighborhood we play in on the internet. One has to have manners and shame! Take care of business, and then don't let it get you down. Find your balance for peace of mind and then keep on designing and writing and know that the truth will out and perseverance is the name of the game. -- Michele

  26. I would get etsy involved and paypal as well. They are pretty good with disputes. She could lose her privileges with both business and be asked to make restitution. She did it to you so she probably has or will do it to someone else. Stand up for your rights. You have the documentation.

    1. Go to the babyquilt pattern and click report item to etsy. Do it now. It is horrible of her to steal from you.

  27. I think I would feel exceptionally disappointed, and even mad, if I were in your shoes. I debated whether to post a reply because I don't want you to be upset with me, a total stranger, though you have asked for honest opinions. I decided to post with the thought that my post might save you some money: hold off on the lawyer for the moment. Here's why:

    Legally, I think the other quilter is on fairly solid ground IF AND ONLY IF she wrote the instructions (and made any images, etc.) for the blocks and quilt entirely herself. I think you should ask ETSY how you can compare her pattern to yours to know if she has plagiarized your instructions. (Instructions are the only parts of a pattern that are copyright.) I don't know how that works--but they must have a process. If you can show that the instructions are the same, call a lawyer and see what guidance you can get over the phone....find out what this lawyer knows about pattern copyright so you don't waste your money. You would need an expert, not a fly-by-night person who will write one scary-sounding letter for you but then not know what to argue.

    Keep in mind that the block you use is traditional (see e.g. 1999 posted "Shooting Star" http://quilterscache.com/S/ShootingStarBlock.html and a 2007 post from someone who designed a similar barn-raising arrangement http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=189084.0;all#axzz2NTP6pITx)

    Andie, maybe a saving grace is that the other quilter acknowledges your inspiration. That might direct people to your site, and hopefully they find your free tutorial before they buy anyone else's instructions!

  28. I say go after her. I just made a quilt that is basically an exact reproduction of one that Katie Pedersen made at Sew Katie Did. However, I told all about it on my blog, talked about the only changes that I made, thanked Katie for the inspiration and that is it. No one has the right to reproduce your work and sell it, no one.

  29. Hi Andie, I am so sorry that this feels so hurtful and wrong. It really does stink! However, I have to agree with Karen at Fireball that only the instructions can be copyrighted. If she used your exact words, steps, etc. then you have grounds, but otherwise, as has been stated, it is a traditional block. There have been many, many copies of say, a Log Cabin over the years. Even the Disappearing 4 Patch in your book has appeared before in other books and patterns.I recently received an email from a blogging friend that she'd seen the Moda Bakeshop pattern I designed. It had been "redone" and was in a magazine by a popular blogger/designer. Hers is slightly different and her instructions are her own. Mine is free on Moda Bakeshop...you have to buy the rag to get her pattern. Sigh. You know that I adore you, Andie, and really am bummed for you though!!

  30. Andie, Caryn is right. Get screen shots of her blog that show the quilt she made based on your quilt and tutorial, and also screen shots of the same quilt with her Etsy pattern for sale. Next, contact Etsy and tell them she is reproducing your work and selling it as her own. My husband and I sell stuff on eBay and we know how this stuff works...eBay, Etsy, and other online shops do not want any problems with copyrights, infringements, or any legally protected works. Just the fact that her item is questionable will be enough for Etsy to cancel it. And these things are free. Others mentioned a cease and desist letter. This is correct also, although it may cost some bucks from a lawyer. If you really want to press the issue after these things, hire a lawyer.

  31. Here is my take on it: you own the words and pictures in your tutorial. You don't own the block design or the asymmetrical layout (individually or in combination). If she copied your tutorial and changed a few words etc... Than that is plagiarism. Using a photograph of your quilt as a starting point for her quilt and then writing her own pattern in her own words and selling it... I just can't see how she has stolen anything or plagiarised. You have also lost credibility in your argument by resorting to name calling.

    1. Agree. The block has been around for years and name calling does not add in your favour. When someone publishes a free tutorial they have to accept that this sort of thing may happen and she made slight changes

    2. Exactly, she has lost credibility in her argument by restoring to name calling. The block has been around for years.

  32. Check with the Etsy people. They may have experience with this happening before and know what to do. I love your descriptive language! It is the best entertainment I've had today! Now don't out the person coz she could do you for libel or defamation!

  33. I have to admit I’m not really sure how I feel about this issue for two reasons. You didn’t invent this block so you can’t claim plagiarism on that point but she did use your layout of the blocks. Recently I’ve seen lots of quilters offering patterns for sale that are such simple designs that I surmise (as I’ve never bought one) that the only reason to buy it is to get exact amounts of each fabric to buy, precise sizes to pre-cut, construction instructions, etc. If that’s the case the work of making a pattern is doing the calculations and if a person did all that it’s their mathematical work.

    While she clearly used the same layout you used for her design she must have done all the calculations that make it a pattern. So I guess I have no answer for you except that you should do what you can give you peace of mind. My advice would be to think and pray about it for a few days and then take your next step.

    I love you and your blog Andie and hope you get some resolution very soon!

  34. not sure what I think about whether this is plagiarism but it is worth thinking about it. Also, the law is such that if you do not actively PROTECT your copyright, you are deemed not to care. So if you do decide that this is an infringement (and get some support from ppl who know about this stuff), and you choose to let it go by because it is small beer, any future infringement (probably just of this pattern, but possibly of any of your free tutorials) will be harder to prosecute because they will be able to use your non-enforcement of this one as a defense. Sucks. But worth knowing.

  35. I feel your pain at this person. I believe JoVE is right you need to make a move to protect the other works you have done and will do. I am not a creative person so I love tutorials and would hate to loose out because someone feels changing colors makes this hers. Maybe if we all gave permission to post our comments on her page she'd get the message??? That being it isn't her pattern to sell.

  36. I think using the same exact layout is plagiarism. It's the trouble with being so generous on the internet ... people think that it's theirs for the taking. Just not nice! Please do look into this. I had some photos lifted from a site once and got the person's website taken down for doing that ... ha! So, please look into it!

  37. I'm one to fully support designers and that includes those that may get inspired by Designer X and come up with a unique twist. But no way in H---- is her design unique. Shame on her.

    And yes, you need to go after her. My understanding from legal contacts is you are in the right and she is in the wrong. Document your request to her to remove her pattern, to stop/decease and that if she doesn't you'll pursue legal action.

    What she is doing is wrong. If she does it to you, she is probably doing it to others and will continue to do so. While you may view you released your very creative idea as a free tutorial, you didn't release it to others to go make money off of YOUR design. And, those designers that sell their patterns earn their living off of sales of their designs, so copyright matters take money out of their income. This person is very unprofessional.

    I've seen your design from the start and love it. It is yours and needs to be protected. Write her an official letter AND report her to ETSY and any other online source she may be selling this design.


  38. I am dismayed. Anyone who researches this design will find it's much older than 2011. It's disrespectful to other quilters (from the recent and distant past) to declare that it belongs to the owner of this blog as some have said.

    What would be illegal is stealing someone else's instructions and images. I don't know if that happened here. Despite all the strong opinions posted, nobody seems to know.

  39. Yes go after her with guns blazing. If she had said whoops my bad, and taken it down then, I would say be gracious and forgive her. But to continue after being caught is just BAD, and she needs to be corrected. You are right and she should pull it from the shop.

  40. Stranger popping in after reading. Obviously the block isn't copyrighted and in some ways the layout isn't either. However; from someone like me coming in (via Quilting Blogs) it's obviously your pattern. She gave credit which was really great but kind of dumb as it incriminates her as well, but to create a pattern and sell it from your idea is wrong.

    How to solve it, I don't really know. You contacted the seller who refused to do anything about it. Your next step is probably Etsy and then go from there. Unfortunately, these things can get really messy and nasty between both parties. I'd try to solve it as quickly and quietly as possible.

    Your quilt is really pretty and I'll add it to my "to do" list. I like that you offset the blocks giving it some movement.

    Best of luck.

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