Wood Project Plans & Copyright Laws

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I would like to see a discussion of project plans and copyright laws. I understand that this is a broad subject, so I will start with a few specific questions.
1.) If I buy a book that contains a woodworking project plan what are my rights? Can I make the item and sell it for profit if not otherwise disallowed, or can I only make the item for my own personal use?
2.) Can I make copies of the plans to give to a friend who then creates the item and sells it for profit if not otherwise disallowed?
3.) Can I lend the book to my friend allowing him to use the plans to create and then sell the item for profit if not otherwise disallowed?
4.) Can I copy plans out of books and periodicals from my local library,or the internet, creating and then selling the items for profit if not otherwise disallowed?
Woodworkers, what are your thoughts ??
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Dusty Workshop asks:

You usually can make it for sale.

No.
Yes.
No.
Simply put, the person who develops the plans usually holds the copyright. Copyrights prevent copying of the plans, and some claimed rights may reduce the number of copies permitted. I'm not sure of the legality of such limits.
You generally cannot make copies of any copyrighted plans to pass out, whether or not you charge for those copies. You can lend the book or plans to anyone your choose, and they're free to make as many of the projects as they wish, or as the limits allow, but they are not free to copy the plans.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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This entire subject is a *deep* legal morass. The *ONLY* way to know _for_ _sure_ whether what you intend is, or is *not*, copyright infringement is to: (a) try doing it, (b) get sued, *AND* (c) have the judge make a ruling on your case. The U.S. court system has been "singularly UNHELPFUL" in regard to clarifying the uncertainties in the law. Virtually *every* court ruling on infringement is careful to state that "... this ruling is specific to the facts of the case at hand, and should _not_ be considered as precedent for any similar case in the future." Usually, in almost those _exact_ words.
It is best to err on the side of caution, since even a _successful_ defense of an infringement suit will run well into the middle six figures. And probably take a minimum of three to five years. And the likelihood of the plaintiff getting a 'temporary restraining order' prohibiting you from continuing to do 'what you had been doing that led to the suit', until such time as judgement is rendered.

This is questionable. The constructed object is, technically, a 'derivative work' of the copyrighted "original" (the plans).
The making of derivative works, for ones own *personal*use* is generally _not_ considered infringement of the copyright on the original. Life gets =much= more murky when commercial sale of the derivative work is involved. E.g., in the 'believe it or not' category (and I happen to think it was a *really*bad* ruling), the courts _did_ rule -- in a case involving a party who bought postcard photographs, trimmed them to match the face of random-shaped wooden plaques, and laminated the picture to the face of the plaque -- that _even_though_ the plaque-builder bought an 'original' fore each derivative he made, that he _was_ infringing on the rights of the owner of the copyright on the photograph. Once he owned each copy, he _was_ free to "do with it as he would"; But he was not allowed to _sell_ that "modified" (a.k.a. a "derivative work") object, _without_ the permission of the copyright owner.
The swamp gets, potentially, even deeper if "somebody" brings in a set of plans -- or even just a picture -- and requests that you "build me one just like _that_ one". Depending on how faithful your 'copy' is, of course,

Correct. *REGARDLESS* of what use (if _any_) he makes of the plans. making the copy _itself_ is the forbidden act.

Nit-pick -- _You_ don't get into any trouble for loaning him the book, *even*if* the use to which he puts the content is proscribed. *HIS* liability is a whole 'nother can of worms.

Note that there is _no_ legal difference between the situations in scenarios 3 and 4. Borrowing a book from 'the library' is, _legally_, no different than borrowing it from 'a friend'. In either situation, the _lender_ does not incur liability for actions performed by the borrower. Well, unless the lender "suggests"/"promotes" that action to the borrower, as a reason for borrowing/using the book. Then one *does* have potential liability, on the basis of 'enticement'.
REGARDLESS of the 'enticement' issue, the borrower *is* liable for his own actions.
Checking a book out of the library, and copying *some* of the plans out of it, for your _personal_use_ is "probably" not copyright infringement. Again, for an 'authoritative' answer, ask the Court. *grin*
When 'commercial gain' becomes part of the mix, *OR* when you copy a "significant amount" of any particular work, things get a whole lot more UNCLEAR. And *really* messy.
"Who created the plans", and how well-known/respected/"recognizable" he, and his work is, is also a contributing factor. Copying a Sam Maloof design is much more likely to be found to _be_ infringement than is copying some 'generic' design used as a teaching model in a drafting class.

"Plans are made to be used." In many cases, it can be argued that a 'limited license' to construct a derivative work is part and parcel of the publication of the plan itself. Possible exceptions being something like a 'theory of design' book, where the 'intent' is clearly discussion and/or research, and -not- the immediate creation of derivative works.
The further you push that implied license, beyond the construction, for one's own "personal use" of "one object" -- or "one set" of objects intended for use in multiples -- the less persuasive the argument gets.
The safe path is: "If in doubt, *ask* the copyright owner. Unless you get an affirmative response, _don't_do_it_."

ABSOLUTELY legal. Copyright law expressly gives the copyright holder the "exclusive right" to control the reproduction of the protected work. _Including_ control of the creation of 'derivative works'. There are a handful of specific exceptions to that "exclusive right", that are enumerated in the statutes. Deciding "whether or not" a specific instance/action is covered by one of those exceptions is where *all* the legal wrangling takes place. (Either you have the permission of the copyright owner, and the issue is thus moot, or you _don't_ have permission, whereupon the only way it is _not_ infringement is if one of the exceptions applies. Legal note: this means that it is up to the defense to prove that an exception _does_ apply; the plaintiff does _not_ have to make a showing that none of the exceptions possibly apply. Of course, once the defendant asserts that a particular exception "does apply", plaintiff must show why that assertation is invalid, to keep the defendant from prevailing. )

When a 'borrowed' book is in your possession, you can do "whatever the law allows" you to do if you owned the book, subject _only_ to any additional restrictions placed by the owner physical artifact that is _the_book_itself_, as 'terms and conditions' of loaning it to you.
Note: "Just because" the owner of the physical artifact says you "can" do something, that does -not- mean that it is safe for you to do so. If the owner "doesn't have the authority' to grant permission for that act. you can _still_ be prosecuted for acting on that (false) assurance. Whether or not you _knew_ it was false at the time.
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wrote:

I think this is all part of the Master Scheme you learn about @ Law School: "Obfuscation keeps everyone working!"

defense
This is what is *so* frustrating. Even if you "win" - you lose!
How's that go again? "First thing we do?..."
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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote in

It's common, when one purchases the plans for some things (boats, houses) for the plans to explicitly state you have purchased the right to build one copy.
One could probably argue that a plan which doesn't explicitly state a limit, is implicitly allowing the building of multiple copies.
As you suggest, tho, once one moves from the "personal use" realm to the commercial, it gets much more complicated.
John
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One could so argue, but, based on the 'letter of the law', in the U.S., one would _probably_ lose. Copyright law expressly states that the copyright owner has the "exclusive right" to control the "reproduction of his work, including the making of derivative works". The object faithfully built from the plans is a derivative work.
There are two ways a restriction on building objects from a set of plans could come into play. One is via copyright rights. The other is as a matter of "contractual terms" concerning the purchase thereof. An attempt to impose 'contractual terms' to a purchase, that are *not* known to the buyer _before_ the purchase -- e.g. 'terms and conditions' _inside_ a sealed package, of which there is no other mention -- is what is called a "contract of adhesion', and is invalid and un-enforceable in every Jurisdiction in the United states.
As a point of law (Since the U.S. adopted the "Berne Convention" rules, in the late 1970s), a copyright owner _does_not_ give up any rights by failing to state them. He doesn't even need to state that the item _is_ copyrighted; full rights/protection accrue _regardless_. All rights remain with the copyright owner, unless specifically waived or granted to others.
*IF* the express 'license' to build one object from the plans is derived from copyright, and not from 'contract law', then the absence of that grant of license means that there is _no_ license to build -any- derivative works.
OTOH, if the restriction, in the cited cases, is a contractual agreement known to both sides _before_ the contract was entered into, then the absence of such 'agreement' means that "whatever the law *allows*" is what one can do. Because you, the purchaser, have _not_ voluntarily agreed to "more restrictive" terms.
When plans are 'custom work', as in the case of hiring an architect to design a house for you, *absent*CONTRACTUAL*agreement*to*the*contrary*, that falls under the "work done for hire" rule, and the copyright on it actually belongs to the party who _hired_ the work done. Commonly, such contracts do specify that the architect retains copyright ownership and grants the buyer only 'limited' reproduction rights.
Existent case-law regarding the issue of derivative works does suggest that building an object from plans, that DOES incorporate 'unique' elements from those plans, does fall under the 'exclusive control' of the copyright owner, subject -only- to the 'exceptions' that are enumerated in the copyright statutes. The Sony v BetaMax case held that single copies of an object, for "personal use", was -not- copyright infringement. *Presumably* this extends to a single 'derivative work' -- I'm *not* sure if there is actual case-law addressing that specific point.

Even "to/for others" -- as in the case of gifts -- and it is really messy, *without* money changing hands.
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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote in

This would seem to contradict your first statement, quoted above. I would take it from that, that you don't beleive the "license to build one object" would be derived from copyright law, which does sound reasonable.

And, it would seem that "whatever the law allows" in that case is not clearly defined.
John
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I stated "can be argued"... not that there is necessarily any probability of success with that argument. :)
Copyright law, _itself_, does not provide *any* exemptions with regard to derivative works, per se. Only the general exemptions to copyright infringement. And the right to create derivative works *IS*, according to the law, under the 'exclusive control' of the copyright owner.
Now, depending on the nature and purpose of the publication, and, effectively, the 'intent' of the author and/or copyright owner, the existence of an 'implied license' may be argued. e.g., a book of plans, titled "101 Projects You Can Build". It would seem clear that the copyright owner *intended* for you to construct "some" derivative works, from the book. One copy, for personal use, from any given plan would seem reasonable. Possibly two.
I dunno whether "Sony v Betamax" applies to 'derivative works', or not.

The law is fairly clear insofar as "you can't do it without the permission of the copyright owner, _unless_ one of the following conditions is satisfied.."
There has been as *lot* of 'legal squabbling' over 'exactly *what*' does, or does not, satisfy those conditions.

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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) wrote in

I was pondering this, earlier today. What, exactly, is a "derivative work"? (you may have defined that elsewhere in the thread, and I missed it; if so I apologize for asking the question again). I could see where "derivative work" could be construed to mean only a work which included, in total or in part, the text (or images, etc) which were copyrighted. By that reasoning, something which is made from a description which is copyrighted, is not a derivative work.
Where my thoughts where going with that was, that if rights to an object which is made from a copyrighted description is held by the copyright owner, then patents would seem to be unnecessary - all one would have to do is publish a plan to one's invention to have control of it indefinately, rather than the 17 years that a patent grants.
John
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Dusty snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Dusty Workshop) wrote:

Unless the book specifically authorizes you to make items for profit, you may make items for your personal use *only*.

No. Both the plans, and the designs they embody, are copyrighted. You may not copy the plans for a friend, and your friend may not sell the item(s) created from them.

You may lend the book to him. He may not sell items created from those plans.

No. See my response to #2 above. The situation is essentially the same.

Thoughts are really beside the point here. It's *facts* that matter. And it's a fact that nearly everything you're asking about is prohibited by law.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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I agree with Doug. :) Being an Editor myself, I think he has just about got it right, although each book situation may be different.
-- Regards,
Dean Bielanowski Editor, Online Tool Reviews http://www.onlinetoolreviews.com ------------------------------------------------------------ Latest 5 Reviews: - Veritas Shelf Drilling Jig - Ryobi CID1802V 18v Cordless Drill - Workshop Essentials Under $30 - Festool PS 300 Jigsaws - Delta Universal Tenoning Jig ------------------------------------------------------------
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On Fri, 23 Jan 2004 01:45:33 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

A design cannot be copyrighted.
There may be "design rights", but these are distinct from copyright. Copyright is automatic (it's copyrighted even if it isn't labelled or registered as such), but design rights have to be specifically claimed and filed. They're also usually only available for quite short periods, in comparison to a copyright or even the lifetime of a library book.
The _expression_ of a design may be copyrighted (ie a drawing or plan of it). You can be in breach of copyright on this even if you never saw it, and if you never copied it - copying the design of the item is sufficient, provided there's also a pre-existing drawing.

Why not ? If there's no specific restriction forbidding this, why should one reader be distinct from any other ? I agree that this is a _possible_ situation, if the license to construct the item was only granted to the _owner_, but that's pretty contrived.
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On 22 Jan 2004 16:59:57 -0800, Dusty snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Dusty Workshop) wrote:

This is an international forum. Copyright laws are local, although they usually follow international guidelines.

None (by law). If you have any rights, they're granted to you by the owners of the book's copyright. These will usually be to make anything you like from the plans, but they're perfectly at liberty to limit you to only making one of them for personal use, or any similar restriction.

Again, you have no implicit right to do this, and only if you're granted a specific right. This would be unusual (although it does sometimes happen)

You may not be permitted to lend the book at all ! This is commonly forbidden, although "personal lending" is generally ignored. If you're a serious lending library (certainly in the UK) then there's a centralised scheme where you pay some additional fees for the books you have available. For the UK authors of non-bestseller romantic fiction, these library fees are often a significant part of their income.
Once your friend has obtained the book, then they're as restricted as you would have been.

As for any books, then you may be restricted in how you can copy them. The restrictions on how you can then use them are as previously described.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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Andy Dingley writes:

OK. As someone who has some practical experience in writing books, here's my feeling on the whole deal, with the proviso that:some of this is not clearly set out in the laws (U.S.), but is my take on the subject (even single copies of plans may be forbidden, which I think is silly):
1. Make as many items as you wish of MY books' project plans. Do with those objects as you wish. I've never understood the reason many authors differentiate between woodworkers who make 18 dowhillickies for gifts and those who make a dozen for sale.
2. Make ONE copy of the plans for your own use in the shop. No sense in spilling shellac on the entire book! ANything else is verboten. This may be a gray area to some, but it has been through the courts (mostly because of over-copying of textbooks in libraries. The libraries were held as liable as the professors, IIRC).
3. Lend the book to anyone you want. You are not responsible for someone else's actions, but it's possibly a good idea to remind him about copying. One copy for shop use.
4. Absolutely not. You cannot copy and sell someone else's creations. Redesign and redraw and make sure you don't copy significant details that determine the individuality of another person's plan. Anything else is out and out theft.
On a practical basis, the odds are fairly good you'll never get caught, if you are just giving plans away to pals. On the same practical basis, if you sell copies of plans to enough people to make doing so worthwhile, sooner or later, you will get caught.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Redesign
the
theft.
you
sell
later,
So you're saying that if I bought a book on woodcrafts and make projects out of that book, I can't sell them at the craft market?
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Wilson responds:

PLANS. Please read the answer. You cannot copy the frigging PLANS and sell them.
Some authors also refuse you the permission to sell projects made from their plans. It has to be so stated, I think, and if you'll check out some magazines, you'll see that writers not on the editorial staff often put that kind of limit on their contributions.
As I sad in my first answer, if you'd read the whole thing, I don't understand that line of thought, but then this world has a lot of things I don't understand, not just nuclear physics.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Just to add murkiness to the discussion, what about plans for artistic objects such as stained glass? If "artistic license" is used when making something from plans including representations of natural objects (trees, birds, cacti, etc.), are the natural objects copyrighted? How far does inspiration from a copyrighted work carry for a similar work to be considered derivative?
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mojave smirks:

Birds, cacti? Something close to nonsense, not murkiness.

That's where the courts come in, along with the murkiness.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
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By strict interpretation of U.S. copyright statutes (Title 17, United States Code), that is precisely correct. Section 106 grants the copyright owner the 'exclusive right' to control the copying and reproduction of those works, "including the right to make derivative works". The object built from the plans *is* a 'derivative work'.
*HOWEVER*, only the things that are 'unique' to that particular creative effort are covered by the copyright.
e.g., a plan for the construction of a "Morris-style" chair is covered by copyright. You can't photo-copy that plan and give/sell it to others. This does NOT mean that you cannot draw up a _different_ set of plans for a Morris-style chair, which is, in broad, similar to the other chair. And you _are_ free to sell/give _your_ plans to others. The 'common elements' to "Morris-style" are not protected under any copyright on a specific set of plans. Nor, except in _very_limited_ situations, are general construction techniques -- joint types, etc. What counts is the way they're put together, and the overall effect thereof.
If somebody looks at your work and says: "That's a dead ringer for a Sam Maloof design", and you _had_ copied from something Sam Maloof designed, you've got a problem. OTOH, if your work is based on your own modifications to something you saw Norm build on NYW, and you've never even _heard_ of Sam Maloof, copyright does _not_ come into play.

As I said in another post, copyright law is a *deep* legal morass. You've just touched on one of the 'stickier' issues in that morass.
The existent body of case law on copyright *does* allow for "parallel, _independent_ development" of 'similar' (or even *identical*) works.
There are cases on record where nearly identical things _have_ been found to be the result of independent development. Extant case law appears to indicate, however, that if you have _ever_ had access to, or been exposed to, the other party's 'original work', that it is essentially *impossible* to then claim that your work _was_ 'independent development'; that, _even_if_you_weren't_consciously_aware_of_it_, that you were influenced by the other party's work, and, thus, your work is, at least to some degree, a "derivative work" of their effort',
That said, what copyright protects is the "unique, creative effort" that goes into the production of an "original work". If an object has components that are -not- unique to that object/design, then those components themselves are not protected by the copyright on the object as a whole. The "great difficulty" arises in determining what parts are, and are not, actually so protected. The only *AUTHORITATIVE* determination is what the judge says, in court.
If you find the same design elements, the same proportions, the same 'styling', etc. in multiple plans, _from_multiple_sources_, it is, almost certainly, safe to copy those "common features". It's like the old term-paper joke: "if you steal from a single source, it's plagiarism, stealing from just two sources indicates laziness, but if you steal from three or more, it's research."
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snipped-for-privacy@host122.r-bonomi.com (Robert Bonomi) writes:

Which may then be cited as precedent, but is authoritative only if it's been reviewed by an appellate court? After review and confirmation, it becomes a part of case/common law?
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