Wood Project Plans & Copyright Laws

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I say.. do what you want. Is the copyright police going to knock at your door and haul you away to jail? I know if I ever had a plan, I would want to share it. I'm not in it for the money, just the fun.
(Robert Bonomi) writes:

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Wilson writes:

You might very well be surprised.

Well, I'm in it for both, and letting people steal from me takes away from both.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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"Charlie Self" wrote in message

Bingo! That's as pithy a sentiment as any in your signature lines.
As a still performing musician, and being married to one, I fully appreciate, and have felt, the loss of revenue from "copying".
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 1/23/04
  Click to see the full signature.
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wrote:

If you're lucky they will do. If you're unlucky (and this is happening _a_lot_ right now), then they'll bankrupt you instead.
http://www.incunabula.org/blog/archive/2003_09_28_index.html#106497086439945852
"The Copyright Police" are already stalking America's streets, togged up in black assault vests with "RIAA" lettered across the back.
http://www.geek.com/news/geeknews/2004Jan/gee20040112023398.htm

Excellent news.
Then might I suggest you take a look at the Creative Commons project for a more flexible look at copyright. http://creativecommons.org /
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"Not necessarily", I'm afraid.
In cases of copyright law, the court _frequently_ states that "the judgement in this case is entirely dependent on the specific facts to this case, and is _not_ to be relied on as precedent in any other proceeding." Often in almost *exactly* those words.
Well, you're free to _cite_ it, but the current court will probably *not* find it persuasive, in and of itself. You have to independently establish everything, anyway.

Taking things in more-or-less reverse order ---
'Case law' is simply the body of records of _anything_ that the courts have actually ruled on. "Out of court" settlements, after a suit is filed, are _not_ part of the body of case law.
"Case law" does -not- provide any guarantee of how a particular court will rule in any specific case. They can find that the 'facts' at issue are somehow different, and act accordingly. It remains, however, the "best available indicator" of how any court is "likely" to rule on in a case that has yet to come before it.
"Common law" covers the things that are "common law" (things that 'everybody knows'), but are _not_ set out in/by statute. Things like: a) "common-law marriage" -- where a pair of consenting adults represent themselves to the world as 'man and wife', _without_ the formal paperwork. Depending on jurisdiction, after some period (from as short as 'overnight' to a span of several _years_), it is held to be _the_same_ as if the formal paperwork had been done.
b) The legal description of a plot of land describes one boundary of the plot as the " river". But, the river has silted-up, and it cut itself a new channel, in a _different_ location. Is the property line the _old_ riverbed, or the _new_ one?
When a river moves a few feet, the issue usually isn't a significant one. When a river move _several_miles_, it's a whole nuther story.
"_What_ do I own, when I own this piece of property" is not found in statute, but in 'common law'. It predates the founding of the United States. Principles involved trace back to the Magna Charta, and even earlier.
A 'local' court ruling is _not_ binding on any other court, i.e. they don't "have to follow it". However, it -can- be cited, as 'persuasive evidence', in any other court. Which is free to agree or disagree with the cited findings.
A judgement that has been appealed to the 'appellate court', and affirmed by that court *is* binding on all the lower courts under the scope of _that_ appellate court. A ruling by the "5th appellate court" is -not- binding on a lower court that is under the '3rd appellate court'. However, a lower court _can_ disregard a 'binding' ruling by a higher court, *IF* (and only if) they can find an aspect of the issue that the prior higher court ruling did _not_ address. They can thus take the attitude that _this_ case is 'different', and the prior ruling doesn't apply. This almost guarantees an appeal to that self-same higher court, to get a ruling as to whether this case really _is_ different, or not.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote in

May I make a second copy after I spill shellac on the first? Please? Pretty please?
Actually, it's a normal part of my shop practice to make a copy of whatever plans I'm working from. Altho I don't intend to spill shellac on them, I do expect to make pencil notations as I go (particularly since a lot of plans manage to miss out some dimensions, and even those that don't I might change the printed dimensions to fit my needs).
John
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You may, but shellac will ruin your copier.

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"Working copies" of a work _in_your_possession_ are specifically allowed by law. Depending on circumstances, there is a limit of one to three such copies allowed in existence at any given time.

'Limited' copying for such purposes _is_ specifically allowed by statute.
Case-law (Sony v BetaMax) expressly okays making a single copy for personal use. If _that_ copy is damaged/destroyed, making another _from_the_original_ is allowed. (but, making a copy from another copy -- e.g. getting a friend to dup _their_ copy of an off-air recording to replace your damaged off-air recording -- is _not_ legal.)
In the U.S. making similar limited copies from a 'borrowed' work is OK _as_ _long_as_the_work_is_in_your_possession_. When the work is returned to the party it was borrowed from, the copies should be "returned" as well, or destroyed.
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FWIW I'd like to but an oar in here.
Similar 'discussion threads' have cropped up on the 'boatbuilding' Groups; i.e. selling 'used' plans. Also, this is not the first time the subject has appeared on this forum.
a} If *you* BUY a specific 'PLAN' from a designer/author/composer/etc. that was produced at YOUR behest, and paid for, it is YOURS to do with as you like. Including putting it into 'Public Domain'. {Unless there were some specific CONTRACTUAL obligations between Purchaser & Seller}
b} A 'stock plan' usually has, at least, a note on it to the fact ONE boat per PLAN can be built . . . nothing about how many 'working copies' of the plan can be made. It is understood that the *one* boat is 'yours', not 'one boat per purchaser of copy', after copy, etc. There has been some 'splitting of hairs' on this issue - "If I DON'T BUILD the boat, is it 'fair' to sell the plans, and does THAT purchaser have the right, etc."
Some plans come with documentation the size of a small 'pamphlet', equivalent to a contract, and really spelling out what is allowed for the REGISTERED plan . . . including a serial number !!
c} Typical stock 'arts & craft' plans have a disclaimer allowing a specified quantity of items that can be build - 25 'pieces' from the ones I've seen. They anticipate them being built for 'flea market' sales, church & club offerings, etc. Not 'commercial production', obviously.
d} When a designer creates something 'under contract' the rights belong to the entity that contracted the work. That's how many designs by Jackson came into the 'public domain' by being published in the old Popular Mechanics Magazine. The same for designs by Monk in 'Rudder'.
It is the same for certain designers who publish their works in books . . . in fact, several of them state that the boats can be built from the BOOK PLANS. It is IMPOSSIBLE for them to ignore LIBRARIES, yet there is NO admonition about 'only a Purchaser of the book, etc.'
Nor is there any such statements on the plans in the popular woodworking magazines that publish plans on a monthly basis.
d} It gets sticky when the buyer only uses the plan as a 'starting point'. A 'chair' is a Chair, as a 'boat' is a Boat, and a 'function' can't be 'copyrighted', etc. Changing the color of a item, or shape of a decorative cut-out can't be claimed as a 'new' item, different from the purchased plan. But if the shape, multiple design elements, or other obvious factors are changed . . . it would probably be defensible.
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop {I NEVER take originals into the shop, I make SEVERAL copies of plans to make *exact* scale models, I make SEVERAL copies of detail elements, and ALWAYS have at least one 'back-up' copy 'filed'}

by
SNIP
'Case Law', etc. also SNIPPED> >
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That is *PROBABLY* true. There _are_ nuances that can trip you up. The technical point is "work done for hire". If the piece _does_ qualify under the 'work done for hire' rules, then copyright rests with the party that paid to have it done.
The rules are -not- as clear-cut as one might think. If the party doing the work is a 'contractor', as distinct from an 'employee', then copyright probably does _not_ rest with the 'buyer'. UNLESS the the terms of the contract specify that it does.

Absent specific permission from the copyright owner, the purchaser is limited to what _statute_ says he *can* do. And the copyright owner *cannot*, by fiat, deny the purchaser something that _is_ allowed by statute.
BY MUTUAL AGREEMENT, the buyer can agree to refrain from some action(s) that the law does allow. And the copyright owner _can_ refuse to sell 'directly' to that party unless they _do_ so agree.

The latter question is a 'no-brainer' -- The right to build 'runs with the plans', *unless* it has been 'used'. Once "somebody" has built from that set of plans, they cannot "honestly" sell those plans "including the right to build one instance from them". They _can_ sell, "without the right to build from these plans", however.

If that 'what is allowed' is more restrictive than simple copyright limitations, and is -not- disclosed *in*advance* of the purchase, it is an *un-enforceable* 'contract of adhesion'.

"Not Necessarily." The world on this changed _significantly_ when the U.S. signed on to the Berne Convention.
"Work done for hire" became much more _narrowly_ defined. Work done by an *employee* in the normal course of their business _is_ 'work done for hire', and copyright resides with the employer.
For 'contractors', in the 'modern' (post Berne Convention) world, *UNLESS* the contract provides otherwise, copyright remains _with_the_developer_, and the buyer has only acquired a "right to use" license.

Utter cr*p. publication in a magazine does _not_ convert something to being 'public domain'.

The strict constructionist legal view is that "While the borrowed book is in their possession, they can do anything that the owner of the book could do. HOWEVER, those rights to do those things revert to the party the book was borrowed from, when the book is returned. Derivative works must be 'returned' to that party at the same time, or destroyed."

The absence of any statement does _not_ convey permission to do anything.

Mostly true. As long as you don't copy 'unique' elements of that specific design, you're probably safe from even the 'threat' of legal action.

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

At the risk of sounding pedantic, this has been cited a bunch of times in this thread. The case is Sony v. Universal Studios, commonly referred to as the Betamax case not Sony v. Betamax.
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mmmmm, copyright law, one of my favorite topics. :) Ok, so I'm an IP attorney, mostly do patents, but have a good amount of experience with copyright. Standard disclaimer: nothing contained in this message is intended to be legal advice and is provided for discussion only. If you want actual legal advice on the subject, I recommend speaking with an attorney. (you can even talk to me in another context if desired :) ) Also, copyright law in Europe is different from in the U.S. My comments are limited to U.S. laws.

You don't really have "rights", but the copyright owner has limited rights that may or may not affect you. I would say that if the copyright owner sells a book of plans and doesn't say that you can't make items from the plans and sell them for profit, you can do whatever you want with what you make. I haven't researched this topic specifically, so I could be mistaken here. Making an item from a plan would likely be considered a derivative work, but I would argue that an implied license is granted when the plan is sold. If the plan seller wants to set a limit on what you can do, that is a different question.

No, you can't make copies of the plans. That said, I would argue that you could make a single copy of the plan to use in your shop so as not to mess up the book or original. This is a debatable point and some would disagree. There have been cases going both ways on such copying, but generally in the shop context, I think you would be fine making one copy to save your book from harm.

In the U.S., yes. In the U.S., the book is yours and you can do with it what you wish. You can lend it out or sell it all you want. In Europe, I believe the answer is no. They have laws about lending that I do not fully understand so I can't really speak on those. Here, we have the "first sale doctrine" that says that the copyright owner is entitled to the first sale of the book, but not to further sales. Thus, you can resell or lend out your book without paying royalties to the author.

No. Aruguably, you could check out the book and make a copy of the page for use in you shop so as not to destroy the library book, but that is questionable. Printing off the internet is an interesting question. If it is on the net as a free plan, I would think you could print it out. Once you have it printed, the implied license would seem to allow you to make whatever you want from it.
There is a distinction between personal use and for profit use in copyright law. That said, the plan producer only makes money selling plans. They are not selling product (generally). Thus, by selling items from their plans you are not interfering with their market the way you would be if you sold copies of the plans. If the seller establishes a royalty scheme for selling items using their plans, then that would change the equation. Like I said above, I have never researched this exact issue so I could be off a little, but plan sellers know people are going to use their plans to make things, so if they want to control how the made items are used (i.e., if they are sold), they should be up front about it.
Repeat of disclaimer: This is just my opinion based on my copyright experience and I would not advise anyone to adhere to my comments without first consulting with an attorney.
YJJim
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Great! Now I have a _good_ excuse for SWMBO when I'm asked why I'm sitting on my butt, surfing the net, BSing on the rec or _reading_ the latest woodworking mag instead of being out in the shop building something from one of the articles in those mags. "Sorry honey, it's the copyright laws!" (yeah, she'll buy THAT.....like hxll she will)
So I'm headed the an undisclosed major office supply firm to use one of their devices to make a "pattern" for a project which shall be used only for the personal enjoyment of the recipient of the resulting "gift". (hope they don't get caught selling it at a tag sale after I am dead and gone)
When you folks start to see my mug shot above the copier down at OfficeMax, you'll know why!
DexAZ
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| | No, you can't make copies of the plans. That said, I would argue that | you could make a single copy of the plan to use in your shop so as not | to mess up the book or original. This is a debatable point and some | would disagree.
A similar issue arises in music where printed music is bound in a book so as to make it unwieldy while playing the music -- won't stay open on the stand, must turn pages at awkward times. While the copyright owner can legitimately point out that a performance assistant can alleviate this burden, it is generally accepted that copying legally purchased music for the purpose of putting it into a more convenient form -- i.e., making one long strip of paper -- is Fair Use.
Of course the standard criteria for Fair Use come into play: copying to facilitate commercial enterprise, evasion of purchase, relationship of the copied part to the whole, impact upon the market, etc. And that's why we have lawyers and courts. If I, an amateur woodworker, photocopy one page out of a 100-page book called "Easy Woodworking Projects You Can Build" for the purpose of using the plan in my shop while preserving the book from damage, and destroy that photocopy when the project is finished, I would be very surprised and disappointed to be sued for doing it.
Similarly, if I were writing such a book I would clarify that particular point somewhere in the book's text: that copying which does not dilute the book's market is allowed.
--Jay
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Jay Windley notes:

If you've got one of my books, current or future, go for it. I will remember to clarify it in future books.
Photocopy everything you expect to use in the shop, not just one page. Now, don't go doing this to everyone else's books, too, unless you get permission.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (YJJim) wrote in message
Making an item from a plan

I think it would depend on the design. If I come up with a completely novel design for a chest of drawers, radically different from an artistic standpoint than anything that has ever come before, and if I then publish an article containing plans for that chest of drawers, then I probably have intellectual property rights to both the design and the article/plans. The article/plans would be a copyright, and if someone makes a chest from the plans, that may also be protected under the copyright laws as a derivative work.
If, however, I go to a museum and take measurements of a Shaker chest of drawers from the mid-1800s, and then write an article on how to make an authentic Shaker chest, I expect my rights would be different. I would probably still have a copyright in my article, but I cannot imagine I would have any intellectual property rights in all authentic Shaker chests hereafter built by anyone based upon those plans, whether as a "derivative work" or otherwise. I can't recall the precise rule, but I seem to remember there's some requirement that if you want to say something is protected under copyright law (whether the plans/article or the derivative work), it must be an "original work" or something like that. If I am remembering the rule right, the article could be an original work even if the chest was not, in which case the article would be protected but people could make the chests all they want.
As I look through the articles/plans in most modern woodworking magazines/books, I don't see much that looks terribly original. While any given set of plans may not look exactly like something that is already out there, I think most of the publishers/authors of these plans would have a really tough time explaining why their piece of furniture is so different than anything that has ever been crafted before that it constitutes intellectual property and no one else should be able to build it.
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Quite correct.

In this case, the plans _themselves_ are a 'derivative work' of the museum's property. Any copyright that may have existed on _it_ has long since expired. The _only_ copyright you hold is on the 'derivative' part. Making a copy of the plans _themselves_ is potentially infringing on your derivative copyright. Building the object thus described is using -only- the elements that belong to the 'original work'. To which copyright no longer applies.

You're close. Copyright is to protect "original works of creative endeavor".

Yup. The article _is_ an "original work of creative effort", the plans are a derivative work, and you have rights *only* to _your_ 'original creative effort' in those plans -- essentially the manner/style/etc, in which the 'ink' was laid down on the paper.

Yup. "Common elements" are not protected by copyright. The precise manner in which they are combined into a whole, _can_ constitute the 'creative effort' required for copyright protection. Whether or not it "does" is something that only a court can decide. This is, in fact, one of the "first line" defenses to a copyright infringement suit -- that the work copied did _not_ have sufficient original creative effort to qualify for copyright protection. Absent sufficient 'originality', one -cannot- have actionable infringement. :)
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: mmmmm, copyright law, one of my favorite topics. :) Ok, so I'm an IP : attorney, mostly do patents, but have a good amount of experience with : copyright.
As a matter of interest, is there any know instance of a legal action been taken in this context?
Jeff G -- Jeff Gorman, West Yorkshire, UK Email address is username@ISP username is amgron ISP is clara.co.uk Website www.amgron.clara.net
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Jeff Gorman wrote:

Yaaaaaawwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnn.............
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I read an article about Thomas Moser who published a book for Shaker-design furniture. A woodworker followed the plans in Moser's book to make and sell pieces, and Moser sued the woodworker. Yet, Moser took Shaker plans to create his book and there is nothing unusual about Moser's designs. I wonder if the Shakers would approve?
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