Items for Sale
In most circumstances, you can legally sell items that you make from copyrighted fabric. On several occasions, copyright holders have filed lawsuits related to buyers’ use of products with restrictive labeling, similar to the marks that fabric makers print on the selvage of textiles. For example, when makers of haircare products labeled “for professional use only,” sued retail distributors that sold the products to nonprofessionals, judges dismissed the lawsuits. The distributors who bought the haircare products had not signed a written agreement that they would comply with the manufacturers’ restrictions, and the courts held that a one-sided directive from the manufacturer was not enforceable.
First Sale Doctrine
The “first sale doctrine” is the legal doctrine that protects the items that you make from copyrighted fabric and sell. Under the first sale doctrine, a copyright owner can enforce its rights the first time it sells an item. After the first sale, the item enters the stream of commerce, and the copyright owner’s control ends. With copyrighted fabric, the first sale occurs when the copyright owner licenses or sells its copyright to the fabric manufacturer. When you purchase the fabric from a fabric store, your purchase is a subsequent sale that the copyright owner cannot control.
In spite of the legal restrictions presented by the first sale doctrine, some copyright holders nevertheless try to enforce their copyright protection against individuals who make and sell items from copyrighted fabric. You may be able to reduce the risk of a rights owner attempting to enforce its rights against you by using a disclaimer when you sell your products. Whether you sell online, at a craft bazaars or in a retail store, it can’t hurt to include a disclaimer on your website, at your booth or on your packaging that clearly states that your products are not associated or affiliated with the original copyright owner.