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Intellectual Property IP Case Studies: Nancy's Stitch Studio

Case study: Nancy's Stitch Studio

Nancy's Stitch Studio – now housed in Busy Bee Quilt Shop in Wellington, Nancy's Stitch Studio also has an online store from which it sells embroidery kits and patterns.

Many of the embroidery designs and patterns on the website are copyright. Thus, no one should copy them without permission. The designs can be divided into four groups, depending upon the level of copyright protection shop owner Mary Self wishes to uphold.

Copyright categories for Nancy's embroidery designs

Fully protected designs

Small pictures or "thumbnails" of designs which are copyright to Nancy's.

Mary does not allow anyone to copy these, so she ensures they are each labelled with the international copyright symbol ®. Another way of protecting these designs is by using technology, for instance providing a degraded image with fewer pixels makes it difficult for anyone to copy the design.

Partially protected designs

Mary wants to allow some copying for non-commercial purposes of certain embroidery designs on Nancy's website. These designs are copyright to Nancy's, but Mary is happy for customers to copy them since it is likely the customers will then purchase the sewing materials from Nancy's.

Mary has decided that one of the new Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand licences (CC NZ) will be ideal for these designs.

She intends to attach the CC BY licence, which allows people to download and share those designs for non-commercial purposes, as long as they acknowledge Nancy's as the copyright owner.

It is important to Mary wants that the designs and patterns are always acknowledged as being created by the original author and sourced from the Nancy's website. This means that Nancy's will get some additional publicity if, for example, the embroidered design is eventually entered into a competition.

CC BY – link to the Creative Commons page "About CC Licences"

The CC BY license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use, and credit must be given to the creator.

Links to free designs

The Nancy's website contains links to large manufacturers and retailers such as Bernina, who provide free patterns and designs for downloading or copying.

These patterns and designs are now in the public domain as the manufacturers and retailers who provide them have made it clear that they do not intend to enforce any copyright in the patterns and designs. By doing this, the manufacturers and retailers hope that customers will use their products to sew the patterns and designs.

Artist's designs

Some textile artists produce embroidery designs as a sideline from their main work. While the designs are copyright to the artists, often the artists do not mind if people copy their embroidery designs so long as they attribute them to the original artist.This is a way of getting publicity for their main work as textile artists.

Mary would like CC NZ to provide another form of licence that she could attach to these designs. The new licence would allow people to download and share the copyright designs provided they:

  • acknowledge the artist-designer as copyright owner
  • acknowledge Nancy's as the retail source of the works.

This latter could only be done with the consent of the copyright owner.


Developed for the Technology Online site from a study by Susan Corbett, Louise Starkey and Ann Bondy, Victoria University of Wellington

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