|Dragon Applique Quilt made by Charlotte Scott. Pattern availabe for purchase at AotearoaQuiltDesign on Etsy|
Amongst seasoned quilters, it is the expected norm when showing photos of quilts from a show or exhibition, to also share the makers details, and designers and quilters as well if they are different from the maker. When professional organisations, such as SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associated) call for photos for a catalogue, they also ask for the photographers name if it wasn't the artist.
But in the more casual arena of hobby quilters and the uninitiated non-quilting masses who visit quilt shows, it is quite common to see a whole slew of 'eye-candy' shared on social media, without the similtaneous sharing of makers and/or designers and quilters details.
Big can of worms.
As an artist, if I share my quilt in an exhibition, it's disappointing to then have it shared willy nilly across the world without people knowing who made it. And yes, I say across the world, because with social media, we truly do have a global audience for anything we share.
It's also contributing to copyright infringements. If Jane shares a photo of a 'lovely quilt' that she saw at her local show, Mary sees it on Facebook and shares the post, Mary's friend Lily, who doesn't know Jane, sees it and shares it too. Several shares down the road, perhaps to Instagram, then to Pinterest, Louise sees the 'lovely quilt' and decides she wants to make one too. What she doesn't realise (because Jane never shared the details of the maker or designer) is that this is a quilt made from a commercial pattern that is offered for sale by a small-business designer. Louise copies the design and makes her own 'lovely quilt'. Louise would have preferred to buy a pattern (the hard work already done for her) but she didn't know who made it or designed it. She puts the quilt in her local show. The small-business designer misses out on a pattern sale, and when Louise's quilt is judged, the judge happens to know that this is a quilt from a pattern, which Louise has not credited and so Louise is penalised.
The great thing about all of this is that it's really easy to share details of the makers! Digital cameras and phones are the perfect tool. You can take a snap of the quilt, then immediately take a snap of the quilt label. Share them both! Even better, write the name of the maker etc in the caption of the quilt photo and then ALSO share the photo of the label. Then no one has any excuses that they didn't know the maker's details.
Artists can protect themselves to some degree by adding a watermark across their photographs, but this will only protect those photos that they share themselves. We need to rely on the community to also do the right thing.
But I think the show organisers need to help the community do the right thing too. The last big show I went to did not have an photography policy advertised, or if it did, it was not obvious enough for me to have noticed. It would be very easy to have a notice posted that says simply that photography is allowed, but that makers must be credited if photographs are shared in the public domain.
Quilts Inc, who run The International Quilt Festival in Houston, have clear photography rules in their brochure, which state: "You must include an artist credit and note that the photos were taken at International Quilt Festival. This helps us protect the rights of quiltmakers." That's a pretty straightforward statement that would be difficult to misinterpret, but it would also be helpful to have it prominently displayed at the entrance and in several places around the exhibitions.
And back to the community, if we see people sharing photos of quilts without crediting the relevant artists, we need to gently educate them. I belive that most of the uncredited sharing is due to basic ignorance of this issue, rather than disregard and malice, so be calm and pleasant in your education!
There are many more aspects to the discussion on sharing and copyright that I haven't covered, but I think this is the important tip of the iceberg. With so many recent and upcoming quilt exhibitions, and the ever increasing reach and use of social media, it's an issue that needs more discussion.
Brenda Gael Smith, of Serendipity Patchwork and Quilting, has a much deeper knowledge of copyright than me and has kindly pointed me in the direction of a short article by Austin Kleon called 'Credit is Always Due' and also the relevant section of the NZ Copyright Act 1994 that deals with sharing work for the purposes of reporting current events, or for review. Both are well worth a quick read.
So please, give credit when sharing other peoples work, encourage others to do the same, and don't share work if you don't know who made it.