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Copyright and Sublimating

This year TaggerWear has started a new service: printing -- or sublimating -- fabric for custom swimsuits.

So what is different?

Being able to print the fabric for swimsuits means that we've gained the ability to create more complex designs. Using illustration software we can create designs, images, drawings, patterns, or pretty much anything you can dream up.

But there is a caveat to that: Since we are not using fabric to create the patterns, it means we are redrawing design changes. The means that the work to create the design is more labour intensive than the sewing.

With cut & sew garments, the labour is in the sewing. Patterns need to be cut out, fabric needs to be cut out, and all the pieces sewn together to create the design. Often hours of work goes into creating a sparkly fabric design. Hence the higher cost, and the limitation on what is possible for a reasonable cost.

In dye-sublimation, all the work is up front. There are no paper patterns to print, no fabric pieces to cut out, and sewing the garment together is straight forward. BUT -- creating the design -- is drawing on the computer.

We often go directly to computer to create the design, but for more complex designs we work from a hand drawing. This is why, when the design changes completely, it creates more expense. We have to redraw the design again.

Creating a swimsuit design on computer takes roughly an hour on average. Some are more time-consuming - such as intricate patterns - some are very quick. What about copying someone else's design? While this is common practice, copying a design from someone else is not as easy as you would think, nor should it be done exactly. Why not? Well copyright is the main reason. The original design was created by someone else. They put their creativity into it, and their time, and their skill. To copy their design exactly is stealing.

The fashion industry in general is full of copycats. You cannot go to a boutique in any mall without seeing knock-offs of St. Laurent, Guccci, or any other high profile designer. While is it practiced, it is not right. Designers create new design, knowing that someone is going to copy it. There is no copyright on fashion. But there is a copyright on the fabric.

Unique fabric, copyrighted images, trademarks, all these are protected against plagiarism by law. If you get caught, you could be sued. Why? Because, it's artwork.

We looked up these laws, specifically pertaining to design on fabric because we have been asked over and over to reproduce someone else's design exactly. So here's our general response:

We cannot copy someone else's artwork exactly. It is a violation of copyright. The specific combination of colours, objects, arrangement, etc, is a work of art, and therefore protected against theft by reproduction.

We can borrow the ideas, and create a new and unique piece of artwork that is your design. Just as copying a painting for your own use is forgery, copying another's fabric design is forgery.

So how do we deal with the customers who ask us to copy something else exactly? We have to tell them that we cannot copy something exactly. We can use the ideas to create something new that is similar, but it cannot be an exact copy. Besides, copying a work of art without having the original beside you is nearly impossible anyway. You will never get it exact.

Here's another useful piece of information when asking someone to copy a design for you: provide a large high-resolution image so that the person doing your work can actually see what it is you want to use. A thumbnail image from the internet is not good enough. Sorry.

Copying and pasting images from high-profile designs such as Olympic athletes is also risky, especially within the same sport. While it is unlikely that the original designer will litigate, it is not impossible. Some people are very protective of their work, and have no patience for those who would copy without permission.

It is NOT true that asking for forgiveness afterward is easier. According to the law, you must ask for permission BEFORE.