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Thread: Copyright questions with wood working plans

  1. #1
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    Copyright questions with wood working plans

    There is a person, that has designed very crazy looking squirrel houses. All kinds of fancy, moving parts, and such.
    He sells the plans to make these squirrel houses in print form, as pdf, and as dxf. He does not sell kits, nor parts. Plans only.
    Oh his policy page, he writes the following:

    Copyright Policy
    I do not grant my permission for use of my designs for commercial or institutional use; you may not sell works made from my plans for profit.
    ===================

    So, I bought one of his plans, for $50.

    Questions:

    1. Does that mean if I spend $100 bucks on the wood to make this squirrel house , that one day, if I wish to sell it, I can not sell it for more than $100 + $50 ? I'm curious why an author of such plans would care if I profited from my build. Afterall, he got his $50 for the plans....so isn't he satisfied? I must be missing something, in this regard....

    2. My neighbor loves the squirrel house, and wants me to make one for her. I told her she would need to buy the plan (or I'd buy a set of plans for her), and then I will build it for her, for $100. Would doing so, be in violation of the plans copyright?


    3. If I buy 5 plans, would it be legal to make 5 houses, and sell them at a flea-market, as long as I also included an original set of plans, and proof of purchase, with each of them?

    =====
    Please understand, I am not trying to "get away with" anything here, nor am I trying to short-change the author of the plans. I love the plans, and I think they are well worth the money he's asking for them. Since the author does not sell any parts, nor kits, I'd think he stands to make a significant amount of additional plan sales, thru me, since I'd like to sell kits of his plans. Lastly, I've reached out to the author, and have not gotten any reply.

    I'm very curious of the thoughts of others....
    Last edited by dirk martin; 06-10-2024 at 12:00 AM.

  2. #2
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    His statement says you can not sell (commercial use) any of his squirrel houses. Period. No one with a set of plans can exchange money on a squirrel house.
    Last edited by Richard Coers; 06-10-2024 at 12:30 AM.

  3. #3
    Practical: There is no way you'll have a problem from making something for your neighbor, even if she pays $300.
    Ethical: I think the author has control issues, selling one item wouldn't bug my ethics.
    Legal: I'm certainly not qualified to speak to this. The author definitely can control reproducing the actual plans; I suspect it's a gray area how much the author can control what you build.

  4. #4
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    When you buy his plans, he grants you a license to use them for noncommercial purposes. You can use the plans to make as many squirrel houses as you like and do with them what you will, as long as you don't sell them. If your neighbor bought materials (say, from you, at cost), you would be able to use materials she gave you to make a squirrel house that you could then give her as a gift.

  5. #5
    For copyrighted boat plans most authors only want you to produce one boat. In most cases you are free to do what you want with the boat. For additional builds from the same plan a surcharge is requested for each boat. Whenever I can I produce my own designs or use public domain plans. The last set of plans I purchased are from Bill Fitzmaurice. I do not see any copyright guidelines anywhere on his website.

  6. #6
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    It seems to me that if you agree to the purchase terms you are entering into a contract with the seller to use the copyright materials under the specified terms, which seem fairly clear. Such contracts are virtually always subject to negotiation. I'd write to the seller and ask for permission to make one for your neighbor, offering an additional payment if required. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is "thank you for asking, just do it"; that's not the kind of commercial use he's trying to protect himself against. Start selling them on Etsy and you can expect a cease and desist letter.

  7. #7
    I think it's a bit murky and a copyright lawyer would be best to answer but IMO,
    One you've purchased the plans, you can do what you want. He basically sold you a copy of his intellectual property. He just doesn't want his plans to be used for you to mass produce, using his ideas to stock your shelves in a commercial setting.
    If he's that concerned, he should either charge a licensing fee for every squirrel house a plan purchaser builds, (not sure how he'd do that) or stop selling plans.

    You bought the plans, he's been paid, all good.
    Change an element or two of the plan, enough so that it's different and you're good to go.

  8. #8
    [QUOTE=dirk martin;3319705]There is a person, that has designed very crazy looking squirrel houses. All kinds of fancy, moving parts, and such.
    He sells the plans to make these squirrel houses in print form, as pdf, and as dxf. He does not sell kits, nor parts. Plans only.
    Oh his policy page, he writes the following:

    Copyright Policy
    I do not grant my permission for use of my designs for commercial or institutional use; you may not sell works made from my plans for profit.
    ===================

    So, I bought one of his plans, for $50.

    /QUOTE]

    I don't see anything there that limits you to one build per plan unless I am missing something. Also gifting one is not selling for profit.
    Last edited by Ron Citerone; 06-10-2024 at 8:39 AM.

  9. #9
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    The plan author is clear what their wishes are relative to the use of their plans. Regardless of the legal aspect, I would personally honor that. It would be a moral thing for me. There is nothing that precludes someone from doing their own design based on the same concept, however. A lot of what we do in woodworking is influenced by others' work. The key is "influence".

    There are many plans available on the market that have similar language about commercial/resale use. It's not unusual. Shawn from Four Eyes actually had an incident he noted in a video not all that long ago, although he ultimately gave a pass for his own reasons.

    Making one for your neighbor out of your kindness with either of you providing the material likely wouldn't be an issue if you are not charging for your time.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 06-10-2024 at 8:49 AM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
    I agree with what others have said. I think you can build as many copies as you want, from the single set of plans you already bought. And you can buy the wood or she can. But you cannot make any profit on it.

    I suspect his real intent is that somebody doesn’t set up a production line to make/sell a bunch of these without him ever seeing any of the profits.
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 06-10-2024 at 8:48 AM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

    “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

  11. #11
    Better idea:

    Rather than speculate, contact the copyright owner and get permission. They probably just don't want some company to come in and start selling their design for cheap and stiff them on their fair share of the profits. They probably don't care if you sell one, or buy a set of plans for each that you sell, thus sharing your profits with the copyright owner. But you'll never know unless you ask.

  12. #12
    How you feel about your negotiations or contract with the artist is up to you, and good for you for caring.
    Legally, one question no one asked is did the artist/author actually register the copyright, and when?

    I can tell you approximately how it works for publishing.
    As author i own the copyright to a number of published practical/technical articles in a couple magazines, from way back when there were actual print magazines

    At the time (rules change). Loosely: if not registered, i morally owned the rights to my work, and no one could mess with that. However, i could not recoup damages if someone else used it other than cost myself effort and send them nasty letters (remember print letters by postal service!) or even engage a lawyer on my behalf if i had money to burn.
    If registered, i could sue them with a high probability of winning or at least winning a settlement if i chose a venue distant/inconvenient for them to appear, for 3x their illicit _profits_
    As anyone in business knows.....and the IRS routinely contests......define "profits".

    Case #1: FWIW, one time i wrote a series of 3 articles and registered them. After the usual wait, a pile of notices from the copyright and patent office returned in the mail and i tossed them in the file drawer with all the others, un-opened.
    After a lapse, some more came, i did the same thing. A couple years later, i noticed my work was being republished for profit in book form, by the original magazine that bought the articles for one-time-use-only. Per a request by them, i had also forbidden them to use it in the compendium without another stipend to me (which they declined to offer). AHA! I said to myself and rushed to the file drawer to prepare my legal case. To my chagrin when i opened the un-opened letters from the copyright office, they were notices that the rates had gone up and that the checks i had sent with the registration docs were not sufficient, and if i did not pony up another $5 per, they would be null and void.
    The magazine never published any articles of mine that had registrations. They clearly checked, and had no qualms about using material that had not been correctly registered. Even materials that i had expressly forbidden them to use again.

    Case #2 A rather popular kit supplier for owner-build tools used (sold) one of my copyrighted magazine articles for years to help sell and to help explain how to build some of his planes. I believe he had some deal with the original publisher, so both of them were illicitly making money of my original registered, copyrighted articles. My guess is that the total sums barely made it past 4 figures, and i never bothered to ask either one. Perhaps it added to my 5 seconds of fame somewhere in the world.

    Major point i like to make:
    Copyright and patent only works because a whole bunch of people, not the original artist, can make a stinkpot of money.
    The music business & show business were among the poorest in the world until publishers, administrators, agents, managers, and lawyers found they could get lifetime luxury employment for controlling it.
    If carpenters got the same protection and advantages as song writers, we'd get a royalty every time someone opened & went through a fancy door we made, or climbed an interesting staircase we designed, certainly in a commercial setting.

    Oops - kick - here's the soapbox back!

    smt

    PS: In the case of a boat or an airplane (my familiarity) a copyright owner could mess with your ability to register it since they include a specific serial # with each set of plans. Assuming they were aware of the second or 3rd copy you generated from a single set of plans. However, most owner-built items of that type are changed enough that they can become original designs anyway. Even then, it is unlikely that their protest would engender more than a momentary nuisance, if you were not commercially producing them for profit to all comers. For your second private iteration from the original set of plans, instead of registering it as a "Sonerai 2LT Serial # 252" You could just register it as "SMT Special Serial # 001" I'm not condoning any such practice, just noting how things actually go in the big wide whirrled. That aside, there is no moral or legal restriction to selling the one copy you made from each set of plans for as much as you can get. You can make as big a profit as the market will stand from each single iteration with a correct paper trail.
    Last edited by stephen thomas; 06-10-2024 at 9:59 AM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maurice Mcmurry View Post
    For copyrighted boat plans most authors only want you to produce one boat.
    But why, Murice? Why would I care if you made 1, or 100 boats from my plans?....as long as you bought a set of plans for each build....

    Quote Originally Posted by Maurice Mcmurry View Post
    For additional builds from the same plan a surcharge is requested for each boat.
    This author isn't offering a provision of a "surcharge", which is why I would purchase a seperate plan, for each build.

    I see more than one reply suggesting that the plan author does not was someone setting up a business, making a ba-jillion of of his squirrel houses. The reason that makes no sense to me is that that suggests he's ok with 10,000 different people buying his squirrel house plans, and making them, but he's not ok with one person buying 10,000 of his plans and making them. I mean, in essence, isn't that what he is saying?

    And, if I buy your boat plans, can you really legally dictate how much I can sell the boat for?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Weber View Post
    He just doesn't want his plans to be used for you to mass produce, using his ideas to stock your shelves in a commercial setting.
    That's the part I don't get, Ed. Why would he care, AS LONG AS I BOUGHT A PLAN for each one?

  15. #15
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    Lookup First Sale (Exhaustion) Doctrine under US copyright law.

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