Altering Plans

If I use plans from a book or other source, and the book states that these are not to be made for profit, and I alter the plans, does this still apply?

Rob Johnstone: Those of us in the world of publishing appreciate your concern for doing the right thing when it comes to the plans and the projects we develop. Thanks.

While I am not a legal expert on the subject I think I can provide some sound guidelines. But to do that I am going to give you a two-part answer. First, here at the Journal we have no problem with you building our projects and then selling them for a profit & as unlikely as a woodworker making a profit may be. On the other hand, we would get real exercised and send out the WJ SWAT squad if you sold one of our project articles to another magazine or book. They are copyrighted and protected by law.

Your question seems to be specific to a particular book or plan that claims ownership of the design and is basically allowing the individual who buys the plan to build one or more for “personal use.” I suppose a person could claim that an ultra unique design was their property, providing they went through the required legal steps to prove it and register it somewhere. However, most woodworking projects would not fall into that category. A blanket chest, highboy chest of drawers, pie safe, children’s desk, etc. & these are all things that have hundreds of versions existing in the public domain. It would be a real challenge to claim a version as your own intellectual property or copyrighted design. Be that as it may, to your question, if you modify a set of plans claiming protection can you then sell them with a clear conscience? My answer would be, yes, if you modify them significantly. What does significantly mean? Now you need a lawyer, but basically it would have to pass the reasonable test. Can a person reasonably claim (and demonstrate) that the project is not the same as the one in the plan. Taller, wider, narrower, more or less drawers, that sort of thing.

Larry Stoiaken: I’ll be short and sweet, at least from the point of view of Woodworker’s Journal. What our copyright protects is our “copy.” I don’t mind a bit if you make a project from our magazine and sell it to your mother in law for a huge profit. Good for you. On the other hand, if you photocopy one of our plans and try to resell it on eBay or anywhere else, we will vigorously protect our property. That is a theft and is clearly illegal. And as Rob says above, if you build one of our plans and then sell the resulting project to another magazine as an “original” plan, you’ll have two magazines taking you to court instead of one.

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