Copyright Basics for Beadwork

Yes, absolutely get professional legal assistance for all questions pertinent to your art & business. Also know that Intellectual Property laws are not so hard to comprehend. A bit of reading, a little (new) lingo, taking time to query, and invigorating respect for oneself (and for fellow artists) can advance knowledge rapidly. Scroll down for some excellent sources for discussion of copyrights and where to learn more.

What Is a Copyright? A legal right to ownership of one's own work, established by (US) federal law.

Why do we care? Copyright protection affords the artist the ability not only to create and grow, but also to display and publish. Once a work is in tangible form, an artist has legal rights reserved to themselves, which they may choose to keep, or grant permission for all or part of their work to be used by others.

Artists care about copyright not to control a technique (which cannot be copyrighted), but to assert rights regarding ownership of their own work in a tangible form (which can be copyrighted).

A General Example
Think of building a house. No one "owns" the concepts of board or plank, square or rectangle. But when the architectural concept is executed (in written, recorded, or material form) the architect has legal rights to that tangible work. They may set the price to sell the design for personal use only, that is, for an individual to purchase one set of plans and build just their own home. What has been agreed upon is one wonderful house for just the person who purchased.

The same legal copyright interaction is true for much of instructive bead and embroidery art. No one "owns" the concept of bead or thread, stitch technique or color combination. But once a design concept is executed (in written, recorded, or material form) the artist now has enforceable rights to that tangible work. Wearable Art patterns will usually state whether they are for personal use only (one wonderful design for just the person who purchased) or if additional rights are granted.

Don't see the rights you want? The short answer is: ask. Are you a teacher and want to use another artist's concept to instruct in an educational setting? Ask them! Do you wish to make up someone else's design to sell? Get permission! It is true, the artist might not allow you recreate the design for profit, as they may have reserved that legal right for themselves. Or, perhaps they would be willing to grant limited rights (reproduction of a limited number of that design), or they may give (written permission) to use it outright; well worth the trouble to ask, don't you think? You may be surprised at how often a simple query can result in a useful, equitable, or at least an educational, outcome.

Yes of course, get professional legal assistance for all questions pertinent to your art & business.

Bead-media Example
In the illustration (right) it's not the two-needle couching that has a copyright (a technique cannot be copyrighted), but the drawing, and it's accompanying set of directions (whether posted for free or for cost) does have a copyright that the artist owns. This means these materials may NOT be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted or distributed
in ANY way without written permission. (Whew!) So what can do you with Bead-media information? You may print any of our publicly posted webpages for your personal, non-commerical use and you have permission to link to (not take from) our informational pages. As we add PDF documents, we will list any permissions herein. To request written permission for any other use of images or text, email us directly at copyright at Replace the word 'at' with the @ sign.

One example of personal, non-commerical use is using a free bead pattern or purchased beadwork design to enhance one's own wardrobe.

Examples from Bead Artists
Eni Oken, Jewelry Artist
Knows that when you make your own jewelry, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Informing people about real copyrights is an important and valid issue and she states a "simple version of copyrights" on her website, (which she kindly granted permission to list here:)
"What you need to know about Copyrights

  • You CAN use these tutorials to LEARN new techniques;
  • You CANNOT duplicate, distribute or use these texts & images to teach or to lend to friends without Eni Oken's permission.
  • You CAN teach these techniques once you have learned them using YOUR OWN new and original texts and images;
  • You CAN create NEW designs of jewelry using these TECHNIQUES to be sold as commercial products, making sure they are DIFFERENT ENOUGH and not copies of any designer sold jewelry."

See Eni Oken's beautiful bead & wire art; enjoy the many FREE tutorials for gaining basic skills with wire & beads, and take a (paid tutorial) on-line class to learn more.
A very generous website with wonderful galleries, excellent instruction, and clear information of the rights that are bestowed and those that are retained. offers a rich variety of bead designs from many bead artists for download in PDF format. Quite a generous amount of learning here with many FREE beadwork patterns; other clever and pretty designs at nominal cost. Artist Rita Sova invites readers to email if they have questions before purchasing. This pattern-rich website clearly explains: "All patterns, graphics, designs, instructions & images are copyrighted by the Authors. You do not have permission to print extra copies to share with friends, family or to distribute in anyway." If you view the Getting Started Checklist under "New Users", explains their privacy policy, newsletter, and how Adobe Acrobat downloads work (good information!) as well as the agreement for what you are buying and the established copyright, in detail. How very helpful this is to read such information thoroughly, as it clearly explains what is granted!

The Costumer's Manifesto
Created by costumer designer and professor, Tara Maginnis, PhD, from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I've linked to her "how-to" page, and the image (right) to the home page, which should be bookmarked for many return visits to this rich and incredibly generous website about costuming of all kinds. Copyright information is clearly indicated on all pertinent pages, as Ms. Maginnis states: "You may print out any of these pages for non-profit educational use such as school papers, teacher handouts, or wall displays. You may link to any page in my site."

Notice that not all artists grants the same rights; be sure to notice and thoroughly read copyright statements.

Example from Dover Publications

Dover Publications
Well known to artists of all kinds for their design archives and other creative books. Dover’s Rights and Permissions department explained that for any publishing or craft project, "you may use up to ten illustrations from each of as many Dover Clip Art and Pictorial Archive books and CDs as you like without requesting permission." There is a small fee per illustration above the initial ten from any one book for any commercial use (state the number of illustrations and Dover sends you an invoice). Dover further explains,
"You may use our material to illustrate any sort of project but you may not use them to create products which are collections of illustrations for sale to others whether these are books, software, rubber stamps or in any other medium. To do this requires a licensing agreement with Dover." It's easy to contact Dover Publications regarding questions on copyright or to create a licensing agreement through customer service on their website; they are very helpful. Dover carries Pictorial Archive, Clip Art and Electronic Clip art series as well as an extraordinary number of creative design, historical fashion and needlework books (as well as classic texts in every genre).

There are at least a million questions about the details of copyright, obtaining rights, and Fair Use of artful designs and educational craft. Most questions about copyright will have straightforward answers, so it well worth one's time to read some of the FREE US government and other (not very costly) books & info available on the web.

Copyright Discussions & Where to learn more

US Copyright Office, Washington DC
It is all right there for FREE! Get the info, forms and FAQs directly from the federal Copyright Office in Washington, DC. Their website fully explains the use of the little "C" in the circle, the facts about copyright, when and how to register one or several at a time. Be sure to read about the (cheap way) to register a series! Don't be put off because this is a government site, they really have made an effort to make it easy to navigate; the forms are available without cost in text or the easy downloadable PDF format.

Click on the Adobe icon if you need a free copy of Acrobat Reader to view PDF documents. For a little light reading (sic) Cornell University has the Copyright Statute in its entirety at

Ethics 101

at The Bead Bugle!
Talented artist, Alice Korach, who started Bead&Button magazine, who writes informative articles for The Bead Bugle, also creates extraordinary pate de verre glass beads and sculpture. (Click on the image, courtesy of Alice Korach, to learn how she creates this extraordinary art). Read her excellent article regarding copyrights for beadwork at the online bead magazine, The Bead Bugle. Peruse readers' responses as each bead artist brings up useful questions which Ms. Korach discusses and clarifies. Be sure to take time to look around (and bookmark) The Bead Bugle as there is much there for the bead artist, the bead collector and all bead enthusiasts!

The Copyright Guide: A Friendly Handbook to Protecting and Profiting from Copyrights, Third edition The Copyright Guide
Lee Wilson
Artists of all media need information clearly communicated and Allworth Press has several useful books including this easy to read Copyright Guide. This is a helpful handbook for artists (of all kinds) who create or acquire copyrights in their business or personal creative activities. Updated to reflect recent changes in U.S. copyright law, and the impact of the Internet on copyrights, this revised edition covers what can and cannot be protected under current law; duration and scope of protection; notice and registration; how to avoid infringement and what to do if you suspect infringement; how copyrights are exploited in the marketplace; and much more. Veteran intellectual property lawyer Lee Wilson engagingly teaches the ins and outs of copyrights in a logical, progressive fashion, making a complex subject easy-to-understand for the layperson and professional alike. Also included are dozens of real-life examples of both copyright creators and users, detailed checklists to determine fair use of copyrights, guidelines for turning copyrights into income, and easy-to-use form agreements that are alone worth more than the price of the book.

See other craft-business books from Allworth Press.

Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyrighted Materials Online and Off
Richard Stim
ISBN 087337536X
A wonderful book from the very knowledgeable Nolo Press that fully explains how to go about using someone else's material legally. Its step-by-step approach eliminates any mystery about what to do and what to expect. This is a very readable guide regarding the permissions process. It explains Public Domain and Fair Use, how to find someone who owns a copyright and how to request permissions, license and merchandise agreements; includes forms and a CD.
Nolo Press the publishing lawyers ("everyday law for everyday people") have an information rich website. View their FAQ (frequently asked questions) on Copyrights.

cover cover cover

Additional Resources

UC Berkeley offers Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Issues at

CalTech's Copyright Basics at

Kansas State University has an online Tutorial on Copyright Basics at

The Pierce Law Center presents Copyright in Visual Arts at

Artists Rights Society (ARS) has Copyright Basics for Artists at

Rights for Artists also has Copyright Basics at

return to top of Copyright

You have permission to link to this page, and you may print the publicly posted Bead-media pages for your personal, non commercial use.

Pages with limited rights (such as those that have passwords and PDF downloads) are clearly marked with the limited permission granted. To request written permission for any other use of images or text, email us directly at copyright at Replace the word 'at' with the @ sign.