Copyright Confusion? What is a stamper to do?

Howdy friends! Remember the good ol’ days? We crafters would buy supplies, make crafts with them and sell some at a craft fair so we could go buy more supplies? Those were the days eh? But now it seems everyone is opening ETSY shops and stores online and selling their handmade items there which I think is fantastic…until you come to the subject of copyright. I have several people this week ask specifically about copyright, specifically if they could use their rubber stamps on cards for sale. Should be a simple yes right? Not always. Watch the video to find everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about crafting and copyright:

I asked my YouTube friends what they thought and we had a spirited discussion (you can read it in the comments section for this video on YouTube) and I found myself learning a thing or two. Did you know that there is a rule called The First Sale Doctrine that allows you to resell licensed items that you paid for. A lady had bough John Deer fabric from a fabric store and made crafts with it and a policeman confiscated all of them at a craft fair saying that you can’t sell copyrighted items…well she bought the fabric and was reselling it right? Hmmmm, there is a lot to think about there.

Here is the list of Angel Companies on the Stamping forum, please chick through to a stamp company in case their terms have changed, I saw one that had. *An angel company is a stamp company that allows you to use their rubber stamped images on cards and crafts for sale. Each company has their own rules so be sure to check.

What IS subject to copyright:
original artwork (drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs)
performances (sound and video recordings)
song lyrics

What is not subject to copyright
utilitarian objects (clothes, furniture)
works of art or song lyrics in the public domain (please note, recording of old music are copyrighted to the performer even though the music is in the public domain, you cannot use the recording without permission)

See also trademark and patent law if you want to get more confused, or you need sleep aid.

Want to weigh in? Leave a comment!

Here are a couple of stamp companies with awesome Angel Policies that I mentioned in the videos but there are so many more. In fact most independent stamp companies are Angel Companies who would not dream of biting the hand that feeds them because if you can make money using their stamps you can buy more stamps!

Lost Coast Designs

About Art Accents/Art Neko (save 10% with coupon code Lindsay10%)

Hambo Stamps

Speaking of stamps I am in W. Springfield MA as you read this getting ready for the Heirloom Productions Rubber Stamp Convention happening this weekend at the Big E. I’ll be there all day Saturday so please say “howdy” if you see me:)

So, what are YOUR thoughts on stamps and copyright, please share your opinion and experiences in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by and til next time happy crafting!


21 Responses

  1. What about companies who have gone out of business? And what if they merge or sell their line? How does one follow that chain? What are the penalties, in that case?
    I am a big proponent of protecting copyrights on goods, especially luxury items like watches and handbags. Not enough is done to police this. So I wonder how much policing and prosecution is done with regard to stamped cards.
    Thank you for the video and for broaching this topic.


    • Hello. I recently watched a utube video on a woman that bought fabric from a fabric store and made a very cute t-shirt with it, for a child. It was fabric from the movie Frozen. She used the fabric to cut out numbers, of the kids ages. Are you able to sell items made with fabric that you buy at the stores? If you could help me find out the answer to this, I would greatly appreciate it. Or let me know who I could contact to find that out that information. I would love to be able to make and sell items cut with my cricut with some fabric like she did.I don’t know where to find this information. Thank you, for this video about the stamps. It very educational.I was looking to make some Christmas tags with a couple of stamps and was searching out if you could sell them. So thank you again.


      • You are not supposed to sell items that use licensed fabric. People have had to remove items from their craft fair booths over this. Any fabric with a copyrighted imaged that the fabric company licensed (Disney, john Deer,Harry potter etc) are for personal use only.


        • You need to review the info at http://www.tabberone,com. You are incorrect in saying these items cannot be sold. There have been many people who have been intimidated by Disney, et. al. but once you mention the Doctrine of first sale, they back off. This doctrine, which is a law passed in 1907(?) and reaffirmed by the SCOTUS in this century, allows you to do whatever you want with a product you purchase, except copy written material and resell or give away. This is how we have libraries and DVD rentals. If the powers that be could prevent libraries and DVD rentals, they would so as to make you buy the product. This also allows thrift shops to sell used books and DVDs. If you have a pattern for something to make, you can make & sell as many as you want as long as you don’t duplicate the pattern itself & sell it. Stamps, like embroidery instructions for a machine are usable and the product made with them can be sold. The originator/designer has already made their money by the sale of their product to you. Anything you make with it may be sold. Once you make the first purchase, that ends the seller’s ability to control it.
          Tabberone took on all the big companies like Disney, Hanna Barbera, etc. (usually without a lawyer!) and won their cases.


  2. This is so interesting. I now have to look at all my stamps, some are really old. I have some barely used PSX stamps, for example, and I just found out they went out of business on 2000. You have done a great job of explaining angel policy.


  3. If you really want to find some accurate info about copyright, go to and click on their Hall of Shame. These people have taken on alot of the big boys like Disney on their own without a lawyer and have won their cases. They cite the rulings and court cases which you don’t usually see. The confiscation of the products you mentioned would result in a very nice lawsuit against the police dept. because they are supposed to know the law and something like that is civil and not criminal (according to hubby w/ 30 yrs in law enforcement & DD who is a prosecutor in TX). If it were not for The Doctrine of First Sale (1907 and reaffirmed by the Supreme Ct in 2008) we would not have public libraries and you could not rent ANY digital material. If there were some way for publishers to make all book readers pay for a copy, you can bet they would! LOL
    Just because an author copyrights their instructional book, they don’t have a right to tell you what you can do with the products you make from that instruction. The only thing they can tell you is that you may not copy their book and share it. Ditto for CDs & DVDs. If you buy a tool and use it to make something, the toolmaker’s right stops at the point that you buy it. What you do with it in making your own stuff is your business. The toolmaker is getting their money from the sale of the tool, not the production of art work. If the tool is a stamp and there are thousands of them out there, the assumption is that they are meant to be used for the purpose they fulfill, i.e. as a stamp to decorate something and you have purchased the right to use that stamp/design in any manner you choose. What you do with the stamped object is your business. Nobody can tell you that something must be for personal use and not used commercially, i.e. put on something to sell. Their right to control that stamp stops once they sell it. The only thing you can’t do is make more stamps in their pattern and dispose of them in any manner. I hope this helps clarify things. Crystal


  4. I am a crafter but I am not trying to sell my creations. Thank you for all the information though, maybe someday I will want to try selling things. 🙂


  5. This is a mixed up world. I bought a Disney Pan to make cakes in my Ice Cream Store and was approached by the police that I couldn’t sell the cake. Disney has the copyright for their designs?????


  6. great information Lindsay!!! TFS!


  7. I read this at saturated canary’s website (she design’s stamps – both rubber and digital): If selling cards or projects using her designs – put some form of acknowledgement that she designed the stamp. Don’t forget to do the same for ourselves. After all, we all work and design our projects. Another helpful hint: when I was the editor of a Star Trek newsletter and wanted to use someone’s artwork or article, I would email them and ask for permission. I would explain who I was, why I wanted it and how the item was going to be used. I was never turned down.


  8. The only reason to buy a stamp is to make something. If I pay $10 for a stamp I believe I should be able to use it to make things–as many as I please, for personal use or resale as long as I do not mass produce the item OR incorporate it into a design that I copyright or patent.

    The artist who designs the image that goes on a stamp should get her money upfront–when she sells that image. If she allows it to be used on a stamp she should expect that it will be used to make many items, including items for resell–because a stamp is a craft item and crafters often make things to sell. The more desirable her artwork the more she can charge upfront when she sells her designs.

    I’ve always heard you won’t get rich selling individually made craft items. Unless of course your items are one of a kind, and in demand and at some point you sell them/the design for a huge price for mass production.

    The best way to make good money on crafts is to come up with an idea that takes little time or money to produce and is in demand to a wide range of people at a price most can afford. Abd it can be done without mass marketing.

    There’s a fellow in Asheville NC that sells small framed watercolor prints for $20 to $30 apiece. He’s not any great talent watercolor wise and once he paints his original 4×6 watercolor he’s done.

    He makes copies onto 5×7 paper; places it in a cheap plastic $1 frame you can buy at Walmart; does a bit of ink drawing on the margin, signs it and adds a heart sticker. There is a thought written in his own hand with ink across the bottom that goes along w/ the image.

    These are very popular due to the location/area he sells them in plus they have their own charm and whimsy–the ‘oh, I love it” factor. And people plunk down their money without giving it a second thought for four reasons imo–it’s ‘artsy’, it appeals to the heart and in the bigger scheme of things it is cheap. And it’s ready to go–already framed.

    My daughter bought one for herself and has since been back and gifted me with one for Mother’s Day. This guy is not a genius, he’s just working smart.


  9. Actually this was totally good information. I do cake decorating and know that I can’t sell copyrighted designs. Wilton is very strict on their policies too, So I was using rubber stamps to stamp an image onto my cakes and cover them with food color and/or icing. This video is a “ah-ha” moment to check with the companies to make sure I can do this.Thanks for all you share!


  10. Great job Lindsay. You have covered the bases. I worked for corporate attorneys for more than 18 years, and for a short time for a patent attorney. I am so very careful in regard to this issue. Who needs the frustration? When in doubt ASK! Personally, I have, like many crafters/stampers, bought stamps, and if someone wants me to do them a “favor,” I simply state that I am not comfortable with their request. END OF STORY, and – no if, ands or buts! Oh! and they get a bought and paid for birthday card ta-boot! How do you truly know what these people are capable of? You don’t.


  11. Hi, Lindsay. regarding copyrights – one theory on copyright is, if you only have a limited number of good ideas, you have to protect the small number you have – but if you know you’re going to get 5 more good ideas the next day, you’ll be moving on with them and not care a fig whether someone who buys something from you is making a little money (how many crafters make big bucks, really?) The confident artist is happy to spread some cheer around. I think Teesha Moore is a perfect example of this philosophy – sharing her art and encouraging yours is what she’s all about. There are others, as your list of angel stamps shows – not to forget you! These are the people who deserve to get our money – and we should be keeping that in mind as we shop.

    I think it’s the decent and fair thing to give credit for a stamp or stencil if you get something you’ve made from it published in a magazine. For a small company, getting credit is a terrific publicity opportunity – although an amazing number of them don’t see it that way.

    I think purchasing a stamp or stencil or pattern from a person or company that wants to control what you do with it ,once they’ve got your money in their pockets, is not a good use of your money. For one thing, better to support the artist or crafter who is being a good friend to other crafters.

    I want to thank you for opening up this topic for discussion – I hadn’t thought it through before, and now I have, I am going to spend my money very differently in the future.


  12. I have re opened my Etsy shop which has sold 43 items since 2008, not a big time manufacturer here. But I will not spend my money on any products or files that will not allow me the opportunity to sell my work. I never share anyone’s files, I agree intent is all of it. I always credit where ever I found my stamp, paper, idea or tutorial on my blog to send more business to the company’s that deserve the credit. I have seen some really nice stuff but I won’t buy it anymore if they don’t have an angel policy or similar in their TOU files, just not worth it. Someone left a comment on my blog once after I had given credit for an item I had purchased and said that was not where I got it from, that it was stolen from another company. I was really insulted, as she made it sound as if I had stolen it! I keep very detailed files so I know who to credit, so I pulled my receipt and approached the company that claimed I stole their work and showed them my receipt, after quite a bit, they had the company I bought from refund me the money, but they never apologized to me for what they said on my blog. It was not my fault that someone bought their work and resold it to me. Loved to hear you weigh in on this. ~Diane


  13. Hi Lindsey, thanks for this information, I am soon to leave the Caribbean where I have lived for past 14years and return to the UK,when I return I want to start a hobby/art stall at weekend’s , and sell homemade cards and my inexpensive artwork, I will take on board your info and be mindful, thanks.


  14. Just attended a talk at the Phoenix Comicon on copyright and fan art/fan fiction hosted by an attorney and her one piece of advice was (excuse the phrase), don’t #$%& with Disney. She said it that way to drive the point home. They will come after you, and no, they are not interested in giving us little people permission to do anything. 🙂


    • “Don’t mess with the mouse!” is a slogan I have heard, I am really surprised at the faux disney stuff I see around…I am surprised at what they can get away with since most of their characters come from classic books that are public domain…good lawyers I guess LOL!
      Same with music too, don’t use song lyrics unless you want to pay.


  15. Sad that police have the time to attend craft fairs. Guess crime is down everywhere. 😉


  16. Have your read this site? stamps are tools, no such thing as Angel policies, they are all made up nonsense. Please read the whole site, not just this link. It may take awhile but its worth the adventure. Stampin up is listed as an example as well as cricut and provo and others.


    • I get so confused on the stamp situation. I do a lot of mixed media and would love to sell digital prints of some of my stuff, but I’m scared to do it because of some of the stamps I may use. And what about stencils? I mean how can you really copyright a polka dot stencil? I think the digital world is a little more scary when it comes to these angel policies. I know I’ve read a lot of policies where it’s okay to make cards, etc, and sell them, but you positively can not do digital prints with the stamps. I mean, come on! What if I want to make a card and then make it into a digital card…that’s not allowed? So confusing.


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