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Does Anyone Know – how to check for copyright

Some of you know me as Felt Sew Crafty as well as Glorious Hats. My passion for vintage, retro and even current sewing patterns has resulted in a large personal collection as well as a search and share hobby business. Recently I’ve been listing to sell a few of the sewing resource books that have helped me along the sewing vintage path. As I scanned this one to list, it occurred to me that this is one that really ought to be available to everyone and instead of listing it to sell would like to scan it and put it up either in my flickr album or on my blog (or maybe both).

Any ideas on how one checks if it is legally permissible to copy and post this book? The copyright date is 1936, 1939, published by The Singer MFG. Co. I’ll start by googleing Singer MFG Co. Thoughts to point me in the right direction will be very appreciated.


About the author: Mostly I sew hats and accessories and lots of my own clothes. Like many others on sew retro I have a passion for patterns and sewing, thus the Etsy site as a way to fuel and share the passion. I also have a blog http://atranquilnook@blogspot.com You can also find me on facebook and flickr as A Tranquil Nook

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Lisette July 5, 2010, 8:48 am

    To be safe, I usually only do PDF listings for items from companies that are now defunct, because the copyright laws are very sticky. If they have renewed their copyrights then they would have another 70 years of copyright on it, but they don't have to tell anyone so there's really no way to know.

  • Phyllis July 5, 2010, 9:01 am

    The Library of Congress has jurisdiction over copyright: http://www.copyright.gov/

    A copyright does not have to be registered to be enforceable, and a PDF does not mean it's not infringement. If you have a question just call the Copyright Office, there is a "contact us" link at the bottom of the page in the link. Federal agencies are pretty good about answering questions from the public, I call them all the time at work.

  • Karen @ Mars Needs Fabric July 5, 2010, 9:01 am

    I don't know about copyright law, but I love how the woman on the cover is diligently sewing while wearing a blouse with floufy sleeves and a bow on her buttoned-up collar!

  • Rosie O'Grady July 5, 2010, 9:08 am

    Very interesting information about copyright. I hope you will post your answer to your dilemma.

  • Tilia July 5, 2010, 9:18 am


    It's still copyrighted, but only by a few more years. But be careful because there is another younger version of the same book printed, so I don't know if that makes a difference.

  • Jane Carlstrom aka Glorious Hats July 5, 2010, 9:20 am

    Wow! you are all great. Thanks so much for quick responses. I did find a phone # for Singer Sewing Co — but alas just a taped message – yikes forgot today is likely a holiday so send email and will call again tomorrow.

    Heading over now to see if I can figure out the LOC now. Thanks Phyllis for the link.

    I've always stuck to selling originals as have been hesitant about selling PDFs as well as posting total book/pattern scans. But with reading Sew Retro and seeing the construction and period questions, thought it would be so helpful to so many to have this one available to all at no charge.

    So agree Karen, the illustration is very fun.

    Again, thank you all so much. I want to do this, but surely do not want to get in trouble.

  • Tilia July 5, 2010, 9:31 am


    Oh this one says the duration is longer than that other link I gave you. I believe this one, since it's what I heard before (the Mickey Mouse case). Anyway, it's still the same, normally it's still protected by copyright. I did find while reading that the US has a thing where you have to re-update your copyright every 28 years or you lose it, so if the company hasn't done that, you might by in luck, but for such a big company I wouldn't depend on it.

  • handbuiltwardrobe July 5, 2010, 1:53 pm


    "Any work published or registered before January 1, 1964,
    must have been renewed by an application for registration
    in the 28th year following the original date of publication or
    registration to continue its term of protection for another
    28 years."

    So what you need to do is find the records for 1936 + 28 years, plus a year on either side to be safe, and see if the copyright was renewed. If it wasn't, you're OK. (IANAL, etc.)

    Not all of the pre-1978 records are online, but a lot are: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/

  • Megan July 9, 2010, 9:46 am

    The year for no copyright – or public domain – is 1923. If it was published before 1923, you're safe and can do whatever you want with it (in America, that is). If it's after 1923, you can check to see if they renewed copyright or not … it gets a bit tricky.

  • Jane Carlstrom aka Glorious Hats July 9, 2010, 3:34 pm

    Thank you all so much. Unfortunately the book I hoped to scan and make available is still under copyright. So I contacted Singer and requested permission to make it freely available online. Permission was denied, so cannot put it up for you. Though I'll keep it as a resource to look up questions that might come up about 1930s to 1950s construction methods. Just won't scan and share. Singer did send a nice denial and answered very quickly. So appreciate that.

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