"Intellectual property" is a recent term-of-art, and historically, it's been about copyright as a metaphor for property. On the other hand, selling textiles has been around for millennia, and there's nothing metaphorical about your ability to truly own the shirt on your back.
In the name of preserving a muddy metaphor about property, we're increasingly willing to abandon real property. It's a kind of feudalism, wherein people who can lay some claim to "copyrightable expression" (whether it's a fabric design, the software in a car engine, or the movie on a DVD) are the only people in the world who get to possess real property, while we peons are stuck with being pathetic licensors whose only remedy, if we don't like the license terms on offer, is to try to find another feudal lord who'll cut us a better deal.
Ever wonder why your butcher, the kid who sewed your shoes, or the woman who picked your fruit can't get the same kind of deal? Why should screening a design on a bolt of fabric magically confer the right to turn what's obviously a sale into a non-negotiable license, but not doing back-breaking stoop-labor?
*Please note: This fabric can be purchased for personal sewing projects only. This print cannot be used for items made for resale.Link (Thanks, Leontine!)
Update: Scott sez, "I'll just point out that the law is not on their side under the First Sale doctrine. See Precious Moments v. La Infantil, 971 F. Supp. 66 (D.P.R. 1997) (finding that first sale doctrine permitted defendant bedding manufacturer to utilize lawfully acquired fabrics imprinted with the plaintiff's copyrighted work). "
Update 2: Reprodepot have posted a response:
Years ago, we had had a problem with a few people making children's clothing with her fabric, and selling them on Ebay while using her company's name which was hurting her business. The text was posted specifically as a deterrent to those people.Asking people not to falsely advertise their products is sane and sensible (though it wouldn't be false advertising to say, "This was made from official Heather Ross fabric" if it was true). Asking people not to make commercial uses is also appropriate if that's what it is -- a request.
We are very aware that we could never enforce such a rule and it was never intended to be taken as a threat of legal action or to be taken as a blanket rule for all of the products on our website. We have reworded the statement it so it is understood as a request (our initial intent), not a demand.
It's nice to hear that it was intended as a request, but that's not how it was worded. There's not much ambguity in "This print cannot be used for items made for resale." That's a requirement, not a request. A request might run more like the phrasing in the response, "The artist has asked us to ask you to use this for your personal projects and not for resale projects."
Over the morning, I've heard from readers who report similar language on fabric for sale at Wal-Mart and other retailers. The idea that you can sell someone something, but not really sell it, is pervasive. It's a subtle and widespread attack on property.
Norms are a good thing. Asking a dinner guest not to steal the silverware is fine. Locking down the spoons is anti-social.
I've been a fan of Reprodepot since Mark blogged them here in 2002. It's good to hear that they're clarifying the way they interact with their customers.
Update 3: Heather Ross has asked me to say that she doesn't enforce any policies limiting the reuse of fabric bearing her designs.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.