Using Wallpaper in as Background for Wall Art

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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AnnaJM
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Using Wallpaper in as Background for Wall Art

Post by AnnaJM » Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:30 am

Hi all

I am hoping to sell handmade wall art via the site Etsy.

The basis of the wall art is that I am embroidering my own designs which are then attached to a small section of shop bought wallpaper. The wallpaper is essentially just the background of the design.

Does anybody know if incorporating a company's wallpaper (such as Laura Ashley) into my artwork will be an infringement of their design/pattern?

Thanks very much in advance
Anna

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:43 pm

Hi Anna,
If you are using the actual Laura Ashley paper (so making a form of collage) then you are not copying it, but merely employing the original article, much as if you bought a piece of Laura Ashley fabric and made it up into a dress. That is perfectly permissible and is covered by a principle known as exhaustion of rights. This simply means that once a rights owner has sold an article (such as a book or DVD, or in this case, wallpaper) they no longer have any control over how a new owner may dispose of the item by selling, lending or giving it away. The only right the copyright owner retains is the ability to prevent someone making copies of their work and then selling, lending or giving away the copies.
There might be a very slight chance that Laura Ashley could try to make a case that you were passing off your designs as being either Laura Ashley products, or that they were somehow endorsed or authorised by Laura Ashley, but I think that would most unlikely to succeed, on the basis that wall paper is not sold in order to stay rolled up, but to be displayed on the walls of your home, or as in this case, as the background to your own image. The example of a dress made from their fabric is a good one to show why passing off could really not be claimed, since the principal reason why fabric is sold is to be made up into something else.
Even more remote is the possibility that they could claim that your use amounts to derogatory treatment of their work. This is not a copyright infringement and involves moral rights, which I think would incredibly hard to invoke in the case of large-scale manufactured goods.
So in conclusion, I don't think there is any problem with what you propose to do.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

AnnaJM
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Post by AnnaJM » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:51 pm

Hi AndyJ

Thank you very much for your quick and thorough reply.

With huge appreciation
Anna

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