Tips for sewing bloggers: Lawyer Rachel Fischbein on copyright, privacy and giveaways

Rachel Fischbein - Law on the Runway founderLaw and fashion may seem like an incongruous combination but San Francisco lawyer Rachel Fischbein has had an interest in both since high school. Back then she was part of a group of students who picked apart donated clothes, sewed them into something new and then donated the refashioned garments to a women’s shelter. Rachel was also on the high school mock trial team. She studied fashion marketing in college and then went on to law school at Santa Clara University.

Rachel opened her law firm, Law On The Runway, right out of law school. “My clients are fashion bloggers, fashion models, social media mavens, lifestyle personalities, brands, fashion entrepreneurs, and pattern makers,” says Rachel.

I met Rachel this summer when she gave a fascinating presentation on privacy and copyright law at an attorney luncheon. She discussed intellectual property rights in the fashion industry and touched on the intriguing topic of privacy law and wearable technology (how do you handle user data collected by wearables – everything from heart rate to GPS location?), and the FTC regulations of social media and blogging.

Law on the Runway logoAs soon as her talk was over, I asked if I could interview her for my blog. I thought she’d have a great perspective for sewing bloggers. And to my great pleasure, she said, “yes.” Her firm has a cool logo, doesn’t it?

In our conversation, I presented her with several scenarios that will be very familiar to sewing bloggers:

  1. If you get a sewing book or pattern for free to review, do you need to disclose that fact?
  2. Can you post photos from other blogs or publishers without permission?
  3. Can you photograph a sewing pattern and post it on your blog?
  4. What do you need to disclose if you host a giveaway on your blog or social media account?
  5. Do sewing bloggers need a privacy policy posted on their blog?
  6. What do you need to know if you want to have music in the background of your video or vlog?

Then I created the list of tips below based on Rachel’s answers. I’m not a lawyer, so you’re getting my journalist’s interpretation. I wrote the sentences that are in bold type and the edited comments that follow are Rachel’s. Additional comments in italics and [brackets] are mine.

If you’re new to blogging or if you don’t have a big audience, you may think you don’t need to worry about any of these things. But should you get unexpected attention and become well-known, you could run into some expensive legal problems so it’s good to be aware of these tips for sewing bloggers. Also, this post is not comprehensive. I picked a few of the things that I see most often. Some of these tips may be familiar to you but you may be surprised by a few of them.

I used to work for a legal magazine and lawyers always include a disclaimer. So here’s Rachel’s: “This was an informational interview not to be used as legal advice. Consult an attorney before drafting any agreement or using other people’s intellectual property.”
What every sewing blogger shoud know about copyright, privacy, and giveaways

Now without any further ado, here are six tips for sewing bloggers on copyright, privacy, and giveaways:

  1. If you get something for free to review, such as a sewing book or a sewing pattern, you must disclose that fact.
    “Under the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) regulation on endorsements, you must disclose to the readers that you got a free copy,” notes Rachel Fischbein. “Native advertising is a product review and you are receiving a benefit, a free copy.”
    ***[You’ll see many sewing bloggers mention that they received the book/pattern for free. It’s important to mention this up front rather than at the end of the post. In my review of Basic Black, a Japanese sewing book, I mentioned in the second paragraph that I got the book for free and that I was not being paid to review the book. Here’s a link to the FTC’s Endorsements Guides.–CS]
  2. Do not post other people’s photos without permission – whether they are photos you take of a two-page photo spread in a sewing book or photos of a sewing blogger’s completed garments.
    Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - csews.com
    “Talk with the publishers about which images can be used from the book, whether or not you can snap photos from the book yourself or if they will send pre-approved images that you can post,” says Rachel. “Usually publishers are thrilled to have organic promotion. The same thing goes with apparel designers but you want to ask for permission. There are fair use rights for copyright. If you are just trying to identify the work, not the work itself, show a photo of just a part of the book, like the cover. You want to be respectful of other people’s work. If a publisher has gone through all the time and effort, they don’t want the book to be reposted online. The photographs of the completed garment are owned by the blogger who posted it. They have a copyright on it. Technically you should ask the blogger if it’s OK to post. Ask for right of attribution. Photo taken by ____, this is her work.”
    ***[You may think you’re doing someone a favor by promoting their event or blog so you can just use their photo but it’s not your photo so ask for permission. It’s also a matter of courtesy. Don’t assume anything. For example, last week, I asked Joie, Britex Fabrics marketing maven, if I could use the image (four photos of the designers) the store was using to promote the PROJKT Maiden Lane fashion show. I’m hosting a giveaway for a ticket to the event on my blog and I was promoting the show. I wanted my post to go live the next day Britex needed to get permission from each of the designers in the photos so I couldn’t use it.–CS]
  3. Be careful of how much you reveal of a sewing pattern. Kathryn top - Itch to Stitch - UpCraft Club - csews.com
    “You can’t reproduce any work or make copies,” says Rachel. “If you’re trying to show a pattern you’re using, take a small photo of part of the pattern but do not give away the value of it. If you buy a book and there’s a pattern in it and you post a photo of the [entire] pattern, you’ve likely infringed on the copyright of that publisher.”
  4. If you host a giveaway on your blog or on Instagram or other social media, you are holding a contest or a sweepstakes – and they each have different rules that you need to disclose. [Yes, this was a bit of  shocker to me.-CS]
    “You need to figure out if the giveaway will be a sweepstakes,” says Rachel, “picking a winner at random, or a contest – picking on the basis of skill for an entry. A contest of skill could be choosing one winner based on a thoughtful response, for example, explaining their desire for the book. If [the winner is chosen randomly], it must be easy to enter the giveaway – a quick ‘like’ or retweet for a contest entry. If you require anything that takes skill, time, or money, then you’ve moved into the lottery level. Lotteries are illegal. When it comes to giveaways and sweepstakes – you need to consider state and federal rules.”
    ***[Note: Every state has its own rules, which means all 50 states, 50 sets of rules.–CS] “Ask the publisher of the book to provide rules or guidelines for your giveaway,” says Rachel. “Ask them: ‘How are we going to create the rules of the giveaway? There are certain disclosures that must be made, for example, people’s odds of winning. Contests require a set of rules. Can you provide a set of rules for the contest?’ Then you can link to the rules. It would be good to have advice of an attorney or ask the publisher to provide an approved list of rules from the publisher’s attorneys. Contests generally have shorter rules as opposed to sweepstakes.The same rules apply [for giveaways on] Instagram, Facebook. Create a shortened bitlink that will go to the rules.”
    ***[Note: Rafflecopter provides contest rules as a courtesy to people who use the service but they are careful to say that you are responsible for complying with the law. I used Rafflecopter for my contest to win a ticket to the PROJKT Maiden Lane fashion show.–CS]
  5. If you collect any personally identifiable information, such as someone’s email address, you must post a privacy policy. 
    Contact us page - CSews.com
    “If you have a ‘contact us’ form, a newsletter sign-up form, a contest form, or if you collect emails from people who comment,” notes Rachel, “you are collecting personal information and you must have a privacy policy. Anytime anyone gives personally identifiable information on your website, you should have a clearly stated privacy policy posted on first page of your website. The privacy policy explains what you do with people’s personal information, how you store it, whether you are tracking people’s cookies, whether there are web beacons involved. Terms of use – a contract between you and your users – are not required.”
    ***[See Rachel’s post on legal issues for fashion bloggers, particularly last section on privacy policies. I was surprised that commenting or a “contact us” form meant you needed a privacy policy. But it makes sense because you are collecting emails. If you don’t have a privacy policy on your home page, do it now. I added a privacy policy when I started my C Sews newsletter this summer because Mailchimp requires a link to a privacy policy. Here’s my privacy policy, which you can also see as a footer link on my home page.–CS]
  6. If you post a video or have a vlog, pay attention to your background music.
    “You want to use music that you have a license for,” says Rachel. “There are websites that allow you to download pieces of music that are rights-free music or music that you can get a license for.”
    ***[Note: If you use a band’s music in the background and your video goes viral, you could be sued by the band or their music label for using their music without permission.–CS]

Thank you, Rachel for taking the time to chat with me about these issues! Rachel is at Burning Man (how cool is that?) so she has not read this post yet. She doesn’t take any electronic devices with her to Burning Man because of all the dust and sand. So I’ll close by repeating Rachel’s disclaimer: This was an informational interview not to be used as legal advice. Consult an attorney before drafting any agreement or using other people’s intellectual property.

Sewing bloggers: Tips from lawyer Rachel Fischbein on copyright, privacy + giveaways
6 essential tips every sewing blogger should know about copyright, privacy and giveaways.

Blog Hop: Four Questions and Answers

Blog hop - four questions and answers - csews.com

I was recently nominated by the lovely Olgalyn Jolly of O! Jolly! Crafting Fashion, to participate in a blog hop in which each participant answers four questions. If you haven’t run across Olgalyn’s blog or on social media, she’s a knit textile designer and she writes about the wide range of fabrics she designs on her knitting machine as well as what she creates from her fabrics (sweaters, dresses, hats, cardigans, etc.) You can read Olgalyn’s answers on her blog here.

And here are my answers…

1. Why do I write?

I initially began this blog to learn a content management system (in this case WordPress) and to write about something I enjoyed doing. I thought a sewing blog would be a nice contrast to the third-person articles I edit for the legal magazine I work for. And it’s definitely a lot easier to write for my blog! I also thought it would be a good way to track my progress on various projects and see how my sewing skills have improved.

Bias tape for the Trench - csews.comAt first, I was more focused on developing a voice, learning WordPress, and getting better with taking photos using the timer on my camera. Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered that I like writing detailed posts on some of the clothes I’ve made, describing the steps I took to make something or the options I considered before I started sewing something. I like sharing information and hope that some of it is helpful to others.

Along the way, I’ve “met” via social media many other sewing bloggers who have offered me helpful advice when I’ve been stuck on a project. On Instagram, I’ve had help from @sewbrooke, @knitnbee, @kid_md, and many more. I really enjoy seeing what people are working on. My only regret these days is that I haven’t had as much time to visit other people’s blogs. So I’m mainly checking IG to see what folks are up to.

2. What am I working on?

At the moment, I’ve got a few things going on. I’ve just started making the 1952 Wrap Blouse by Decades of Style and I’m going to be sewing up a muslin for a vintage Vogue knit dress. You can read about them in this post: WIPs 1952 Wrap Blouse and Vintage Vogue Pattern.

I’m also working on a tutorial for a drawstring bag and I’m preparing to teach a class next Thursday, Nov. 13, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Makeshift Society: Learn to Make a Fabric Drawstring Gift Bag!

Drawstrings bag - csews.com

Oh, and this Saturday, I’ve coordinated a meetup to discuss slippery and fiddly fabrics at Britex Fabrics for the Bay Area Sewists meetup group. We’ll be getting a personal tour of the store and we’ll be meeting upstairs to discuss fabric. As the organizer, I arrange monthly meetups for the group. It’s been great to meet more sewing bloggers in person at our events. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, please let me know, and if there’s space, you can be our guest. 🙂

3. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

When it comes to sewing, I don’t think my blog is unique from others in its genre but maybe the one area where it does differ is that you’ll see my hats in various photos. I have a big collection and you’ll see me wearing one in every photo of me on this blog. I wear hats everyday. I’ve also made a few hats on my sewing machine and I’ve taken a couple of millinery classes. Sometimes I write about hats on this blog. I went through a cap-making phase a while ago – drafting a six-section hat and making several versions before making one that looked good on my husband. 😉

Vintage black hat - csews.com

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with photos, which help me decide where to start. If I’m writing about a garment I’ve made, I may include several photos describing how or why I did something. The photos help me remember what I did. Though sometimes it takes me a looooong time to get to the writing!

Thanks for reading my answers!

Now I’m supposed to nominate two bloggers to answer these questions. I nominate Kirsty of Tea and Rainbows. I first met Kirsty via Twitter (@kirstyteacat) and then I met her in person when I became the next organizer for Bay Area Sewists. Kirsty helped me with the first meetup I organized – a pattern swap. She made labels for the various categories (dresses, skirts, pants, etc.). She also helped me check out and eliminate possible venues for the meetup. She was living in Berkeley at the time because her husband was in grad school but now she’s in Auckland. I also nominate Loran of Loran’s World. I first met Loran via social media and then in person at one of the Bay Area Sewists meetups I organized earlier this year. Loran makes many lovely clothes, often from vintage patterns or vintage fabric. She’s worked as a costumer and has plenty of fitting experience. We’ve both made Decades of Style’s 1940s Girl Friday Blouse. One of these days we’ll get together and wear our versions on the same day. I hope you can each answer the four questions!


Off topic – If you have adventurous musical tastes or just have a love of great music, check out my husband’s new blog Sound Projections. Actually, he hates the word “blog” so he calls it an online magazine. Here’s what he says in the intro:

This online magazine features the very best in contemporary creative music in this creative timezone NOW (the one we’re living in) as well as that of the historical past. The purpose is to openly explore, examine, investigate, reflect on, studiously critique, and take opulent pleasure in the sonic and aural dimensions of human experience known and identified to us as MUSIC. …

He’ll be writing and editing about a wide range of musicians and singers, everyone from jazz (Miles Davis) and rock (Jimi Hendrix) to pop (Janelle Monae) and blues (Gary Clark). Check it out!

A Liebster Award Nomination!

Liebster Award

The talented Melanie of The Seeds of 3 nominated my blog for a Liebster Award – THANK YOU, Melanie! The Liebster Award is for bloggers with fewer than 500 followers. One part of receiving this acknowledgment is to pay it forward and list eleven other blogs with fewer than 500 followers as well as answer and ask questions. And Melanie listed mine in her post, which you can read here.

For some reason, I didn’t get pinged that she had nominated me two weeks ago so I didn’t know about it. I checked my email and nothing posted there (oops – sorry Melanie for my belated response!).

Here’s what you do when you’re nominated:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you
3. Nominate 11 other followers with less than 500 followers
4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer
5.Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them

Now I have a moment to answer Melanie’s questions:

1. What was the first thing you’ve ever sewn? 
I really can’t remember what that first thing was – I’m sure it was something I did with my mom because she taught me and my sisters to sew on her Singer. I got more formal instructions in my junior high home ec class. We all made stuffed animals from kits that came with the fake fur fabric, etc. I made a gray whale, which had a mouth that opened (pink fake fur inside!). In high school I made a hat from some off-white fake shearling. I didn’t use a pattern – I just made it up as I went along. It was inspired by those Russian hats with ear flaps – kinda like these hats.

2. Did you wear it? Why or why not?
Yes, I did wear the hat a few times but the fit wasn’t great so it ended up in the closet.

3. Do you believe in fate?
Depends on when you ask me and what’s happening in my life at the moment. 😉

4. What is your earliest memory?
One of my earliest memories is my dad taking me to a toy store and letting me pick whatever I wanted except that I couldn’t make up my mind. I was about five years old. I think I was still getting over the fact that my mom threw away an old but well loved blanket of mine just before we moved. I’m sure she thought it was old and ratty so it was time to get rid of it. Bad timing though – apparently I cried from the moment it was taken away and the entire two-and-a-half hour drive to our new home. I have no memories of that blanket or the move. I think they felt guilty about the blanket – thus I had carte blanche at the toy store.

5. If you drink, what is your favorite cocktail (recipe please!)
I don’t drink very often but the last mixed drink I made was an egg nogg martini. I can’t remember what recipe we used. I found something online – vodka, eggnog, and something else. Just search “eggnog martini” and you’ll find many recipes.

6. What kinds of books do you like to read?
I like nonfiction history – especially true stories that seem unbelievable that they would be hard to believe even if they were fiction. I’m currently reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss – absolutely fascinating biography of General Alex Dumas – the father of the novelist Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Muskateers. And my guilty escapist pleasure is science fiction and an occasional historical romance.

7. When was the last time you were sick with something other than a common cold? What was it?
[Knock on wood] I have been very fortunate not to get sick with anything other than a really bad cold.

8. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I lean more towards being an introvert but over the years I’ve become more of an extrovert and more comfortable with public speaking.

9. What sewing tip have you learned that blew your mind?
Use a highlighter to mark pattern notches so you won’t forget to make them in your fabric. I got this tip from Brooke of Custom Style. I think I posted on Instagram or maybe it was a tweet  – about how I forgot to mark my notches and then had to go back to the pattern and put them in (so annoying!). Brooke responded that she uses a highlighter so she won’t forget – such a useful (and time-saving) tip.

10. What is your dream sewing machine if money was no object?
I don’t like machines with a bunch of fancy programmable electronics so I would just say a machine that easily sews a variety of stitches and all types of fabric really well. Oh, and that it comes with every type of foot imaginable. 🙂

11. Do you prefer hot or cold climates? Why?
My true preference is warm but if the choice is only hot or cold, then I pick hot. Being cold and shivering is worse than being hot and sweaty.

Now here are my eleven nominations for a Liebster Award. I referred to my bloglovin’ account to determine the follower numbers – but please note – just because people have fewer than 500 followers on Bloglovin’ doesn’t mean they don’t have more than that elsewhere. I also picked folks who I follow via Bloglovin or Twitter and/or who have commented on my blog. Some of you may have already received a Liebster – sorry I don’t have time to vet all my nominees. I like many of the blogs on Melanie’s list but I left them off my list so I could nominate different folks. In no particular order, they are (drum roll, please):

1. Sew Cro and Quilt

2. Custom Style

3. Another Sewing Scientist

4. Love Teach Sew

5. The Somnolent Dauchshund

6. Sewtell

7. Bonne Chance

8. Life in a “Mads” House

9. Tumbleweeds in the Wind

10. Seams and Finishes

11. A Make It Yourself Mom’s Diary

12. Sew Exhausted [Ok- I was supposed to stop at 11 but I just had to add Laurie’s blog!]

And here are my eleven questions for you:

1. What is the first thing you sewed that you liked enough to wear in public?

2. Where did you grow up?

3. What are your favorite colors?

4. What’s your favorite season of the year?

5. What’s the last sewing book you bought?

6. Have you made anything from a vintage (or vintage-inspired) sewing pattern?

7. If so, did you like how it turned out and did you wear it out?

8. What helpful sewing tip did you pick up over the past year?

9. What’s your favorite sewing machine presser foot?

10. What’s your favorite cuisine (Thai, French, Italian, etc.)?

11. What’s your favorite dessert? If you have a recipe, please share it!

Well, that’s all. Thanks so much, Melanie, for the nomination – I really appreciate it!