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Thread: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

  1. #1
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    Default Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    I have obtained a complete set of plans for a boat that was designed and built as a one off approximately sixty years ago. There never was a license for these plans, the designer wanted to offer the boat as both a stock plan and as a production boat. The owner of the boat who commissioned the design declined to allow that. Every one associated with the original boat is now deceased - designer, builder, and original owner. The boat still exists and has been through a few hands and is now owned by a non profit.

    What are your thoughts on having a new boat built to the set of plans that I have? What if the plans were altered, for construction method? or marginally stretched in length? What if a new interior arrangement and deck plan is drawn? Does that make the boat a new design?

    As a point of interest, after the original owner declined permission to the naval architect to offer the plans for sale, the naval architect, did very slightly alter the original plans (he stretched it by ten percent) and sold the new plans as a stock plan.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the subject and look forward to a robust debate.

    Here's the original boat in question.

    I should like to thank forum members and former Tidbit owners, Joe Foster and John L for the help they have provided me in tracking down these plans and documentation surrounding the original boat. I could not have gotten these plans with y'alls help.

    Last edited by Paul Pless; 08-09-2018 at 05:56 PM.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Build the 10% longer version! Bigbit.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    I already know you won't be hanging an outboard off the stern.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Bigbit. lol.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Several interesting questions here.

    One is the provenance of the plans, rights of ownership and such. For example, if the plans came from the estate of the original owner, then I should think passing them on to another party lifts any licensing problems.

    Another set of problems are around the designer. Is his estate or some successor in possession of plans and responsible for sale. It's not unusual for a designer or heirs to deed the work to a museum. As with Meg's plans. We had to spend a ton and had to reassure Mystic that only one boat would be built to those plans.

    Rather than just assume that everyone is dead and who cares what you do, I'd look in these two directions to see if anyone has a legitimate interest.

    Lovely boat. Hope this works.

    G'luck

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    WHat about copyright laws? They have changed a lot recently. Another 10 years, the plans may be yours!

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    Rather than just assume that everyone is dead and who cares what you do,
    I'm not assuming that. Winthrop Warner's plans library are held by Mystic. The plans that they sell from his library do not come with a license to build and are stamped 'for research purposes only'. There are other holders of Withrop Warner's plans, such as Woodenboat Magazine for instance. They do sell his plans with licenses to build.
    Last edited by Paul Pless; 08-09-2018 at 06:13 PM.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    I’m all for honoring people’s wishes including posthumously, but this clearly meets the standard of do no harm. Besides, it’ll be a new design/completely unrecognizable with a schooner rig.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    ...
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Keep searching Paul, it shouldn't be too hard to find somebody willing to take your money. Or, you could just build it.

    Plus 10% in every direction might be a good idea anyway, if it will help you sleep. You're too big for that little bit anyway.

    And what the hell, if you increase by 10% you can sell the plans, "With improvements, based on the internationally acclaimed Tidbit by ole whatsisname". Perhaps you'll make enough to hire someone to finish that job you started so long ago.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 08-09-2018 at 08:04 PM.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    After I'm dead and gone, I'd be thrilled if someone cared enough to build to my plans. If you were going into business, that would require more- but one boat for yourself.... I say no harm done.

    Not intended to be legal advice...

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    I’d like to hear more about this potential builder. Is he handsome?

    Peace,
    Robert

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    is this for after the bathroom is done?

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    What if the plans were altered, for construction method? or marginally stretched in length? What if a new interior arrangement and deck plan is drawn? Does that make the boat a new design?

    The think that if you were to hand all the documents to a suitable naval architect, with the young instruction that this should inspire a new design, and that your preferred construction method was...
    You might be able to strike a deal.
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Im sure i read somewhere of a case that was bought to court over a copyright infringment of a design that was stretched above 6%, in which the judge decided the "new" boat would be incomparable except in looks to the original, and the alledged infringement was thrown out. If you have done your best to track down any holders of any copyright on what was on those plans, i would not think any harm comes from building ONE for yourself, no harm to say your new boat was inspired by X design, but not built to precise lines, cant see what the issue is.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Ask a copyright/patent attorney this question. I believe for books, the copyright has a life of 50 years after which the work passes into the public domain. The same rule may apply to boat blueprints..... But then again, maybe not.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Why not go back in history and bring a lawsuit against Winthrup Warner for whose shoulders HE stood on to draw Tidbit?
    Cut em off at the pass, so to speak.
    I just cannot visualize legal trouble for one boat. That mud is for commercial builders.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, but I do know a little about copyright laws...

    The copyright law terms vary depending on the circumstances. Do the plans that you have include a notice of copyright? If so, the copyright was valid for 28 years at which point it could be renewed for another 67 years if the designer applied for the renewal. If the plans have an original copyright date but no renewal date, you're probably OK to use them but they could have been renewed after the plan set you have was printed. Any work published and copyrighted in the US before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain.

    If your plans do not have a copyright notice, then things are different. The Copyright Act of 1976 (which took effect in 1978) grants automatic copyright protection to works created but not published or copyrighted before January 1, 1978. The protection is generally the life of the creator plus 70 years. However, if the work was created before January 1, 1978 and first published after January 1, 1978 but before December 31, 2002, the copyright is automatically extended to the end of 2047.

    it sounds like the plans were not published, so if there's no copyright on the plans, you are dealing with the life plus 70 years scenario. If there is a copyright notice, you're OK if it wasn't renewed. To determine the copyright status, read and follow these instructions:

    https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ22.pdf

    Other options:

    1) Can you determine if there is an estate or living relative of the designer? If so, sending them a note about your intentions would be a good way to avoid any unpleasantness. If they have any objections, they'll surely let you know.

    2) Were the designer's plans transferred to some entity (i.e. a museum, library. etc.) ? If so, you should contact that entity even if that entity does not offer or list that particular design in their public listings. They may have been given rights to ALL of the designer's work, in which case, you will technically need their permission.

    3) If you can't obtain permission from the estate or entity, alter the design slightly as others have suggested. Never advertise or describe the boat as designed by the original designer. Instead, say that it was "inspired by" of "designed after" the designer. In fact, this option would be a way to avoid all of the copyright issues listed above.
    Last edited by BrianY; 08-10-2018 at 09:50 AM.
    I rather be American than a Republican.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    Build the 10% longer version! Bigbit.
    Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    I already know you won't be hanging an outboard off the stern.
    Of course he would. Oh... maybe not initally, but as reality sets in. OK - maybe he'll rig electric power...

    Quote Originally Posted by Wiley Baggins View Post
    I’m all for honoring people’s wishes including posthumously, but this clearly meets the standard of do no harm. Besides, it’ll be a new design/completely unrecognizable with a schooner rig.
    <snort>
    David G
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    It would strike me that if the original owner paid to have the design made, then the design belonged to that person. With that said, the owner and/or the owner's estate would be the ones who would have the right to license the plans. Winthrop appeared to think so if he offered the larger version so that he could sell them as a stock plan. So, how were the plans that you have obtained? From the estate? What are the wishes of those individuals?

    FWIW, I think Paul's gonna want/need a bigger boat.
    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    It may be a different situation over here.The design is the property of the designer,rather than the person who commissions it.Given your desire to build the boat-as soon as the bathroom is finished-I would think that if a descendant of the designer pursued you and you could demonstrate that you have made every effort to find the rights holder, it would take a remarkably grasping individual who would deny you the chance to have a modern version of his or her ancestors creation.If the idea of building without paying a designer's royalty is too troubling I would suggest making an educated guess at the amount due,adding a bit and donating it to a suitable charity.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Lovely boat. And an interesting conundrum, indeed.

    Starting with the copyright office, per the link that BrianY included, may be a logical first step

    I make no claim of expertise on copyright law, but it seems to me that if the owner who commissioned this plan refused the designer the right to sell it as a stock plan, the estate of the designer would likely not have authority to sell you a license to build. It seems to me that the designer acknowledged as much when he increased all lines by 10% to make a “new design” as a stock plan so as not to infringe on the deal he made with the one who commissioned your plan.

    Assuming you acquired the plans, directly or indirectly, from the estate of the one who commissioned the plan, it seems to me an open question as to whether that person’s ownership of the plans allowed the construction of more than one boat based on the commission paid for the plans. I figure it is unlikely.

    Maybe no one, living or dead, has authority to license you to build a boat to the plans.

    It may be prudent to consult a lawyer knowledgeable in these matters. One of my first questions would be, assuming you have made a good faith effort to find any relevant copyright holder, what is the worst remedy that a court would inflict on you? If the remedy should not likely exceed the value of the license fee you are otherwise willing to pay to build one boat to the design, I might be tempted to take my chances and proceed with building. Do you feel lucky?

    This may be one of those cases where the sometimes stupid copyright laws serve no one’s interests.

    Wayne

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Jeffers View Post
    Lovely boat. And an interesting conundrum, indeed.

    Starting with the copyright office, per the link that BrianY included, may be a logical first step

    I make no claim of expertise on copyright law, but it seems to me that if the owner who commissioned this plan refused the designer the right to sell it as a stock plan, the estate of the designer would likely not have authority to sell you a license to build. It seems to me that the designer acknowledged as much when he increased all lines by 10% to make a “new design” as a stock plan so as not to infringe on the deal he made with the one who commissioned your plan.

    Assuming you acquired the plans, directly or indirectly, from the estate of the one who commissioned the plan, it seems to me an open question as to whether that person’s ownership of the plans allowed the construction of more than one boat based on the commission paid for the plans. I figure it is unlikely.

    Maybe no one, living or dead, has authority to license you to build a boat to the plans.

    It may be prudent to consult a lawyer knowledgeable in these matters. One of my first questions would be, assuming you have made a good faith effort to find any relevant copyright holder, what is the worst remedy that a court would inflict on you? If the remedy should not likely exceed the value of the license fee you are otherwise willing to pay to build one boat to the design, I might be tempted to take my chances and proceed with building. Do you feel lucky?

    This may be one of those cases where the sometimes stupid copyright laws serve no one’s interests.

    Wayne
    I was just thinking about you just last week, wondering how you have been. Its been a while. Frankly if you had just gone ahead and built the boat, painted the hull blue and the decks white with some small pieces of trim, I bet no one would have said anything. Frankly its just another cat boat to the casual observer.
    Happy trails to you.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    is there an estate of one of the long dead partys that's willing to force the matter legally? that's your practical answer.

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by John Meachen View Post
    It may be a different situation over here.The design is the property of the designer,rather than the person who commissions it.Given your desire to build the boat-as soon as the bathroom is finished-I would think that if a descendant of the designer pursued you and you could demonstrate that you have made every effort to find the rights holder, it would take a remarkably grasping individual who would deny you the chance to have a modern version of his or her ancestors creation.If the idea of building without paying a designer's royalty is too troubling I would suggest making an educated guess at the amount due,adding a bit and donating it to a suitable charity.
    That varies by the contract negotiated between designer and client. A designer charges much more to create a design that will be owned by the client. For a design commissioned by a client but owned by the designer, the designer can charge much less because he will also get revenue from other people buying plans. So, it can be done either way.

    Tom
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Buy the plans for the stretch version...........and shorten them by 10%

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Personally I wouldn't feel bad about building a boat for myself, stretched, shrunk or original dimensions from 60 year old plans with all original parties long deceased, but that is just me.

    A decade+ ago when Joe (CSOH) posted photos of his newly acquired catboat "Tidbit" I thought that it looked somewhat familiar. After a few days of searching I found a one page review of what may have been "Tidbit" in a Yachting magazine "Book of Plans" that my dad had purchased in the early/mid 1960's.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    If I found a design that I wanted in a 50 year old magazine, in the blink of an eye I would;
    Round up a big stack of timber, loft the design, use my own conservative and traditional construction plan and build it. I wouldn't wait and I wouldn't talk much about it because... life is short.

    edit to add; I "might" make it a little longer or modify it a bit with a nod to 50 or 100 years of science.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    ^+1
    Quote Originally Posted by skaraborgcraft View Post
    I have driven a 6.5l Dodge with diesel Cummins and it was glorious....

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    s this for after the bathroom is done?
    If he builds it bigger, he can incorporate an enclosed head, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    There's more to boat plans than boat plans.

    An experienced builder familiar with the scantlings for a given size range and type of boat can probably make something good from lines and off-sets. A good bit less of a chance of something good if only lines, no off-sets. And none if the plans were xerox lifted from something published by one of the many NAs who litter published plans with little errors to thwart theft.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    The application of copyright law to plans and hull designs has been discussed before on the Forum.

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...-1-2-and-etc-)

    If you do a web search it appears that the Copyright Office has written on the subject.

    https://www.copyright.gov/docs/hr2696.html

    So it appears that there were and are no copyrights on hull designs before 1997 according to the copyright office's documents, if I read them properly. If you consider them as written plans as opposed to a hull design, then copyright is not relevant as you are not reproducing the plans, only using them to build something.

    As has been pointed out, it is not very likely anyone will complain after 60 odd years unless you go out of your way to stir up trouble.

    In your shoes, I would build it as it appears you are legally in the clear and if in the unlikely event someone shows up to complain, deal with that as seems appropriate.

    Alan
    https://sites.google.com/site/helium12sofsailboat/

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    Default Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by SNAPMAN View Post
    T


    So it appears that there were and are no copyrights on hull designs before 1997 according to the copyright office's documents, if I read them properly.
    That was my recollection, it used to be a regular thing for motor boat companies to "splash" (take a mould off an existing boat) and sell the boats. That was blatant stealing and there was nothing that could be done about it.


    As mentioned above, if you want a TidBit, build, or have the durn thing built. Yours will come out differently, even if you try to replicate it exactly.

    One Cape Cod catboat is much like another.

    Here's a modification that'll increase speed and manouverability and make it an original design. Mind you it will cost you a beer.


  34. #34
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    Thumbs down Re: Boat Plan Licensing Conundrum

    Here you go: Chapter and verse, that's two beers you owe me.

    https://www.copyright.gov/reports/vhdpa-report.pdf

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