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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Designing your own tartan

It happens more frequently than you think -- someone contacts me, because they wish to order one of my kilts, made in a tartan which they have designed themselves. Nothing wrong with that, right? I'm happy they wish to have one of my kilts. And it's great, too, that they have gotten creative and have come up with their own tartan design. So what's the problem?

The problem is that very often they have created their design using the tartan design software at While their tartan design software is great and easy to use, there is just one problem with it. Scotweb is a commercial enterprise whose business is selling tartan. And when you save a design on their system, you are required to agree to their "Terms and Conditions." And those terms include the following statement:
"By saving and/or publishing a new tartan design using this system, you are
granting Scotweb Marketing Ltd an exclusive right to weave, license, or
otherwise use your design commercially."

I have no problem with the above statement. As I said, Scotweb is in the business of selling tartan. They put a lot of time, thought, and money into creating a user-friendly tartan design software that could be integrated into their web site. They didn't do that for charitable purposes. They did it to help them sell more tartan. How does it benefit them if someone uses their resources to create a new tartan design, which they then have woven to order by one of their competitors?

My problem is that people are in the habit of clicking on the little "agree" button and agreeing to a list of terms and conditions that they have never read. And so they have no idea that by saving their new tartan design on Scotweb's system, they have granted Scotweb the exclusive rights to have their tartan woven. So when they come to me and request a kilt (or yard goods) in their new tartan -- "which you can find under my name on the Scotweb web site," they tell me -- I have to say "No." I have to inform them that Scotweb has the exclusive production rights on that design, so they must order the fabric through them.

Usually, my reply email is the first time they have heard of this restriction. Because they never read, or maybe just glanced over, the terms to which they agreed. It happened again just this morning, I had to send an email to a potential client informing him why I could not have cloth woven in his tartan.

Fortunately, it is still possible for me to make a kilt in a tartan designed using Scotweb's tartan designer. I just cannot have the cloth made. If the designer wants to order a length of cloth from Scotweb, they can send the cloth to me and I will be happy to make the kilt for him, for my regular CMT fee. Unfortunately, it is going to end up costing the customer a lot more for their kilt, because they have to pay Scotweb's per yard fee for the custom weave, plus shipping the cloth to me, including potential customs fees, plus my fee for making the kilt.

I feel bad for those people who were unaware of the conditions on the Scotweb site, but there really is little more I can do.

The Scotweb tartan designer is great -- if you plan on ordering products in that tartan from Scotweb. If not, there are other free tartan design programs available. One that has been most recently created and is fairly user friendly is the "croft weaver" software on the web site of the Scottish Tartans Authority.

The STA is a non-commercial entity and if you design your tartan on their software, you are free to have it produced by anyone you choose -- the STA can even make recommendations to you based on how much cloth and what products you require.

The lesson in all of this is simply to pay attention, and please, by all means read the actual terms that you are agreeing to before you click that little button!

1 comment:

Baker Brian said...

Good post, Matt. I got caught by that small print. The first I knew was when I registered a tartan with the Scottish Registrar of Tartans and found that somehow the restriction was placed on the registration. Scotweb must have some link to the Registrar.