Home » Blog » Embroidery Software Protection Coalition

Embroidery Software Protection Coalition

About Embroidery Software Protection Coalition

Welcome to the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition – dedicated to the protection of embroidery software copyrights and the fight against software piracy.

What you need to know about Software
Piracy and Copyrights

Important Information from the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition*

Copying embroidery software and designs is a copyright violation. Copying software without authorization from the manufacturer is almost always illegal. This includes duplicating software to sell, to share with friends or to distribute free over the internet.

Generally, when you purchase a disk, CD or other medium, you are buying a license to load the software onto a single computer or embroidery machine. It is important to understand that all you own is the physical disk itself, not the software. You may also make one copy for archival purposes. Some licenses allow you to load the software onto another machine if it is a machine only you will use.

Other licenses require you to purchase a multi-user license. Check your license agreement or the software manufacturer before you use multiple machines. “Harmless” duplication ultimately harms you. Because software is so easy to copy, many people don’t realize the severity and illegality of their actions. Ignorance of the law is no defense. Copying software without permission is the same as stealing a product off a store shelf.

Why is this important to you? There are several reasons:

  • To compensate for losses caused by piracy, manufacturers must ultimately increase prices.
  • The risk of system crashes and viruses increases with the use of illegally duplicated and distributed software.
  • The value of a product is diminished and new innovations are slowed for fear of illegal duplication.

By purchasing a product legally, you benefit by receiving documentation, customer support and information about product updates. You also help keep your computer virus free, keep prices down and contribute to the development of new software products.

Legal uses of embroidery designs:

When you purchase embroidery design software, you are authorized to embroider any garment that includes the sewn out design. Some generic designs may include restrictions on selling the garment. If the design is licensed (Sesame Street®, Disney®, Precious Moments®, etc.), you may not sell the garment with the sewn out design at any time. Although many software design packages enable you to modify the size and color of designs, you are not authorized to distribute the modified designs as computer files to others.

The consequences of copyright violations

The penalties for violating the Copyright Act can be severe:

  • You may have to pay the copyright owner for any losses it suffers, plus any profits you may have realized from the copying. Or, the copyright owner can choose statutory damages of up to $100,000 for each work infringed.
  • Unauthorized duplication of software is considered a Federal crime and penalties may include fines up to $250,000 and/or jail terms up to six years. The copyright law applies equally for all software products whether it’s a $25 design, or a $1,000 project management program. Violators are also subject to expensive court costs and seizure or any property responsible for the piracy. In the long run, that simple “nobody will notice” excuse does not pay.

Have copyright information or questions? You are encouraged to check the licensing agreement that comes with the software, call the software manufacturer, or visit the manufacturer’s website to gain specific information on the copyright rules that pertain to your software.

To contact the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition, at 1-888-921-5732, or visit our web site at www.embroideryprotection.org

*The Embroidery Software Protection Coalition is a non-profit group of embroidery software and design manufacturers whose purpose is to defend the integrity and quality of embroidery products by promoting copyright compliance.

Copyrights You Should Know

Your purchase of embroidery software grants you a license for:

  • Embroidering any item for personal use.
  • The right to install it on one computer or sewing machine of your choice.
  • Modify size and color of designs for personal preference.
  • Licensed designs (like Sesame Street, Disney, Precious Moments, etc.) may be stitched out on garments and items for personal use only.
  • Restrictions involving sale of sewn out designs may be prohibited, check packaging for copyright information.

Benefits of purchasing vs. copying software:

  • All product documentation, customer support and information included
  • Registered users receive free update information
  • Helps keep your computer virus free
  • Supports future product development while holding down the cost of goods


  • Duplicating software to sell, share or distribute free
  • Distribution of any modified copyrighted computer files of designs
  • Installation on more than one computer, sewing machine or disk for multiple users
  • Uploading, downloading, emailing or transferring electronic files of copyrighted designs on the Internet, computer network, direct connection, etc.
  • Check the individual products you have purchased for additional restrictions.


  • ESPC, Embroidery Software Protection Coalition, is a non-profit group of embroidery product manufacturers. Their purpose is to educate and help the consumer with copyright issues. Contact them toll-free at 888-921-5732 or visit their web site at www.embroideryprotection.org.


NEW YORK — Concerned about the increasing problem of software piracy, a group of embroidery software and design manufacturers has formed the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition (ESPC) under the aegis of the Home Sewing Association (HSA). The HSA is a not-for-profit trade organization representing suppliers and retailers in the sewing industry.

The ESPC’s purpose is to defend the integrity and quality of embroidery products by promoting copyright compliance. The ESPC will achieve its goal through educating consumers on copyright laws and monitoring copyright activity. Current members of the ESPC include Amazing Designs, Baby Lock, Bernina, Brother, Buzz Tools, Cactus Punch, Elma, Great Notions, Husqvarna, Janome, OESD, Pfaff, Singer, Tacony and Viking.

The illegal bootlegging of computer software costs businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year. The establishment of the internet has made it even easier to illegally share copyrighted information. To compensate for losses caused from piracy, manufacturers must increase prices, which ultimately are passed along to consumers. Additionally, the development of new innovations is often slowed for fear of illegal piracy.

Some consumers copy software to share with their friends and family without realizing that it constitutes illegal activity In some instances even making a second copy for themselves can be against the law. We want to educate our consumers so they don’t inadvertently violate the law.

Through the creation of information tools and public service campaigns, the ESPC plans to educate embroidery software users on what constitutes copyright violations and its potential legal consequences. The ESPC has also established both a toll-free number and a website to help answer questions regarding copyright information.

Consumers who use embroidery software are encouraged to check the packaging that came with the software, call the software manufacturer, or visit the manufacturer’s website to gain specific information on the copyright rules that pertain to the software they own.

For more information, contact the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition at 888-921-5732 or www.embroideryprotection.org


What do I do when I receive a letter from the ESPC?

    Follow the instructions exactly. Call ONLY the Legal Department of the ESPC at 682-503-6513. Do NOT email, send a letter or call the ESPC Administrative offices. There is nothing the administrative offices can do except direct you to the ESPC Legal Department. Contacting the Legal Department is your opportunity to discuss your individual circumstances and attempt to resolve your violation without going to Court. If you have questions or concerns, then consult an attorney familiar with copyrights and infringements. If you fail to respond to the ESPC letter, your file will be transferred to the Litigation Department for a lawsuit to be filed against you.

If I receive a letter and call the Legal Department and get no answer, what do I do?

    The ESPC Legal Department is open during 9:30 to 4:30 Central Standard Time. The Legal Department is the ONLY department that handles the letters to persons who have purchased or sold pirated and counterfeit designs. Leave a message with your name, telephone number and the date of the letter. YOUR CALL WILL BE RETURNED. It may take a few days to get back with you, but your file will be immediately noted upon receipt of your message and any deadline that has been set in the letter will be extended.

What if I did not sell the pirated embroidery designs or software, I only purchased them?

    The use of counterfeit designs and software is a violation of federal laws. Specifically, the U.S. Copyright Act. 17 USC 501

What if I am innocent and did not know the designs or software were counterfeit when I purchased the designs?

    It is your responsibility to investigate any designs or software that you purchased over the Internet or from online auctions and used. You must take steps to insure that they are legitimate original embroidery designs or software, not pirated copies.

How do I investigate to determine if the designs or software are legitimate or counterfeit?

    You have taken the first step. Educate yourself as to what is a counterfeit and pirated design and how to spot one. Ask questions from your seller before you purchase. If you receive a CD with writing on it, question it and the seller, return it, complain loudly and do not leave positive feedback for that eBay seller. Purchase from Authorized Dealers or the Artist themselves. Click here for more information.

What authority does the ESPC have to enforce federal laws?

    The U.S. Copyright Act provides that the copyright owners of the designs and software can enforce and protect their rights. This includes filing civil suits in federal courts against the sellers and/or purchasers of anyone who violates their copyrighted designs and software. The ESPC holds power of attorneys for all members of the Coalition. The ESPC is acting on behalf of the members and will prosecute violators of the members’ copyrights.

What if I only used the counterfeit designs for my own use and did not sell the designs or products with the designs embroidered on it?

    If you have not used the designs or software for commercial usage, then the ESPC will be able to settle the violation with you without further action. You must call the Legal Department at 682-503-6513. If you choose not to settle, then the ESPC can institute a law suit against you in federal court for violation of U.S. Copyright laws.

If I am required to pay money to the ESPC for purchasing and using counterfeit or pirated embroidery designs or software, where does the money go?

    The money that is collected by the ESPC from the settlement of cases through the letters or lawsuits being prosecuted is paid to the copyright owners of the designs and software.

Is it okay for my friends and me to copy each other’s designs?

    Not unless you have permission from the owner of the designs or the owner of the copyright to make a copy. If you or your friend created the design and own the copyright, then whomever created the design can give their permission to copy the design. But if you or your friend did not create the design, or if you copied and changed an existing design and, therefore, do not own the copyright to the design, you can not copy each other’s designs. Stock design companies invest large portions of their earnings in design development and they deserve a fair return on their investment. When you purchase a design, it gives you a license or permission to utilize the design yourself, but not to copy it or distribute it to your friends.

But it’s just a disk, some paper and a plastic bag.

    If a brain surgeon opens your cranium and takes a peek inside your brain, does he see ideas and intelligence? Just because he only sees a brain, can he determine the content? And if he cannot measure any content, does that mean you are mindless? No.

    When you purchase a package of stock designs, you are getting more than a disk, some paper, and a plastic bag. Artists are employed to create the original artwork. Digitizers using high-end computers and expensive software create and edit the designs to perfection. Machine operators repeatedly test the designs. Sample-makers construct projects to inspire you. Administrative staff enter pertinent information into a database for color sequences and special instructions for packaging and the web site. An artist scans all the sew-outs to create packaging graphics and images for the web site. The sample is photographed and packaging is created by an artist and proofed by the proofer.

    The web developer creates the necessary html for the new design, formats all the graphics for the web, and updates the web site. The artist creates catalog pages and advertising. The printing company converts the digital files from the artist into physical packaging. A knowledgeable person must convert the master formats and recolor the designs for all the home formats. A programmer then takes those files and writes the installer code. Labels are printed and disks are mastered and duplicated. The administrative staff answer the phone, solve end-user problems, enter orders into the system, assemble packages, and ship the product.

    Companies that produce and sell stock designs must cover not only these development costs but overhead as well (rent, utilities, taxes, payroll, promotion and advertising, training, etc.). All the company’s income is derived from the sales of these disk packs. From the flicker of an idea to having a new package ready to ship to the first customer can easily exceed $25,000.00.

That makes sense, but what do I get for purchasing my own designs?

    A lot. The benefits you stand to gain with purchased originals of designs include the continued availability of affordable, high-quality designs. You also get full packaging with color graphics, instructions, and color sequences. You get phone support and valuable information provided via the Internet.

    Resisting the temptation to copy designs will allow many more designers to share their creativity thus giving you a larger library of designs from which to choose.

What exactly does the law say about copying software?

    Briefly, the law says “it is illegal to make or distribute copies of copyrighted material without authorization,” including software. It is both a civil and criminal violation to make or distribute copies of copyrighted materials. Penalties are fines up to $50,000 and jail terms up to five years.

    The law is very specific concerning copyright violations. Since copyright laws are federal laws, the copyright owner—the plaintiff—will bring the suit in a federal court. The infringer, or defendant, will have to defend the suit in that court. As you can imagine, the costs to defend a suit of this nature can quickly exceed $50,000.00.

    Under copyright law, Title 17 of the U.S. Code, criminal action is also available to the copyright owner under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. The criminal aspect of the law can result in seizure of the equipment and imprisonment. Under statutory copyright laws, on the civil damages aspect, a defendant who is found guilty can be fined between $500.00 and $20,000.00 per violation.

    The violations can be compounded when you make a copy of a copyrighted design as you are then liable for any copies made from that illegal copy that you have put in another’s hand. There are additional penalities for print-outs or sew-outs of illegally duplicated designs. As you can easily see, violating copyright laws make no sense economically; it is far less expensive to purchase a legal copy.

Does that mean I can’t make things with these designs to sell?

    You may embroider the designs and sell as many of the sewn product as you wish. You may not sell, trade, share, rent, or otherwise distribute the original or modified versions of any design.

    An exception to this statement is the use of licensed designs such as Sesame Street or Precious Moments. If such a license applies, it will be stated on the outside of the packaging. Sewing and selling these designs can result in stiff penalties.

But don’t I only have to change it 10% to make it my own?

    No, this is a misconception about copyrights as it applies to the graphic arts industry. In fact, by changing the original design and then selling the new version of the original in any manner, the person doing this has moved into additional violations of law, not only copyright law, but general tort laws.

So I’m never allowed to copy software for any reason?

    Actually, you’re allowed to make one backup copy of your software, if one wasn’t already included in the package.

But I bought the disk therefore I own it and I should be free to do as I wish with it. I own my car and I can let others use it—what’s the difference?

    When you buy a disk, all you truly own is the physical CD or diskette itself, not what is on it. The designs are licensed for you to use in a specific way; the copyright holder owns the content. When you share designs, you are typically not loaning the disk to another person, you are giving them a copy of the disk—in other words, you have become a bootleg manufacturer or Pirate. When you loan your car to another, as long as they are using the car, you cannot – you are not duplicating the car so that you each have one.

What about free designs on the internet—can’t I copy those?

    You must carefully read any stipulations on the web site. Some free designs may be shared freely with an acknowledgement of their source. Others may only be downloaded for personal use and not distributed. Many web sites use free designs as a lure to attract visitors to their site. In any case, the copyright remains with the creator and you may not sell the designs.

Do the same rules apply to user/embroidery groups—I always figured the reason they got together was to share software.

    Many software companies offer special user-group programs, which may include the right to copy the software for archival purposes. In any case, it is the responsibility of user groups to encourage their members to observe copyright laws, and software companies rely on them to do so. The same copyright responsibilities apply to schools and professional training organizations.

At my company, we pass disks around all the time and don’t think another thing about it. It must be okay since we all work for the company that purchased the software in the first place.

    Well, unfortunately, “softlifting” is common in some corporations. Employees make extra copies of their business software to take home, or copies are made for additional computers within the office. But corporations, too, are bound by copyright laws, just like everyone else. The rule to follow is one software package for every computer.

    Companies as well as individuals may have their equipment confiscated, be required to pay hefty penalties, plus spend time in prison. Why ruin your life?

I’ll bet most of the people who copy software don’t even know they’re breaking the law.

    Most people don’t purposely break the law—they would never consider, for instance, stealing money out of someone’s pocket. However, when you share software, you essentially are stealing money out of the developer’s pocket. Unfortunately, when it comes to copyright violations, ignorance is no defense. If you’re part of an organization, see what you can do to initiate a policy statement that everyone respects. And as an individual, you can spread the word that sharing is stealing.

So I guess to be safe, I should only share a design if I digitized it myself from original or uncopyrighted art, right?

    Now you’ve got it! Technology is now available to permit the embedding of invisible codes in documents, files, and programs. Unique codes are generated that tag you as the original purchaser of the design. If that design turns up in someone else’s possession, you will be held responsible and the copyright holder has documented proof to hold you liable.

Leave a Comment