When I first started reading and using crochet patterns, I saw a lot of “for personal use only” and “you may not sell items made from using this pattern”. Also, “you may sell items from this pattern if you link to me” or “you may sell items made from this pattern as long as I am sourced as the designer”. I always wondered, first of all, how is the author of this pattern ever going to know if I sell this hat? And secondly, why do they care? Either they have put this pattern out on the internet for free, or I have bought the pattern or pattern book, or borrowed it from the library. The information is *out there* for the taking and hopefully for the using!
Policing the use of patterns must be exhausting! Clearly, I do not want someone to try to steal someones pattern and make money from selling the written pattern. However, the person who wrote that pattern has the choice to keep that pattern to his/herself, to give that pattern away, or to sell it. Whatever a pattern author chooses, I think it would be wise for them to consider the fact that they may not legally do any single thing about someone selling an item or garment made from their pattern. Items that are considered utilitarian (like clothing, or costumes) may not be copyrighted. A written pattern is only under copyright protection in that your exact written words, charts, photos, graphs, etc.. are protected from others claiming them as their own. The idea, the directions, the “recipe” of your work, is UN-copyrightable. That’s a little bit scary as a designer. It’s also a bit freeing.
It’s a question of ethics when people copy another’s pattern into their own words, then sell their own version of that exact pattern. Personally, I would not ever buy a pattern just so I could re-write it and then profit from someone else’s work, but if someone does choose to do that, it is not technically illegal, assuming they use all their own pictures and words. If someone is selling your EXACT pattern, written in YOUR words, pictures, charts… then that is a legal infringement possibly worth reporting/confronting/blasting on twitter. However, if someone transcribed your pattern in to their own words and is selling it, there’s not much you can do,. apparently. It’s not worth getting up in arms about though, not for me, anyway. (Although, to be fair, it hasn’t happened to me yet that I know of.) In my opinion, if someone is so creatively challenged that they can’t come up with their own ideas, and they don’t mind to beg borrow and steal, I can’t possibly change their mind by complaining. I can only keep putting out my best and most creative work, marketing to the best of my ability and offering unique ideas that are difficult to copy.
Making the choice to either keep your patterns to yourself, or share them is a personal one. But if the choice is made to share, why not share with the full knowledge, and preferably consent, that people are going to use a good idea to their own benefit? If someone make a few bucks or a few thousand from a great idea, and the genius who thought it up happens not to make anything from it, well, then, it was probably poor marketing that kept them from doing the same! Why be jealous of someone who accomplishes more/sells more/makes more money?? Look at them and see what can be learned from them!
I get the twinge of jealousy, but I also know that getting my panties in a bunch over something I have absolutely ZERO control over is a waste of time and only stresses ME out. I’m not sure why someone else should be bothered by something that is perfectly within their rights that just doesn’t seem fair, as in the case of using a pattern to make items to sell.
I acknowledge that this is a completely different beast than artwork or written stories, which have much stricter copyright protections.
The above TED talk really helped to definitively make up my mind about how I feel about copyright and ethics. I consider myself an ethical person, for reals. But when it comes to crochet I just don’t think it is wrong at all to bounce off each other in a way that projects us all forward, pushes us to create more, more quickly, and more creatively. It’s an excellent way to think about business and there is absolutely no time to stagnate. If I’m not thinking ahead to the next great thing, I can be sure that someone else definitely is.
What is your opinion on copyright law and crochet? Do you agree with me? Please keep the discussion respectful 🙂
This information is a very thorough look at copyright law as it relates to pattern writers/users and was very helpful when I was trying to figure out what copyright law meant for my business.
Also, please do not misconstrue anything I have written as actual legal advice.