Thursday, April 14, 2011

In which patternmakers do not grok copyright law.

I've been reading doll clothing pattern errata--dates, copyrights, etc--and I'm finding a real unpleasant misunderstanding of what a copyright is. Often there'll be a statement to the effect that, not only can a buyer not copy this pattern to someone else for profit (standard, very appropriate), but that the pattern buyer is NOT to use the pattern to make items for sale under any circumstances. Sometimes there's a little threat--"copyright violaters will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law!"

Yeah. Only not so much. The copyright on the pattern extends to the exact drawings, text, diagrams, etc, which make that published unit, and no one except the copyright holder may copy said work as a publication for profit. That's it. The law covers the pattern, the sale of the pattern itself, and who may profit from the copying of the pattern as a publication.

It does NOT cover what use of the pattern the buyer makes of that pattern! At all. Period. Full stop. A cookbook writer can't sue someone for selling a cake based on the author's copyrighted work (or even for eating it). An author of a book can not sue a reader for whatever money-making ideas derive from that book. The copyright covers only the copying and sale of the work itself as a publication.

In crafts and sewing, as a matter of legal fact, the buyer need not even acknowledge that the item was made from a pattern at all, no matter who holds the pattern copyright. A person can potentially and legally make a lot more money from selling items made from someone else's pattern than the pattern copyright holder can ever hope to make from selling the pattern as a copyrighted work.

Now, of course, every community has its norms, and it's considered good form to at least acknowledge that a pattern was used. But no copyright holder of a pattern of any kind can tell you what to do with your own work made from that pattern or the sale of your own work made from that pattern.

So go forth and make stuff with impunity, my darlings, and ignore the ignobly ignorant!


  1. You know, I actually wondered about that at one point. That is a useful bit of information! ^_^

  2. Innit, tho? I got tired of those lame warnings and researched it, then asked the estate lawyer, who knows a lot about copyright law-- it's an interest of his.

  3. *Sigh* You have NO idea how long it took me to catch on to the fact that this is a blog, by you. I thought you were posting a bunch of links to some discussion forum or somethin'! Anyway, I found you.

    And this is very interesting. See, now I'm following you. So what else is new??? HUGS.

  4. Oh, Sally, I do adore you. I hope you know that.

  5. Hee. I adore you too! But I signed up to "follow" your blog this afternoon, and now I don't show up as a follower. Maybe because I chose private instead of public. Why does technology have to be so complicated?? *wants cheese with that whine*

  6. Okay, fixed it -- went public.

    I wanted to ask, re your post here -- what are the copyright laws re sharing patterns you've purchased? Do you know? Just curious.

  7. Yep, I do know! Depends on how you share. Letting someone use, or selling on, your purchased copy, is legal and fair use. Making photocopies or emailing the pdfs is not legal or fair use, because you are producing new copies without compensation to the copyright holder. I don't know any doll pattern makers who have the resources to go after anyone, and probably their worst would be a stern "Hey, knock it off!" in which case everyone should do just that.

    Why am I not a lawyer?! Oh, yeah, math. ;P


Please leave your thoughts. I don't expect universal love but I do expect civil commentary. If you're a hater, don't play. Thanks!