Copyright is a hot topic with crafters and likely to raise the hackles of some of my readers but I feel compelled to share my views on the matter after an incident at Knit Night yesterday.
One of the regulars, I’ll call her Twit because sharing her real name here would not be nice, was showing off a hat she’d knit and discussing making more for sale. One of the other regulars, who knits and sells her own hats at craft faires around the area, questioned the origin of the hat pattern.
“It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. Cute, right? Everyone loves it so I should be able to sell a bunch of them!” Twit was quite pleased with herself.
“Uh…just because the pattern is free doesn’t mean you can knit up a bunch and sell them…” began T.
“Oh, come on! You sell hats, don’t you?” Twit asked.
“I do sell hats, but each one is my own pattern and I would never even consider selling a hat made from someone else’s pattern – it’s a violation of copyright,” T responded.
At this point my ears perked up and I zeroed in on the conversation. I design, write and publish knitting patterns, so I have a vested interest in what people think about this subject.
“It’s not a violation of copyright because I’m not selling the actual pattern,” replied Twit, a smug smile on her face. “I won’t be selling the pattern, just the hats, besides my nerd husband deals with open-source software and he says it’s just fine…” or words to that effect. WTF her husband’s hobby has to do with copying a published pattern (whether offered for free or not) is unclear.
T was dumbfounded. Her mouth was actually hanging open and this is a woman who is rarely at a loss for words. The whole room was electrified, all eyes darting between the two. Or maybe it was just they could all feel my hackles rising.
“True, the actual pattern is the copyrighted item,” I said, “but making hats from someone else’s pattern and selling them as your own with no credit, attribution or payment to the author is a violation of my understanding of Fair Use. It also depends on the copyright notice on the pattern itself…”
“If a pattern is offered for free on Ravelry I can do whatever I want to. It’s not like I’ll be making a million dollars from it!” Twit retorted.
“No,” I said, “you won’t be making a million dollars, but why should you profit from someone else’s hard work? Personally, I offer free patterns that clearly state on the copyright notice that they may not be used for profit but may be copied so long as the copyright remains intact. I also state that if the knitter has any questions they can email me. I’ve had people write that they wanted to knit 5 items and sell them at a church fundraiser and I’m happy for them to do it. I’ve had people ask to use my pattern to teach a class and I give permission for that. I DO NOT give permission for someone to knit 50 items from my pattern and sell them for their own personal profit and I doubt you’ll find another designer willing to do it but you could always email the author and ask,” came out in a rush because I could see she was winding up to defend her position.
For the record, the pattern is Regina (Ravelry link) by Carina Spenser and has a copyright notice that reads: “Copyright 2011 by Carina Spenser | www.carinaspencer.com* | Not for commercial use” at the bottom of each page. This, IMHO, is very clear – this author does not give you permission to use her pattern to make money for yourself. As if that weren’t clear enough (and it’s obviously not clear to a certain Twit) there’s a box at the end of the pattern with the following (bold mine):
TERMS & CONDITIONS
© 2011 Carina Spencer. All rights reserved. Pattern
is not to be reprinted, reproduced, or distributed
without permission from the designer. Items
created from this pattern are not to be sold for
profit without a license, but are always allowed for
use in trades and craft swaps.
If you are interested in knitting this pattern for resale
or charity fund raising information on cottage
industry licensing is available.
But back to the conversation last night.
“It’s a free pattern and I can do whatever I want!” Twit insisted.
“It’s just not right,” T replied, “no matter how you look at it, it’s stealing and you won’t find me selling hats designed by anyone but myself.”
“Oh, that’s just ridiculous…my husband…”
“Right!” I interrupted, “it’s only a MORAL crime, so it doesn’t matter!” Oh, I was fuming. Sadly, this went right over Twit’s head but shut up the rest of the room. We had a little discussion in one corner while Twit went on and on about how many of these hats she was going to make but I knew if I didn’t step back I would likely cause a scene that wouldn’t soon be forgotten and I really like most everyone in the room.
All that being said, here are my views on copyright and fair use:
I will knit an item for another person, for pay, from a published pattern, but only if they buy the pattern. Before y’all start flooding my inbox with requests, be warned that I have many conditions when knitting for others that have nothing to do with the complexity of the pattern and I don’t come cheap 🙂 I have knit for cash, but the first stipulation is that the item is not being sold and the pattern was acquired legally. No exceptions. Ever.
I have a clearly worded copyright notice on all my patterns. If you buy a pattern from me, you are welcome to knit up the item as many times as you like for yourself, friends and family, so long as you’re not making money doing it. If you are knitting for cash, I ask that you purchase the pattern for each item knit for sale. It’s only fair and right.
If you’re knitting items for charity or fund raising (not your Vacation Fund raising, mind) please drop me a note and I’ll likely give you permission.
If you want to use my pattern to teach a class, please drop me a note and I’ll likely give permission.
If you want to buy one of my patterns and make a dozen copies to sell in your shop, I do not give permission and hope you get shingles.
If you buy one of my patterns, make 50 items and sell them for a bunch of money in any venue I will be very angry when I find out (and the knitting community really isn’t all that big) and will use every resource at my command to force you to see the error of your ways. Yes, I will take you to court, I will shame you in the knitting community, I will destroy your reputation. If you’re going to make money selling knitted goods, get permission or use your own designs.
If that makes me a hardass, so be it. I put hours and hours into each design. I have 20 years of knitting & designing experience. It’s not just my hobby, but a real side-line that I hope to turn into my main job some day soon. You wouldn’t let me come into your office and steal cash from you, so why should I sit back and let someone steal from me?
* Do follow the link – Carina’s designs are just lovely!