Copyright and craft patterns


Crafter and attorney Jen Bernstein has written some excellent posts here on copyright and also copyright and craft patterns - specifically about quilt patterns, but which could easily be applied to other craft patterns. She has written from a US perspective but it is still interesting to read. (I guess there are not many people writing about Irish copyright law and craft patterns! And what of international law on copyright?)

As a designer and pattern writer it is something that interests me hugely. It is easy enough to copyright my patterns - to stop people buying the patterns, putting their names on the bottom and reselling them as their pattern. A more complex area is whether people can buy my pattern, make the objects I've designed and sell those objects for their own gain.

I have frequently seen other designers put "for personal use" on their patterns and sometimes even sell licenses to other crafters who want to make clothes or products from their designs and sell them. It makes sense to me - I wouldn't want other crafters using my kits or knitting patterns to make items to sell.

Yet, do we have a leg to stand on? From what I am reading in Jen's great articles, it seems not. Or at least, not unless we sell patterns with a contract attached - two different contracts in fact - one for purchasers wishing to make the objects for personal use and one for those wishing to sell what they make from the pattern. This is obviously not going to happen as it is far too complex for small designers.

What to do? As a purchaser who is also a designer I would always respect other designers' wishes. For example, I have bought patterns by Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae (who writes awesome patterns by the way). Rae sells licenses for a small fee to those wishing to sell clothes made from her patterns. I would never consider making clothes from her patterns to sell and not attributing them to her, or doing it without a license.

Yet it seems legally this is not really binding. Should it be? For example, if I think about recipes in the same way, it doesn't make so much sense to me. If I ran a cafe or a food stall at a market - would I feel that I couldn't use recipes by other chefs without permission? Absolutely not! I even remember reading Yotam Ottolenghi (who is my favourite cook in the entire universe at the moment by the way - if you do not own a copy of Plenty go out and buy one this instant) writing about knowing one of his dishes was a success when someone saw it on the menu in a "cool and arty pub in Camberwell".

What do you think people? Do designers need to rethink the way we approach our patterns? 
 Should designers be able to restrict people from using their designs to make items to sell? Or do we need to suck it up and consider it a compliment?

(Photo above is a sneak look at some new designs by the way, coming your way soon!)