Copyright, Creativity and Crafting

The song Donna Summer song “She Works Hard for the Money” is rolling around as I write this post. And work hard I do. And in spite of this, I’ve mentioned I wanted to start selling my extra produce at the local resort. Well, they’ve put me off just long enough that I’ve gotten the message—not interested. They are nice people, they just to keep things neighborly. So rather than say “No”. It’s always, “We’ll get back to you.” Only they never do. So I’m looking for a new outlet.

Happily, many of the samples I knit up fell into the hands of my family members for Christmas, saving me a huge amount of time shopping and bringing lots of joy. The other reason I didn’t sell them was that I noticed (and wrote about) that some of the items had the stipulation that they “cannot be used for commercial use”. I assumed this referred to the knitted garment, but a person posted on that blog I should read up on it because that was not the case citing US copyright law.

I didn’t have time to check it out at the time, but this weekend I decided to research and found out—they are quite correct. According to US copyright law, this stipulation cannot apply to “useful articles” produced following a recipe or pattern. The UK (of course!) has a similar rule specific to knitting and croquet items.

You certainly don’t have to take my word for it–after all, I may have many advanced degrees, but I’m no lawyer. So here’s where you can read up on it yourself:

You might also find a couple of articles helpful to parse the legalese. I really appreciated Jason M. Krellenstein’s brief description in his “Ask a Lawyer” column in Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2012 issue. To summarize: any statement about “no commercial use” in a pattern has no legal precedent and is unenforceable on knitted items. This article, from 2014 in “Plagiarism Today”, spells out in understandable detail why socks, hats and sweaters fall under “useful objects” and can therefore, not be restricted by a designer.

The bottom line: A designer cannot, as of this writing, legally enforce a “no commercial use” clause in the UK commonwealth (Canada, Australia, South Africa, India, etc.) or in the United States on articles generated by following the pattern.

In retrospect this makes sense. The pattern and all the hard work that went into creating it belongs to the designer—and they should profit from the sale of that pattern. For produced item based on that pattern, a knitter’s cost of materials, time and effort, modifications/customizations belong to the knitter–full stop. Effectively, the knitter may not be restricted from earning a profit on their labor, clause or no clause.

This said, while you (and I) can sell these items (until there is a legal decision to the contrary), be mindful of what the copyright protects–the pattern itself. The law is very clear that this intellectual property belongs to the designer.

A pattern should not be resold or given away, in whole or in part.  A pattern must be purchased and it should not be shared, unless the designer gives you permission. You also cannot reproduce or publish it without express permission. Speaking from personal experience with my own *very simple* designs, designers work hard for the money.

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Got the Blues

Boy was I sunny this weekend despite the rain. I finally did it. I talked to the resort next door and asked if they’d carry my knitwear. I’m so excited because they said yes! Then the blues set in.

I’ve considered setting up an online store and decided there was too much competition, not to mention the difficulties and cost to ship from the Island. Living in a vacation destination means people with disposable income visit—frequently. They often want to bring a piece of their experience back, so why not a practical item like a hat scarf, yoga hood, or scarf? Now all I need is a label and I’ve reached out to a local designer for assistance.

For supplies I’ve got scads of grandma yarn (free to me wool) to use for these small portable projects while I’m still commuting and flying around the world for the job that keeps a roof over my head and food on the table. Though I’d never really planned to make a profit, it is still good to have things to keep my hands busy and I’m a bit over hatted, scarved and mitted at the moment. As is my trusty husband.

YogaHood
Yoga Hood I am planning to sell at the resort next door

I’ve already posted about the Yoga hood I cobbled together from gift yarn—which will likely be the first item on sale. The next item I planned to show them was a matching hat and mitts I was making from leftover Tosh DK for my Woolful KAL George Hancock Home and Away sweater in lovely Worn Denim.

The mitts are no problem, because that is my own design. But as I was knitting the waffle hat I pulled out the pattern to look to see the decreases and to my disappointment the pattern says that it can only be used for personal use and non-profit use. And while I wasn’t planning on selling it for a profit (just cost) it seems like that would violate the disclaimer.  

While I completely agree that you should acknowledge where a pattern comes from. I can also completely understand not duplicating it and serving it up as your own design. Which is why the mitt pattern I created refers back to the Violet Waffles hat pattern as inspiration for their design. And while I completely get why you wouldn’t want a huge conglomerate (e.g., The Gap) taking a pattern and mass producing it as their own design, eliminating low-production, in-person sales of garments is a bit hard to understand. After all, the work of knitting it and the materials are my own. That said, this was a FREE pattern. So that might have something to do with it. I’ve written to the designer to ask her thoughts, just to be sure.

I’ll be sure to check this out before I knit up someone else’s design or design something to match. Another lesson learned the hard way!

I guess my sister-in-law will get this set. *sigh*