Wednesday, August 5, 2009

mine! no, mine!

i have a question that has been bothering me for awhile now. well, not a question, really. just a comment. or a question. you decide.

how do so many people take something so generic, like a tote bag or a pillow, and then churn out a pattern for it and call it their own? i've made the rounds of sewing books and sites, and i think all of them have something along those lines, whether it's a tunic (weekend sewing has a version of the same tunic i own and got at target) pattern, or a tiered skirt, or a zipper bag, or a basic tote, or even cloth napkins - really? you thought that up all by yourself? you get to claim credit for that pattern?

there are obvious examples of true blatent rip-off-ism out there (see here & here) but i always feel a little offended if i see someone stating on their blog *for personal use only* and it's something so basic, that i learned to make it in home ec back in 1986. i guess my big dilemna is how much of design is personal expression in choice of fabrics and colors and textures, and how much is technique, and how much is fair use? if i take something generic and make it mine, is it really mine? or is it an improved version of someone else's design?

i first started thinking about this while knitting washcloths. i would love to sell more of them in my etsy shop. and i feel like if i cast on, without a written pattern, and work up a stitch that i like, it's my creation and i should get to sell it. but am i the first person to do a garter stitch border with a basketweave design? surely, undoubtably not. so i don't sell them. and i feel frustrated.

oh, here's the last thing i have to say about it tonight. isn't the idea of a crafting community all about teaching and sharing? but still creating your own ideas and designs? isn't that the spirit of the crafter, and the idea behind most of these craft sites, to share and teach and be a community? what do you think?


Jessica said...

Interesting post... I'm inclined to think differently about copyright issues though (however copyright is a tricky and vague subject and I'm by no means that knowledgeable about it).

Firstly - I think that so many books like simple sewing and other beginner aimed titles have these basic tote/bag/top and other patterns in them because they are great starter projects and because they are so basic no one really 'owns' the pattern. Such simple items can be made up in thousands of different ways and no two people will make the same item even if they tried. This is why there should be no problem for people to make up items from these instructions and sell the items that they make. HOWEVER - if someone were to copy the instructions word for word and then tried to sell those instructions then you would have a copyright infringement.

I'm sure the same applies to you making up a crochet or knitted dishcloth to sell - there is no way of someone saying that you've copied their unique design as it is such a simple and obvious item. However, if you were to take someone else's pattern that was more involved and also stated that you couldn't sell items made from the pattern then selling any items you made with it would be wrong (not breaking copyright though... that would only be selling the pattern I think) and could land you in trouble.

Hope that helps - I'm sure there is more helpful advice about this issue on other craft blogs :-)

Heidi said...

I tend to agree with what Jessica stated in her comments.

First as a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer or have any training in copyright law ;) What little knowledge I have is from seminars and reading online and books about copyrights.

For one, copyright law, especially in the arts and crafts arena is a sticky subject. And as a honest crafter/artist, I try my darnedest not to sell things created from other peoples patterns. I also try not to sell anything that looks to much like someone else's unique thing. I try to get permission from the designer if I give the item to a charity organization for a raffle, just to be safe.

With all that being said, you should be able to create something of your own that is inspired by all the examples out there. This is what I understand to be "derivative works". Someone could technically take a photo I took, smudge some things in it, turn it all purple and call it their own. It would be up to me as the originator, copyright owner, of the photo as to whether or not I wanted to pursue my right as the owner to enforce that copyright.

I truly struggle with this in my quilts. There are a lot of quilt patterns that technically should be in the public domain, but designers continue to produce and sell patterns for those blocks. I get wishy-washy especially on any of the Kansas City Star blocks. The newspaper still continues to publish these pattens in some form or another.

I find it as frustrating as you do.; trying to be conscious/respective of the creators rights. I still have not "sold" any of the quilts I have made for fear of the legal liability it entails.

It is my understanding that the copyright owner has to maintain the copyright. They have to contact the you, and anyone else, of the infringement. They cannot pick and choose enforcement of the copyright, letting some people use it without prior consent, and go after others. It is an all or nothing type of thing.

I intend to study up further on this issue before selling some of my items. I want to be fully informed of my rights and the rights of others before diving into this big mess called copyrights :)

tammiemarie said...

Thanks for weighing in on this! I'm sure you're right about the beginner aimed titles - I hadn't really thought about that. I'm always so excited to see a new sewing book, and then often disappointed in the number of "new" projects.

And that's why I love the designers who say "make these, sell these - just please give me credit for the pattern" Because they spent the time figuring out dimensions, etc. and they deserve the credit. This seems to be a growing trend, jcasa, madebyrae, and amy karol all have a version of this. And I don't mind paying for a pattern at all.

My personal dilemna is that over the years I have read so many craft books, magazines, and sites, I don't know if what I think up is actually my idea or one I saw somewhere years ago. And yes, my memory is that bad. :)

3 o'clock walk said...

I agree with your comments about a "crafy community." Honestly, I feel if you took the time to make it then you should be able to sell it. I buy handmade bc I like the idea of it not being mass produced and that someone lovingly made it with their own two hands. I understand that some crafty people put a lot of time and effort into creating their own designs, but at the same time I feel that you can only reinvent the wheel so many times, so to speak.

tammiemarie said...

I have felt that way about quilts too! I don't think I will be selling any quilts anytime soon - I have yet to even finish my first one - but I see a lot of quilters setting up shops and wonder if they feel like I do about stepping on someone else's design toes. But then again, people have been quilting FOREVER. It's surely been done before.

Side note - are the KC Star quilt patterns for personal use only? Most of them are copies of historic quilts, I thought, so does that mean as long as you give tribute to the original quilter you could reproduce them? I sure wish I was smarter about this. I have honestly tried to learn about this, I just can't decide in my mind what to think.

Buzz's Food Lady said...

Copyright is a tricky subject and people often claim a right to control copies when they shouldn't. I think it is the creative community's responsibility to advocate for freedom and support the copyleft.

You should check out the film "Rip! A Remix manifesto" when you have some free time. It is available in a number of places including youtube

4 major components of the manifesto:
1. Culture always builds on the past.
2. The past always tries to control the future.
3. Our future is becoming less free.
4. To build free societies you must limit the control of the past.

: )

urban craft said...

you're right, it is about teaching and sharing and getting people to Do It Themselves! And patterns for sale are the worst sometimes. Once someone thought I was copying them cause I made a cactus that looked absolutely nothing like their cactus. I'm sorry, you can't copyright something from nature.

Tammie said...

i love this post and basically agree with everything you wrote.

i personally have no problem giving credit to the designer of a pattern---in fact i want to! but i feel like if i took the time to make it, with my supplies and fabric---to a very small extent its mine. at least somewhat. so i also agree with the comment that 3 o clock walk made---what is really "new" anymore? people have been sewing for who knows how long.

i love how amy karol lets you sell your creations as long as you give her credit. i think more than anyone she really believes in the crafting community and she backs it up with her actions.

Tammie said...

also...all that being said...ive never once tried to sell anything ive made for fear of doing something wrong. its a tricky subject.

Lauranie said...

So here is my two cents...if you don't want anyone to "copy" you, or make something from an idea you have...don't put a tutorial on the internet, or sale us a book that gives step-by-step instructions AND which material to use!! Giving credit to someone who has so generously given you an idea, a tutorial, or a free pattern is common sense. And lastly, do we have to send royalties to McCall's, Butterick, Burda, Voque... et al when we sale something we made using one of their patterns?
Love this post...makes you think!

tammiemarie said...

Actually, Lauranie, I believe I read somewhere that you are not allowed to sell anything made from a Simplicity pattern - I don't know about the others, but they may be the same. I think I read that in the book Craft, Inc.

I also seem to remember as a girl, my nana selling things that she made from patterns. It was a bit different, she was a seamstress and had a shop with a friend where they did alterations, etc. But if someone wanted them to sew something, they'd choose a pattern and materials and pay them for the work. Like prom dresses. This nis such a funny sibject - no one ever seems to know exactly what is right!

Lauranie said...

oops....I guess that tells you how educated I am on the subject!! Good thing I don't try to sell much! :)


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