The craft pattern community is always concerned with the problem of ideas being copied without permission. Homespun Peddler feels it's important to take a stand on this issue. We publish many pictures of copyrighted art on our web site and we expect our visitors to respect these copyrights. Here are some comments and answers to questions we get about copyrights, patterns and artworks.

This is not legal advice.
We are NOT lawyers.
Take this information as common sense observations

Can I use commercial patterns to make items to sell?
You must read the copyright notice on the pattern to detetermine what an artist allows. Most artist allow you to make items in small quantity for sale to the consumer in shops and at bazarrs and shows.

You usually CANNOT make an item then sell it wholesale. The only exception might be if you did only a few of an item.

It is NEVER permissible to mass produce a design without express written permission from the artist. The great fear is that someone will take a good pattern, have it mass produced off shore, then become the next Beanie Baby fad.

Does changing the pattern avoid the copyright?
In a word, NO. This is a popular misconception.

The rules we like to apply are these:
  • If you look at a pattern and consciously change it just to avoid the copyright, you are still copying.

  • If you work from MEMORY and make an item that incorporates ideas, concepts, techniques and general features from various sources, you are CREATING, not copying.

  • If your piece is so similar to a published or well known work that a casual observer would connect the two, then it's too close for comfort.

What if I design an original work and then find someone else made something similar? Did they copy my work? Will they think I copy theirs?
Part of the question is a "chicken and egg" delima. Who published first? If the OTHER person published first but you never saw their work then it's probably a coincidence. But you may be hard pressed to prove it.

Where did the two pieces first appear. If you bought an ad for your work in a magazine, or you've sold the works widely, or you have published the works, there's the potential for copying. If, on the other hand, your work has not been widely seen, it may be a chance coincidence.

If you are a member of a "community" (discussion group, club, class or even a chat room) that shares work, then someone in that group may copy your work. But maybe not . . . many of these groups freely share techniques and ideas. The same conversation could inspire several people to develop a similar work.

Does your work follow a commonly used theme or style. "Ann and Andy" dolls are very popular and well established. Many people interpret the subject. Even when there is no intentional copying involved there can be close similarities between works.
Should I copyright my work?
Yes. At least to the point of posting the international copyright symbol "©" with the date and your name on the work. This serves notice to all who see the work that you are claiming the copyrights to the work.
Do I need a lawyer to file a copyright?
We don't know. The advice we've been given is that simply publishing the international copyright symbol "©" with the date and your name establishes your claim to a copyright. The point is that you are serving notice to anyone who sees the work that it you claim the copy rights and they may not copy the item.

This is probably sufficient for works that are going to be published, distributed or sold on a small scale. If you are an established artist and your work is widely known and distributed then you should certainly seek legal advise and assistance.

The deciding factor will probably be cost and the potential for copying. Can you afford the legal expenses and, frankly, will anyone care enough to copy your work?

Can I sue if someone copies my work?
Certainly. Anyone can sue anyone these days. It's the American way.

The deciding factor is cost, probablity of winning, and the potential for collection a settlement. The fact of the matter is that most of us can't afford to pursue a person that copies our work. If we can afford to, and can win, we may not recover any actual money and may not get our cost back.

SHOULD I sue someone who copies my work?
That depends on who YOU are and who THEY are.

If you are a small scale artist who finds an obvious case of a large player using your design for mass production and marketing, you should definitely seek legal assistance. The big guy is worth going after where the little guy is not. PROVIDED you can establish a claim.

If you are an ESTABLISHED ARTIST with a name to protect you probably MUST sue, or threaten to sue, anyone who copies your work, no matter what size they are. Your name is your product and you must protect it. (If you are in this catagory you probably have legal cousel anyway and should consult them.)

How can I protect my work?
Actually, publishing your work may be the best way to protect it. If you can establish that your work has been publically seen based on a given date then you can establish that you designed it first.

"Publishing" can be done in many ways. The point is that the work should appear in a place controlled by a third party and in a way that a date can be established. Making and printing a pattern for your work may be enough, provided the pattern is seen. You can advertise it, send out announcements or sell it to customers or retail outlets. Having it in a box at the house doesn't count.

The internet is becoming an excellant place to show original art. If, for example, your work appears in a Seedpod Gallery on the Homespun Peddler web site then we have a record of the item and when it appeared. That can establish your claim.

It may not enough to show your work on your OWN web site. The claim could be made that you put the item on-line only when you found that someone had copied it. If you publish on your own web site you should announce it to others so that a date can be established.

Where can I get the REAL STORY????
To learn more than you ever wanted to know about copyright, click here to visit the United States Copyright Office.

Much of the information there is Adobe Acrobat PDF files which are a bit of a pain, but they do have a nice FAQs page.

The FAQ's are indexed and numbered. Here are the ones that we found most interesting:
  • Be sure to look at FAQ's 13 and 14 which note that registration is VOLUNTARY. You register a copyright to put it into the public record.
  • FAQ'a 38, 39, and 40 deal with "publication".
  • FAQ's 48 & 49 deal with making changes to a work.
  • FAQ 53 deals with the copyright notice on the work.
  • FAQ 55 talks about what to do if somebody infringes on your work.
  • MOST IMPORTANT! See Faq 58. It's critical.

This is not legal advice.
We are NOT lawyers.
Take this information as common sense observations

For more information send e-mail to the Peddler.


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