Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Word about Copyrights and Sewing Patterns


I see copyright infringement all the time in my business. There are lots of grey areas and there are some hard and fast rules. I am probably even guilty if ignorant of my own infringements. But I try to be careful in this area to respect the property of others.

I sell sewing patterns that are developed by independent designers. I usually deal directly with the designer and producer and I have a personal or at least business connection to that person. Contrary to popular belief, these designers are hardworking individuals much like you and I. Many of them are popular, even celebrities in the sewing world--but none of them are making a killing at it.

Their patterns typically cost more than those of the major pattern companies because their production costs are higher and they don't have the same clout and distribution. But if you like their designs for the uniqueness they offer, then you may be willing to pay that higher price.

When you buy a sewing pattern, you are usually buying the right to make as many garments or sewing projects as you want for your own personal use. That's pretty straightforward. You can't make it and sell it and you can't claim it as your own design.

Major pattern companies have the resources to check online, at craft fairs and so forth and to fine violators. Independent designers typically do not.

If you make clothing for others and want to use a commercial pattern or a pattern of an independent designer, you must purchase one pattern per garment. That is part of the cost of that garment. And to avoid temptation of reusing that pattern, you should give the pattern to the purchaser or destroy it.

Legally if you obtain written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and sell goods made from the pattern you are OK.  Major pattern companies have not to my knowledge ever given that permission.

Independent designers might give you permission or sell you limited rights but you must ask and you should get it in writing and if you do get permission you still may not claim the design as your own.

Tempting as it may be, don't share your patterns with others. Keep to the rule, one pattern per person.

Think of it as if you were in the designer's shoes.  Would you like to have several strangers take $5 or $6 dollars out of your paycheque or savings account every week? No? Well that's exactly what you do to the designer every time you copy and share sewing patterns.

When a friend asks if I will share a pattern, this is what I say.

I don't feel comfortable sharing this pattern because of the copyright. I know how hard the designers work on their sewing patterns and if you purchase your own copy, it will help them stay in business.

If you see someone distributing copies from books, patterns or websites, don't accept them. It's OK to distribute the sources but not the materials, unless you have obtained the rights to do so.

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