I don’t think you can do that…

12 Jan

I am not (by any means!) an expert on the limitations of copyright, but I’ve read a bit on the topic (see here, for example).

I’m always a bit puzzled by people’s attempts to direct what others can do when offering free patterns or charts. For example, Kincavel Krosses offers a free chart for a cross stitch project, with the following “permissions“:

  • This design is copyright to Kell Smurthwaite and Kincavel Krosses
  • You may use, copy and/or share this design, and you may change it to your liking for your own use
  • You may not sell this design or use it to make up kits
  • You may sell the finished piece for charity, but you may not sell it commercially

I have no quarrel with the first three–not only do they make sense but fall well within what I understand of copyright law: you can offer a chart or pattern, or even images, for use without a fee, yet you retain copyright of said pattern/image.

The last one, though? Not so much.

Min you, this is not an isolated case. Noted designer Teresa Wentzler hosts a copyright information page wherein she writes (among other things):

Q: I want to sell my finished stitching on eBay (or where ever). Is that legal?

A: Yes, as long as you purchase a new pattern for each item you make. Needlework patterns sold to consumers are intended for personal use (unless specifically stated in the publication!), not as vehicles for making income. When multiple items are made from the same pattern, and these items are sold, it is considered commercial use. Which means you will need to negotiate with the copyright holder for usage rights…or a ‘license’. An aside: When income is involved (and it doesn’t need to be very much), the long arm of the IRS *will* reach out and find you!

Notice the not-so-subtle threat?

You must buy a new copy of the same pattern for each item you make? (pardon me while I quietly WTFFF?* in the corner over there)

Interweave Press waded into the copyright/crafters fray last spring, with a “free” digital booklet supposedly full of answers to copyright questions–and which was full of misinformation and bullshit, as pointed out by numerous commenters (CraftGossip’s posts on the topic have the comments turned off, by the way):

It’s full of misinformation. They’ve already had to rewrite parts of the ebook due to backlash from a number of people who appear to know more about copyright than they do.

Copyright–I don’t think it does what you think it does.

~~~ * ~~~

(Interestingly, Ms Wentzler links to the US copyright page, wherein a list of protected works does not include items made from patterns or charts under copyright themselves, and to the full text of Chapter 17, but omits any mention of fair use.)

~~~ * ~~~

Seriously now, why keep offering “free” patterns, free charts, posting tutorials, etc, if you get bent out of shape when people ask you about them?

What is the point of scaring people with subtle, or even open, threats of legal action if they dare make use of what you yourself freely offered?

You don’t want to share; you don’t want people to “steal” from you; you don’t want to encourage “copycats”; you really want to be the sole owner and source of your magical unique  special snowflake design? Then why the hell don’t you keep it to yourself? (Seriously, think about it: it would save us all on rants and keep your blood pressure at a healthier level.)

~~~ * ~~~

I have linked before to Leah Day’s post on copyright, because she makes a helluva sense to me (see more of her reasoning here), from the point of view of a crafter who learns and is inspired by others. I am not sure I’d go as far as Question Copyright and claim that we were (would be) better off without any protection for the original creators, but frankly I am afraid of a culture in which we can’t make anything, lest we infringe on someone else’s “right” to that idea.

~~~ * ~~~

* WTFFF? = what the fucking fuckity fuck?

6 Responses to “I don’t think you can do that…”

  1. Kell Smurthwaite 12/01/2013 at 9:47 AM #

    It’s more to do with people making money from someone elses work. I put a lot of time and effort into creating charts for others to enjoy, most of which I offer free of charge, but if someone were to start stitching my designs on a large scale and selling them commercially, that would go against the spirit of the whole thing. As far as I’m concerned, my charts are there to be enjoyed by other stitchers, and for the finished items to be kept for themselves, given as gifts, or given/sold for charitable use. If someone wants to stitch multiple items to sell for personal gain, they should design their own charts. I know most designers feel the same way.

    Think of all the hoo-haa that has been caused when big companies have ripped off the designs of crafters after seeing their work on Etsy or Folksy or any other craft-based site (or even direct from the designer’s own website). Think how YOU would feel if that happened to you, even on a smaller scale.

    When the charts are offered free of charge in good faith, it would seem pretty low to disregard the wishes of the designer. That kind of thing leads to designers withdrawing their work – I’ve seen it happen before and it will happen again. Therefore, if crafters enjoy the efforts of designers and wish them to continue offering their work, they really should be a little considerate, don’t you think? It’s only fair.

    • azteclady 12/01/2013 at 11:12 AM #

      If may be fair, but it’s not legally binding.

      Which is the point: when someone puts a copyright notice, restricting rights not covered by said copyright, they are not being fair themselves, are they?

      • ArtK 21/01/2013 at 7:07 PM #

        Hmmm. IANAL but I wonder if the creation of an item from a design wouldn’t come under the same logic as a mechanical license in music. Or in “public performance for profit,” which has long been a valid restriction in music and in drama. Or in the limitations on creating derivative works in other situations. There isn’t just one license involved in the legal use of a copyrighted work.

  2. azteclady 21/01/2013 at 7:24 PM #

    ArtK, I sincerely doubt it–and I discussed the why of this belief, at some length, on the copyright page/post linked in this piece.

    • ArtK 22/01/2013 at 9:06 AM #

      Interesting. I read the linked Tabberone article and agree in general now but am wondering about one of his points. The idea that “by purchasing you agree to the following terms…” is not enforceable. In software, we have the so-called “shrink wrap” license, whose legal status is still unclear. The controversy there, though, is around implied or manifest consent, not whether you can place restrictions on the license.


  1. Just because you wish it… « Her Hands, My Hands - 13/01/2013

    […] Kell Smurthwaite of Kincavel Krosses commented on my latest post on copyright, explaining her position (which boils down to, “why should […]

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