Crafts and Copyrights

 

Crafts and Copyrights: Copyright FAQs

These FAQ's apply to all types of craft patterns and artwork.

Click on a specific question to take you to that answer or scroll down the page to see all the questions and answers.

Disclaimer: Copyright and other intellectual property laws are complicated. The information on craftsandcopyrights.com is for general information purposes only. This information was compiled through research by individuals with no legal qualifications. While craftsandcopyrights.com, including its volunteers, moderators and sponsors have done their best to provide accurate information, they cannot be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, nor for loss or damages to individuals or businesses resulting from the content on craftsandcopyrights.com. For specific copyright information and cases, contact a qualified copyright/intellectual property attorney in your country.

In most instances in these FAQ's, and on craftsandcopyrights.com, the term "designer" means an individual who creates craft patterns or instructions for others to follow in order to create a finished product. In legal terms, "designer" may have different or broader meanings not to be confused with the typical arts and crafts definition. For the FAQ's, "artist" refers to an individual who creates visual art such as paintings, drawings or photography.

What are copyrights and who do they affect?

What are Copyrights?

What does that mean?

What is the purpose of copyright?

What is copyright infringement?

What about copyright laws in different countries?

What is a "copy?"

What is a "derivative work?"

What can be copyrighted?

What can't be copyrighted?

Does something need to have a copyright notice on it to be copyrighted?

How do I copyright my work?

How do I register my copyright?

How long do copyrights last?

Aren't you infringing copyrights by copying definitions here?

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How copyrights relate to craft patterns and artwork:

Creating, Copying and Sharing Patterns:

Can I copy/scan craft patterns or artwork that I have purchased?

What is a "working copy?"

Can a retail store copy a pattern for me?

Can I copy patterns/artwork from library books and magazines?

Can I use images/art that I find on the Internet on my web site, blogs, or for things like avatars, tags or craft patterns?

Can I use photos of celebrities or movie shots on my web site or to make craft patterns/artwork?

If I am not making money by sharing a pattern, how is it wrong?

How do I get permission, publishing rights or a licensing agreement?

What about patterns made showing old images or "old masters?"

Aren't designers infringing copyrights when they make patterns based on another's artwork?

How can I legally share a craft pattern with a friend?

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Selling Patterns and Finished Products

Can I sell a pattern I've purchased?

Can I sell the finished product that I made from a pattern?

Can I sell or donate multiple finished products that I made from a pattern?

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Teaching and Educational Purposes:

What does "for educational purposes" mean?

Does that mean I can share a pattern for educational purposes?

Can I copy a pattern to teach it?

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Common Misconceptions and Excuses:

Copyright infringers are "stealing."

Most designers and artists don't need the money.

Designers and artists create things just for fun.

Sharing patterns can't really hurt designers and artists; they are just being greedy.

Designers and artist make a lot of money on the work that they sell.

I bought a craft pattern or artwork so I can do whatever I want with it.

If I change a pattern or artwork a little bit, then it is now my own work.

Putting a "for educational purposes only" message on my sharing group or shared patterns will make it legal.

A "free," "complimentary" or "sample" pattern means that I can do anything I want with it.

Everybody is doing it.

Copyright infringers are flattering a designer or artist by distribution their work

The patterns or artwork cost too much, so I need a break.

I don't agree with copyright law.

This site is all made-up, BS.

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What can happen if copyright infringements continue:

What can happen if I am caught copying or "sharing" patterns illegally?

What can happen if I am the group owner or moderator an group (Internet or real-world) where illegal pattern or artwork copying and "sharing" takes place?

What can happen if I am a member of a group (Internet or real-world) where illegal pattern or artwork copying and "sharing" takes place?

But I didn't know it was wrong! (or, "But somebody told me it was ok!")

What will happen to the designers and artists if copyright infringements continue?

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What can I do to help designers and artists?:

How can I tell if a product is an illegal copy?

What can I do if I see suspected illegal copies on Internet groups or web sites?

What can I do if I see a retail store sellling suspected illegal copies?

What do I do if my work is being illegaly copied?

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Other questions:

Is fan art legal?

Are copyright infringers hurting the arts and crafts industries?

Wouldn't this only hurt the untalented designers and artists?

What do I get from purchasing a legal copy?

You have not answered my question(s) about copyrights and copyright issues.

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What are copyrights and who do they affect?

What are Copyrights?

From Wikipedia:
"Copyright" is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally "the right to copy" an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration.

Copyright may subsist in a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms or "works." These include poems, theses, plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works (dances, ballets, etc.), musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts of live and other performances, and, in some jurisdictions, industrial designs. Copyright is a type of intellectual property; designs or industrial designs may be a separate or overlapping form of intellectual property in some jurisdictions.

These "exclusive" rights include:

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What does that mean?

This means that designers, artists, photographers and other creators have legal rights which give them control over how their work is reproduced, distributed, published or adapted into other types of work (derivative works).

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What is the purpose of copyrights?

Copyright laws and other intellectual property laws were created for the benefit of societies. Their intention is to encourage creative people such as artists, photographers, film-makers, musicians, writers and inventors to produce creative works for others to enjoy. When these people are given protections so that they can earn a living from their work, they can create more. In addition, when there are time limits and "fair use" limits on copyrighted works, they allow eventual access for all and encourage new generations to create their own protected works.

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What is copyright infringement?

From Wikepedia, "Copyright infringement" is the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates one of the original copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it. In many jurisdictions, such as the United States, copyright infringement is a strict liability tort or crime. This means that the plaintiff or prosecutor must only prove that the act of copying or actus reus was committed by the defendant, and need not prove guilty intent or mens rea.

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What about copyright laws in different countries?

Most of the countries in the world are signatories to international copyright treaties, making copyright laws similar in most countries, or at least respected in most countries. Go to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for information.

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What is a "copy"?

Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 101. Definitions: Copies are material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. The term copies includes the material object, other than a phonorecord, in which the work is first fixed.

In craft patterns and artwork, this encompasses photocopies, scans, computer files sent through e-mails, up-loaded to web sites/groups, saved on CDs, print-outs and any other mechanical, electronic or digital reproduction of the patterns or artwork.

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What is a "derivative work?"

Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 101. Definitions: A derivative work is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a derivative work.

Craft patterns based on artwork and photographs are derivative works. In addition, a finished product made from a craft pattern is a derivative work. Read more about selling finished products or making multiple finished products in section: Selling Patterns and Finished Products.

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What can be copyrighted?

Copyright legal definition: Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 102.

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

"Literary works" is a very broad term here and includes things written on a computer, computer software itself and things like craft patterns. (1) and (5) would cover all types of craft patterns and artwork that are the topic of this web site.

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What can't be copyrighted?

Read part (b) from the above answer or From Wikipedia:
Copyright "is not designed or intended to cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, styles, or techniques which may be embodied in or represented by the copyright work." Copyrights also don't cover things like names, headings, titles, short phrases or slogans. However, for a company name or slogan, these may be protected under another intelluctual property law called trademark law.

For arts and crafts, this means that a particular technique, such as a cross stitch or painting with brushes cannot be copyrighted. However, the instructions themselves and the paintings themselves can be copyrighted.

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Does something need to have a copyright notice on it to be copyrighted?

No. A work is protected under copyright law as soon as it is created in a tangible form, whether or not there is a copyright symbol or statement with it.

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How do I copyright my work?

A work is protected under copyright law as soon as it is created in a tangible form. However, you may want to add a copyright notice (a © symbol or the word "copyright," or "copr.," or, in some contexts, a (c) is acceptable), with the year of first publication and your name to let people know it is your work. Registering your copyright with a government copyright agency can result in more compensation in the event of legal cases, but is not necessary for simple copyright protection.

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How do I register my copyright?

It is not necessary to register your copyright, but if you would like to, follow the instructions at your government copyright office. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, works published in a country where the U.S. has a copyright treaty or that were created by citizens of those countries can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

It is important to note that while you do not need to register your copyright, in the event of legal action it can be very helpful, perhaps even necessary, to have the copyright registered. To make it more affordable, you may register your works in a compilation so that multiple designs/artwork will be registered under the one cost. In the U.S. this is currently $45 per registration.

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How long do copyrights last?

It depends on when the work was created and in what country it was created. According to Wikipedia, "In most of the world the default length of copyright for many works is either life of the author plus 50 years, or plus 70 years."
A chart of US copyright time periods.

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Aren't you infringing copyrights by copying definitions here?

No. Government laws are public domain. Also, quoting small amounts of an article usually falls under the "Fair Use" laws for educational purposes and criticism or comment. The topic of "fair use" is discussed in later questions. However, just to be sure, quotes were taken from sites that explicitly permitted this use in their copyright statements.

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How copyrights relate to craft patterns and artwork:

Creating, Copying and Sharing Patterns:

Can I copy/scan craft patterns or artwork that I have purchased?

In most cases, no. Creating another copy is illegal.

However, in the case of craft patterns, some designers allow you to make a "working copy." Check the copyright information on your pattern for this. If it does not explicitly say you may make a working copy, or something similar, you must ask the designer for permission to do this.

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What is a "working copy?"

A "working copy" is a copy of a legally purchased pattern made by the crafter/needleworker to use while they are completing their project so that the original pattern is kept in good condition. In the case of crafts such as needlework, stitchers will often hilight their working copy pattern to show areas they have completed in order to keep track of where they are in the pattern. The working copy is then destroyed after completion of the project, so that only the legal pattern remains in circulation.

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Can a retail store copy a pattern for me?

No. A retail store is restricted by the same copyright laws as everyone else. They may not make copies unless the designer explicitly gives them permission to do so. Such permission is most commonly granted to retail stores in the case of complimentary sample charts that are given free to their customers.

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Can I copy patterns/artwork from library books and magazines?

A public library is considered an education institution so copying material from here falls under the "educational fair use" clause. However, that clause doesn't justify copying the whole magazine or book, just what is needed. A general guideline is 10% of a work.

It is also important to note that making one copy (in any format, including paper or electronic/digital files) is legal for your own personal use only. Making more copies, or copies of the copy is illegal. See the Educational Use and Teaching section for more information.

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Can I use images/art that I find on the Internet on my web site, blogs, or for things like avatars, tags or craft patterns?

No, not unless the copyright owner has given explicit permission to do so.

If you like images on a web site, look for the copyright owner's terms-of-use. Many artists/photographers will have limited terms-of-use for fans to use images on their own non-commercial web sites, for avatars, etc. But each artist/photographer is different and each has the right to set their own restrictions. If you cannot find this information from the copyright owner, you must contact them and ask permission.

Be careful of people who have illegally gathered images/artwork and posted them on their own web sites. They may claim the images are "copyright free," "royalty free," or "in the public domain." This is often not the case, unless this is a licensing company agent who represents the artist under contract. If in any doubt, or it looks too good to be true, do your research and contact the artist directly for permission.

To create a pattern from an image, you will need a "licensing agreement."

To publish an image in an article, magazine, book, or any method, including on the Internet or by e-mail, you will need to obtain "publishing rights."

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Can I use photos of celebrities or movie shots on my web site or to make craft patterns/artwork?

No. Photos of people and movie scenes are protected by the photographer's copyrights, like other images. A movie scene image may fall into the "fair use" category if you are using it in something like a review of the movie. However, making a craft pattern of the movie scene is a derivative work and illegal without a licensing agreement.

Images of people also fall under privacy laws and publicity laws which are separate from copyright laws, so you may need permission in the form of a "model release" from any recognizable people to publish/adapt images of them. In some places, celebrities may be in a different category than your average person as far as their expectation of privacy and ability to protect their names with trademarks. Publicity rights connected with a famous people may countinue past their death. So, it is always best to contact the person, estate or representative for permission, or consult an attorney.

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If I am not making money by copying/"sharing" a pattern, how is it wrong?

Even though you may not be making money, by creating more patterns or art products in circulation than were created by the designer/artist, you hurt their ability to sell their own products. Thus, you are taking potential income away from the designers and artists. This is the main purpose of copyright law protection.

From Wikepedia, The United States No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act), a federal law passed in 1997, provides for criminal prosecution of individuals who engage in copyright infringement, even when there is no monetary profit or commercial benefit from the infringement. Maximum penalties can be three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

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How do I get permission, publishing rights or a licensing agreement?

You contact the artist/photographer or licensing agent representing the artist for permission, publishing rights or a licensing agreement. Most of these people now have contact information easily available on their web sites. If you want to make multiple copies of a product showing or adapted from another's work, than the artist or photographer will likely want a written and signed legal agreement stating what you are permitted to do, how the copyright owner will be paid and the length of time you retain permission.

Important: you are not purchasing the copyright with a publishing or licensing agreement. You are only purchasing permission to do whatever the agreement states, for the time limit of the agreement. If you want to purchase the copyright for another's work entirely, then you must make an agreement that explicitly says that. This will cost considerably more than a publishing or licensing agreement.

If you don't know who the copyright owner is, you may be able to find out by searching at the U.S.Copyright Office

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What about patterns made showing old images or "old masters?"

This can be complicated. Just because something is "old" and past the time limits of copyright law, doesn't necessarily mean that it is now copyright-free. Some estates can renew copyrights to extend the original limit. Some museums can restrict access to the originals and the photographs you find may still be protected by copyrights of the photographer. You must do your research to see if copyrights have truly expired on the work so it is now public domain.

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Aren't designers infringing copyrights when they make patterns based on another's artwork?

Craft pattern designers must obtain a licensing agreement from the copyright owner like anyone else. Reputable designers and businesses do this, most often paying the artist a percentage of their pattern sales and the artist retains some kind of quality control.

However, with craft pattern software easily available now, there are more people creating and selling patterns illegally. Not only are they breaking the law, but often such people hurt the industries in more than one way. First of all, in instances of popular images such as sports logos, and characters from TV, movie and cartoons, the copyrights owners are very careful about who they choose for their licensing agreements. These artists and designers have to pay for these agreements. When others make illegal copies, this hurts the sales of those who paid to have those licensing rights.

Secondly, illegal copies hurt the reputations of the arts and craft industries. Without quality control that is often included with licensing agreements, poor-quality products often result, and are a bad reflection on the industries. Also, big companies do not want to deal with people who can't make sales, so illegal copies make it more difficult for people to obtain licensing agreements in the first place.

People creating illegal copies or derivative works are not considered "designers" or "artists" by the industries they are hurting and are treated like any other copyright infringers. They are disrespecting those individuals who are paying the costs of legitimate licencing fees and hurting the industries they claim to enjoy.

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How can I legally share a craft pattern with a friend?

You can lend the original pattern/artwork, as long as you do not keep a copy of it, even a working copy, at the same time. If the origninal number of products stay in circulation, then it is ok.

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Selling Patterns and Finished Products

Can I sell a pattern I've purchased?

In most cases, you can sell the pattern/artwork you purchased. You may not sell a copy of that pattern/artwork. Think of it as selling a used book. Exceptions may be if there is a licensing contract which is made clear before purchase that limits this action. This happens more often in software or digital pattern licenses, so read the agreements before purchasing.

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Can I sell the finished product that I made from a pattern?

This is a little complicated. Technically, a finished product is a derivative work and no amount may be sold without permission from the copyright owner. However, in real-world terms, if you make one item of something and then get tired of it, most designers would give permission to sell your finished work. This also applies to store models. However, if you are selling more than one product, whether you purchased patterns for each one or not, you are likely creating items with the intent to sell or to make a profit and this is definitely illegal without permission from the copyright owner.

If you would like to sell your finished products, whether for charity or profit, you must get a licensing agreement from the copyright owner. Many craft patterns that are marketed with sales in mind will state their copyright conditions in their patterns. For example, the copyright owner may allow the pattern purchaser to make 12 of these items for sale, but after that, they would need to contact the copyright owner for a licensing agreement.

Note: An important exception to this is patterns made with licensing agreements with companies such as Disney. In most cases, they have explicit terms on their patterns that no finished items may be sold and that they can only be made for personal use.

The general rule is to read the copyright and/or licensing agreement on your pattern carefully. If in doubt, contact the copyright owner or a qualified intellectual property attorney.

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Can I sell or donate multiple finished products that I made from a pattern?

In general, no, not without a licensing agreement. By its very nature, a craft pattern implies that the purchaser may make a finished product (a derivative work). However, unless otherwise stated, it is implied that that this permission is for one finished product for personal use. This includes a finished product being given as a gift.

In some cases craft patterns will have detailed copyright statements that will include a set number of products you can make and sell or donate before requiring a licensing agreement. If you cannot find a statement regarding this, or if you want to sell/donate more than the specified number of products, then you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Teaching and Educational Purposes:

What does "for educational purposes under fair use" mean?

This is part of the complicated issue of the fair use laws. There are legal uses for materials. However, this is also an often-misused concept that copyright infringers try to use in a misinformed attempt to work around the law. See Common Misconceptions and Excuses for more information on this. If you would like to claim something as being copied under the "fair use" laws, you must be able to clearly demonstrate that truth of this. Consult an attorny if there is any doubt.

In its entirety Title 17, Section 107 states:
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Factors (1) thru (4) must all be considered when determining if it is "fair use." There is not a set amount of a work that can be copied under this law. Factor (3) means that the quality of what is copied is just as important as the quantity of what is copied, in relation to the entire work. So, if you copy the most important parts, even if it's a relatively small portion, it may still be an infringement. A general guideline is 10% of the work. However, legally, the safe amount is as little as possible to obtain your result, if in fact it is a fair use in the first place.

Things like "teaching," "scholarship," and "research" used here refer to real educational institutions, students and similar individuals with a real academic intent.

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Does that mean I can copy a pattern for "educational purposes?"

Only if you truly fit the "fair use" situation and are not misrepresenting yourself. It still doesn't give you the right to distribute copies wherever you like, nor in unlimited amounts.

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Can I copy a pattern to teach it?

No. While the above may sound like it is saying that, the situation is more complicated than that. To teach a craft pattern you would need to copy all of the work. If you take the example of a science textbook instead, it would be obvious that this clause does not give permission to copy the entire textbook and give classrooms these copies.

In addition, many designers earn a significant portion of their income from their teaching work. Many have agreements for teaching specific patterns exclusively at certain locations, events or for limited times. Factor (4) may clearly be affected by another person teaching their work by creating unfair business competition and lessening the value of their personal appearances and exclusive contracts.

As with other copyright issues, you can ask the copyright holder for permission to teach their work and they will tell you their requirements for their permission. Often it means purchasing a legal copy of the pattern for each student. However, for large classes, you may be able to get a discount or wholesale price. For legitimate charity work, some designers may donate some designs. It is each designer's own personal decision for how their work may be copied and distributed.

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Common Misconceptions and Excuses:

Copyright infringers are "stealing."

Not exactly. While designers and artists feel like copyright infringements are stealing, and their livelihoods are impacted in a very similar manner, technically, most copyright infringements in the arts and craft industries are "unauthorized use." The difference is that stealing is taking something from someone that they have, while copyright infringements most often hurt the potential for income yet to be made. In a sense their rights have been taken, but not actual property.

Reference: In Dowling v. United States (1985), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that copyright infringement does not "easily equate" to theft and unauthorized copies are not stolen property. Note that the meaning of this is still often debated.

In addition to copyright laws, depending on the nature of the infringement, other laws may be applicable involving such things as trademark infringement, defamation of character (personal or business), unfair business competition or fraud and identity theft. A qualified intellectual property attorney would be needed to help determine the applicable laws for individual cases.

An important point to make: Making and/or distributing illegal copies is illegal! All copyright infringements are illegal! All of these activities can potentially hurt the designers and artists and the arts and crafts industries as a whole. In recent years, many independent designers and independent craft stores have gone out of business. Industries that have been hit hardest by copyright infringers appear to be declining the most. Big businesses like Michael's Arts and Crafts and Wal*Mart have drastically reduced their stock in items related to things like plastic canvas and cross stitch. When items don't sell because they are being illegally copied, stores can't afford to carry them and the designers are forced to find other ways to make a living.

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Most designers and artists don't need the money.

Designers and artists are people, just like anyone else, who need to earn a living to pay their rent, buy food, and support their families. As in most industries, a very few make a very good living, but the majority have modest and low incomes. Many craft designers, even well-known ones, need second jobs to make ends meet.

Many designers and artists may have also chosen this line of work because they have illnesses or physical limitations that restricts the type of job they can have.

The smaller and newer the business, the harder it can be hurt by copyright infringements since their income will be reduced by a larger overall percentage. In other words, the less income a business has, the more any loss, no matter what size, will hurt it.

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Designers and artists create things just for fun.

Yes, and no. Designers and artists like to create and most would not stop doing so if they stopped getting paid. However, making patterns and artwork is only one part of the process of creating products for public enjoyment. Running a successful business involves product creation, marketing, insurance, accountants and more! For example, no designer would write out instructions for things they already know how to do, unless they had customers to follow the instructions. Artists don't need multiple prints and products of their work if they just want to hang their work on their own walls. In short, most people would never have a chance to even see the work of designers and artists if they only created for themselves and had no reason to publish it.

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Copying patterns to "share" can't really hurt designers and artists, they are just being greedy.

Designers and artists need to be paid for their work, just like everyone else who needs to pay for food and shelter and support their families. They will experience the same consequences of losing an income that anyone else would.

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Designers and artist make a lot of money on the work that they sell.

In the vast majority of cases, no, they don't. The retail price for the pattern or artwork is not what the designer or artist makes on their work. Craft patterns especially are relatively inexpensive when you compare them to the other project supplies. A designer sells wholesale to the retail stores and must pay for printing, advertising, tools-of-the-trade, office space, photography and much more from those pattern sales. On average, designers make $1 to $2 per pattern in profit. Artists have similar costs to consider when producing their artwork and related products.

Most importantly, artists and designers do not have a steady paycheck every week. They get paid as their product is sold. Sales of items such as patterns and art prints can bring in income over years. However, the designers and artists cannot predict how much they will make any given month. They must plan for times of low sales and keep producing more work to keep sales going. When their work is illegally copied and distributed this drastically reduces both their present and future income!

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I bought a craft pattern or artwork so I can do whatever I want with it.

In some senses, yes. You can do whatever you like with the physical copy you purchased - tear it up, burn it, write on it, or eat it (although we don't recommend that last one). But you did not purchase the copyrights to that pattern or artwork. You only purchased one physical copy. To create more copies or other products based on that original work you would need to purchase a licensing agreement, or the copyright itself.

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If I change a pattern or artwork a little bit, then it is now my own work.

That is called "creating a derivative work" and is a right belonging only to the original creator of the work. Creating a derivative work without permission is illegal. You can't change an original work and "make it your own." There is no special amount by which you can change a work that makes it "your own". It will always be a derivative work.

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Putting a for "educational purposes only" message on my "sharing" group or copied patterns will make them legal.

No.

Groups promoting illegal "sharing" often have the mistaken idea that including a notice something like this "In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for non-profit research and eductional or criticism purposes only, and is NOT an infringement of copyright." somehow makes their activites legal. However, deliberate misinterpretations of the law doesn't make the activity legal.

The Title17, Section 107 includes the following:

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

All of those factors must be considered. By making copies of patterns and artwork and distributing them in their entirety, you violate factors (3) and (4), reducing the income that the designer or artist may make for the work. This is a obvious copyright infringement.

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A "free," "complimentary," or "sample" pattern/artwork means that I can do anything I want with it.

No. Just because a designer or artist does not charge for a work, does not mean that they have given up their copyrights to that work. They are most often doing this to promote their work and their web site or to reward their fans. By copying and distributing this in a different manner than they wanted, you are preventing that benefit to the designer/artist. Also, many of these items are only available for limited times, after which they are released as regular merchandise.

An exception is that sometimes retail stores may have permission to copy sample products to distribute to their customers. The designer gives them explicit permission to do this. A retail store must not make copies of works for which they don't have this permission.

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Everybody is doing it.

No. Many people understand that designers and artists must make a living too and they support them by legally purchasing and obtaining the items they like. They know that if they want the designers and artists to continue creating, then they need to support their work.

Also, reputable designers and artist take the care to get proper permission before adapting another person's work. They pay licensing fees to the copyright owners and this is part of the cost of doing business that they need to make back with the sale of their finished work.

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Copyright infringers are flattering a designer or artist by distributing their work.

No. While it is nice that people like their work, they do not consider people who reduce their ability to make a living from their own work, as friendly or deserving of kind thoughts. These infringers are disrespecting the designers and artist who feel sold out by this sort of "fan." If their own fans won't buy from them, how can they make a living?!

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The patterns or artwork cost too much, so I need a break.

There are many forms of legal patterns and artwork that are $10.00 US or less. These are relatively cheap, especially when you look at the cost of buying the supplies to create the projects, or your own artwork. If you cannot afford these, then as with everything else you can't afford, you wait to purchase things when you can afford them, borrow pattern books from a public library or ask for legal gifts or loans from others.

Being poor does not entitle a person to break the law. Many designers and artists are also living on very low incomes. Many have their own heart-breaking stories of family and health problems. You are not entitled to break the law any more than they are.

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I don't agree with copyright law.

Fine. That's your right. However, disgreeing with a law doen't mean it is ok to break it. Research the issue and lobby your government for changes that you agree with.

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This site is all made-up, BS.

No, not at all. This information was compiled by carefully reading copyright law, information and issues from various sources. Many of these sources are linked on the Links page, so you can research the information yourself. We believe that the information presented here is correct, but we're human, and we sometimes make mistakes. If you find any, please let us know.

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What can happen if copyright infringements continue:

What can happen if I am caught copying or "sharing" patterns/artwork illegally on things like Internet groups, through e-mail, photo sites or peer-to-peer (P2P) networks?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights."

Note how "willful infringement" results in a large increase in fines. "Willful" means that it was done with deliberate intent to break copyright laws. This can be hard to disprove when groups that encourage copyright infringements regularly run and hide when they get caught and then continue with business as usual after they have been informed they are breaking the law.

Also, if a copyright notice is on a pattern copy being shared, then "willful infringement" may be automatically proven in court. However, take note that an even stiffer penalty is given if one removes the copyright information from an illegally copied/shared pattern!

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What can happen if I am the group owner or moderator of a group (Internet or real-world) where illegal pattern or artwork copying and "sharing" takes place?

If you have yourself participated in illegal copying or "sharing" of patterns than the consequences remain the same as above: "Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights."

Just encouraging and promoting the illegal activitiy may have legal consequences. However, if you can show that you did not have knowledge of the copyright infringements happening and that you acted quickly to rectify the situation in your group once you became aware of the illegal activity, then you probably won't be held legally liable for the groups actions.

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What can happen if I am a member of a group (Internet or real-world) where illegal pattern or artwork copying and "sharing" takes place?

If you have not directly participated in or encouraged any copying or illegal sharing of the patterns/artwork yourself, you will probably be ok. However, if you have participated in illegal activity the consequences remain the same as above: "Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights."

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But I didn't know it was wrong! (or, "But somebody told me it was ok!")

Ignorance of the law is not a defence. It will also be hard for any court or jury to believe that with all the news that copyright infringements get in the media and in the groups promoting illegal activities themselves and the clandestine activities these groups go through to avoid detection, that people do not know that they are doing something illegal.

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What will happen to the designers and artists if copyright infringements continue?

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Already, many designers in hard-hit industries have cut back on their pattern businesses to pursue other avenues for income. When the most talented people find other work, it will fall to the less talented, less experienced designers to fill the void.

For designers and artists who continue to work, the more time they have to take from their work to protect it from copyright infringers, the less time they have to create. The obvious result is fewer quality patterns and artwork from popular designers and artists. How can this not have bad consequences on the industries? Read more in Are copyright infringers hurting the arts and crafts industries?

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What can I do to help designers and artists?:

How can I tell if a product is an illegal copy?

A comprehensive list of signs that indicate an illegal copy is not really possible. There is a large variety in the quality and type of illegal copies in the various arts and crafts industries. The main point is to use common sense and ask questions.

Some items to consider suspicious:

If you are suspicious for any of these or other reasons, then please contact the artist or designer. They can tell you if it is a legal copy or not, and take action against the infringer if needed.

For other suggestions and industry-specific examples join the forums for discussion.

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What can I do if I see suspected illegal copies on Internet groups or web sites?

You can help in several ways:

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What can I do if I see a retail store selling suspected illegal copies?

Same answer as previous question.

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What do I do if my work is being illegally copied?

Take action to protect your work! Join the forums for designers and artists to learn more.

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Other questions:

Is fan art legal?

Technically, if it uses portions of existing work, no, it is not legal. However, fan art tends to fall into a "special" category, where if it isn't being sold and is staying on the fan groups, then many artists look the other way. However, they reserve the right to restrict and prosecute this type of copyright infringement, just like any other, if they choose.

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Are copyright infringers hurting the arts and crafts industries?

In short, yes, copyright infringements are definitely hurting the arts and crafts industries, and are likely hurting them a lot, resulting in fewer quality craft patterns and less artwork and fewer stores in which to buy the existing products.

However, this is not an easy cause-and-effect answer since there are many, many variables in the ups-and-downs of craft industry sales. Hopefully, participation on this site will create some statistics to consider in the near future.

In general, the feeling from many designers, publishers and retailers is that infringements are hurting a lot. The more sales are reduced from any cause, the more copyright infringements will hurt the industries. It often does not take a big change in sales to put designers and retail stores out of business, when they have a small customer base to begin with. The Internet has made it easy for copyright infringements to occur on a very large scale, via illegal "sharing" groups, in industries with small markets. Many independent craft stores have gone out of business and even big companies such as Michael's Arts and Crafts and Wal*Mart have drastically reduced some areas of their craft product lines.

One clear trend is that already, many designers in hard-hit industries have cut back on their pattern businesses to pursue other avenues for income. Craft industries hardest hit with infringers do seem to be the ones hurting the most overall. When the most talented people find other work, it will fall to the less talented, less experienced designers to fill the void.

For designers and artists who continue to work, the more time they have to take out of their work to protect their work from copyright infringers, the less time they have for their creative work. The obvious result is few quality patterns and artwork from popular designers and artists. How can this not have bad consequences on the industries?

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Wouldn't this only hurt the untalented designers and artists?

Not necessarily, by any means. Very few designers and artists make enough money that they won't be impacted by a loss of income. Art and craft techniques and styles go through fad cycles, so that those in their slump period will be hurt much more by any loss in income, no matter how popular they once were. Those getting into new markets won't have the customer base in that area yet to be able to afford a loss of income.

Also, a talented designer or artist is likely to have more people making illegal copies of their work in the first place!

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What do I get from purchasing a legal copy?

Besides the obvious fact that you don't have to worry about breaking the law if buying illegal copies, buying legal copies is good for both the creators and the customers.

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You have not answered my question(s) about copyrights and copyright issues.

Join the forums to discuss your questions with others or look through the sites listed on the Links page.

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Disclaimer: The information on craftsandcopyrights.com is for general information purposes only. While craftsandcopyrights.com, including its volunteers, moderators and sponsors have done their best to provide accurate information, they cannot be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, nor loss or damages to individuals or business resulting from the content on craftsandcopyrights.com. For specific copyright information and cases, contact a qualified copyright/intellectual property attorney in your country.

 

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This page was last updated: September 25, 2006