Friday, October 29, 2010

The ever gray area of copying vs. inspired by

So I think I started a bit of a firestorm when I brought up pattern copying. I truly didn’t mean for things to explode, for people to feel paranoid or uncomfortable or for anyone to feel I was accusing them. I received a lot of emails and convos from people very worried that I thought they were copying me or that they weren’t giving credit where credit is due. That is not the case! I promise!

I want to be very clear that I ENCOURAGE all of you to sell as many items made from my patterns as you’d like! I actually refer buyers to plenty of shops on a regular basis when they come to me looking for items. I honestly do not even ask or expect you to credit me for the pattern on your finished item listings. We all work very hard to drive traffic to our own stores so I would never expect you to then link them away from it!! If you do leave it, great! If not, no worries! I also don’t care if you use my patterns and tweak them to what you are looking for and sell the hats from that. I am truly pretty easy going on just about everything.

My only concern is when someone takes the majority of one of my patterns (or anyone’s for that matter), tweaks it a tiny bit and then turns around and sells it as their own. Some people will say that there is no protection as a pattern creator, but that is not entirely true. Not to mention even if creators had no rights it is ethically and morally wrong to do it.

I had a handful of people also email asking how a basic beanie pattern can differ from another…it really can, a little or a lot. The item that was brought to my attention wasn’t just a beanie. Even if it were I still would find it a bit too coincidental when the yarn recommendation, hook size, stitch type, and all the rows are exactly the same. Sure it could happen BUT in this case I am doubtful. It’s even worse when the layout and wording is the same.

You can ask 10 different people the rules and laws in regards to copying patterns, the legal right to sell items made from those patterns, cottage licenses, copyright, trademarks, etc… and you will get 10 different answers…ok maybe not 10 but a lot. If you have any concerns in regards to your own business I would suggest being very careful about what you find online as nothing is really clear. Your best bet is to meet with a lawyer to be sure you are protected. Lucky for me my brother in law is a lawyer ☺ Your local SCORE office/chapter can be an amazing asset as well for most of your small business needs and they are FREE!

I don’t want to seem like a hypocrite or give the impression that I think I am Miss Perfect. Things around us inspire us all. I have seen hats in stores and on photographer’s websites and been inspired to create a pattern. I do my best to be sure and search high and low to assure that no one is selling a pattern for the item. After seeing a knit hat and wanting one for my new babies photo shoot I created one. I have yet to release the pattern I am referring to at the moment and in light of this situation am debating not releasing it. Crochet patterns for hats made from thick and thin handspun merino are next to nonexistent out there. I guess I’ll just have to make the decision to release said pattern for myself. Is using a knit hat as inspiration to create a crochet pattern fair?? I am not directly competing with another, but if people were to make hats from said pattern for sale than they may be competing with the knit cap seller. Is that ok? Did that person create the idea? Probably not, but I hadn’t thought of it until I saw it. Another example would be when I have buyers ask me for a particular pattern to be created. Let’s say someone says, “Can you make a pattern for crochet flip flops for a baby?” I know there are other patterns out there, they can go buy those patterns, but what if they don’t like them or the way the pattern is written?? Do I just say sorry out of the fear of making a similar pattern or do I create it?? These are the gray areas that I do get a little stressed out about so I try to avoid them!

My best advice to those of you that emailed in regards to worrying that you would copy a pattern if you someday tried to write your own: if you feel you are doing something wrong, you probably are. If you are retyping another pattern…obviously you are doing something wrong. We all get that feeling inside when we know we are walking a fine line and perhaps step over it. We all know right from wrong.

I really hope that this clears some worry up! My buyers are great! Without you I’d be lost and I hate to think that I hurt anyone’s feelings!


Krista said...

Thanks for being "with" me on the organizing and clutter. Post pics when you are done with your room.

I am sorry you are dealing with copying etc. right now. Especially, when you are ready for a baby any day now. So frustrating!

I love reading your posts and following you on facebook. Thanks for being a great blogger friend!


Sarah Louise said...
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Kristine Mullen said...

Here is my personal opinion. When I create a pattern I take notes. When I tweak or fix that pattern I scratch out/fix those notes. Then I type them up and save them as a pattern. Call me paranoid but I keep them as proof that they were my idea. I don't think it's right to take someones pattern change it a little to your liking and resell it. Unfortunately, I think that fine line gives some people way too much freedom. I think even us who try to be morally correct have to check ourselves. When we see something we like, especially if we design our own patterns, is it ok to create our own version? In most instances I think it's ok, especially if you've never seen a pattern, just a pic....but then again, there is that fine gray line. Is the motivation to make it look like your own creation or are you trying to make it look like someone elses creation because theirs sells well.

(by "you" I'm not referring to you Scotti, but those in question)