The Invisible Line
A large issue in our community of beadweavers is theft, copyright & inspiration and where exactly the line is drawn. It is a complicated issued that quickly gets tempers flaring and has been exabated by todays climate of entitlement and our easy access images on the internet. And then there are different copyright laws all over the world, adding more confusion to the matter. So what exactly is acceptable? I won’t pretend to be an authority on the matter but here are some basics, to keep you out of hot water.
Plagiarism: is using someone else’s work without giving them credit – So if you are posting photos of someones else’s work, or bead work you have made with a pattern you brought or were given you need to give them credit.
Copyright infringement: is using someone else’s creative work, which can include a number of things including a piece of visual art, and other creative works, without authorization or compensation, if compensation is appropriate. – This can also include selling someone else’s pattern or teaching their pattern without their permission.
It is illegal to copy large sections of someone else’s copyrighted work without permission, even if you give the original author credit, so if you are inspired by someone else’s work and want to make something similar you are required to buy the pattern if one is available, or ask the designer permission to copy the item if it is not (and give them due credit) or make something similar but is different enough to be its own unique creation.
Fair use Exemption: Allows you to copy small amounts someone else’s work but make sure that you still give them credit.
Now there are many patterns out there with a footnote or disclaimer that you can only make the pattern for your own personal use. This is actually not true, it is only the pattern that falls under the copyright law. You will find these disclaimers in many craft patterns and in every case the are blatantly not true. Unless it is made clear before you buy the pattern that it can only be use to make items for personal use, it has no legal base and even then it is dubious. However I would recommend avoiding patterns with these disclaimers if it is your intent to make items to sell, because really who needs the drama. And if you are writing patterns and want to have this disclaimer make sure you have it nice and clearly visible before the purchase is made.
That said I feel that if you are actually making items to sell from someone else pattern then you should go out of your way to support them, Follow them on social media, engage with their posts and drop them a comment or two, give them a shout out on your own platforms and don’t forget to give them credit where credit is due. Every little bit helps. If you are making money then making sure some of it goes back to the person who created the pattern is a must, even if you are just buying more of their fab patterns, so that they can create more, because they have bills to pay too and from my calculations its damn hard work to make a living creating patterns and items to sell.
And then there are Stitches, Techniques and basic designs.
Stitches and Techniques are not protected by copyright law, though if you do know who came up with them, if they are a modern stitch or technique then be a decent human being and give them credit.
Basic designs are murky water, the thing is it is very easy for several designers to come up with the same basic patterns on their own or to see a basic pattern and copy it with a quick glance at a photo. So if it is easy to copy with a glance then it is rather hard to even determine who owns the original copyright if anyone. The rule of thumb in this case is to try to avoid copying other peoples work but if it is a basic pattern and you do not need to have an image of it in front of you to copy then you can generally copy it without breaking the law. And if you have a photographic memory then remember that dosn’t give you a free pass to copy whatever you want.
And sometimes more than one designer has come up with more complex pattern or design separately and only find out later that their patterns are the same or very similar. In this case because no one actually copied another’s work it can get complicated quickly though copyright dose technically belong to the first person to make the item and can prove that they were the first. In this case designers typically work things out themselves as suing for copyright can be a lengthly and costly process.
ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT WHERE DUE
DO NOT COPY OR SELL OTHER PEOPLES PATTERNS
If IN DOUBT GET ADVICE FROM A LAWER
CHECK FOR DISCLAIMERS AND BE RESPECTFUL
ITS OK TO BE INSPIRED BUT BE INSPIRED TO DO SOMETHING NEW
WHEN IN DOUBT TALK IT OUT
And if you see that someone has not given a designer credit please give them a friendly nudge to do so, it can be as simple as saying hey looks like you forgot to credit Designer X in this photo, I really like your personal touch to the design btw.
All the best until next time Lou and at least two of the cats.
Some places you can find information on copyright law: