Tuesday, March 17, 2009



So necessary these days. So misused.

What can be copyrighted?
"Copyrights protect the "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression."

And what can't? Well the one that is yanking my chain these days is this one:
"Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration."

There are so many tutorials and patterns out there in 'blogland' right now that have a little copyright statement at the bottom telling prospective users that since the pattern in question is copyrighted by the author, the user is not permitted to make items for sale using said pattern. Heck, even a lot of books being published right now say the same thing.


The only thing that copyright covers is the actual instructions and illustrations as written down by the author. That's it. All that copyright means is that I can't print out the pattern as given by the creator and claim it as my own, or sell it, or use it to teach a class. I can't even modify it and claim it as my own. But once I've bought it, it's mine to do with as I choose. It's called the Doctrine of First Sale... distribution rights of a copyright holder end on that particular copy once the copy is lawfully transferred.

Once I have legally purchased or been given a pattern, I have the right to sell *my copy* of the pattern (and only that copy of it!), or give it away, or lend it to someone, or burn it, or cut it up and use it in artwork, or use it to make the actual item described. It's my copy. I own it. And the item that I make with the pattern is also mine to do with as I choose. It's considered a "useful item", and as such, cannot be copyrighted.

I was blog-hopping this evening and came across a pattern for a pleated cushion cover. It is lovely. I'm considering making one. But once again, the author put a "not for commercial use" disclaimer at the bottom of the pattern. I ask you. Did she invent the concept of cushion covers? Was she the first to put pin-tucking on such a cover? I think not.

I welcome comments on this one... I know it's a hot topic. Tell me what you think!


  1. Oh, I hate this subject. I had to sit through two 8 hour classes (on a saturday!!!) listening to lectures and talking about this stuff. First off, it can be confusing and second, it can just be a pain in the ass. I mean I understand people should get credit for their work. I would be pissed if someone took my picture or any other of my work and made millions on it, but I think you have something there when you say "did she really come up with the concept of pleated cushion covers?"

    As they say, "nothing is new, everything has been done before."

  2. I sell pettiskirt instructions for "commercial use" and was googling and came across your blog. :)

    From my perspective...I write a tutorial and give my personal tips like different ways to make the ruffles, where to buy the chiffon for an affordable price & fast shiping,etc. I also provide a special formula to allow for the pettiskirt to be "custom made" to fit the way you want it to.

    I know that I didn't invent the pettiskirt but I did take 2 hours to write this tutorial and give you my insight into making them. :)

  3. Like I said in my little rant, it's a tricky subject.

    I totally appreciate the work that goes into creating a pattern or
    tutorial. I willingly pay money for such things, and I love to support
    the small companies/sahms/whatever who create these things by buying
    their products. I just don't believe that the creator can dictate what I
    can and cannot do with an item that I have then spent time (and money!)
    producing, you know?

    My husband is a songwriter/musician. He also happens to passionately
    believe in Creative Commons licensing and 'copyleft'. It's made for some
    interesting discussions, trying to resolve his belief in the freedom to
    share his stuff with a legitimate need to be compensated for his work.

    So, my stand is basically that I'll gladly pay you for your work, but
    I'd like to have the same courtesy extended toward me and my work :)

  4. Amen! If people would just use common courtesy this probably wouldn't be such a problem. I've refrained from adding the copyright stuff to my blog - I'd just like to trust people. And, who knows when I've seen an idea and it "cooked" in my head until I thought it was my own? Yup, tricky.


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