Sunday, 30 March 2014

The dreaded copyright woes that plague every creative person

Last night, when I very much should have been in bed, I came across something new, which I had never experienced before, someone filming themselves making one of my patterns and then uploading it to YouTube served with ads, so basically profiting from it.

And this led on to conversations on my Facebook page about copyright, the dos and don'ts.

So I thought I would put together some information with regards to copyright and trademarks, as there seems a lot of confusion for creative people out there and crocheters in general.

Having worked in the design industry for over 15 years alongside copyright lawyers you tend to pick up a few key things you should know when it comes to creative works.

The first thing to know is that every image, creative works, music track, video etc you see or hear on the internet is copyrighted to someone unless it is available under a Creative Commons Licence. So always assume when thinking about using an image off Google images in your blog for example that it's probably best not to do so. You can actually do an advanced search on Google images for copyright free images you can use, even to use to profit from but even then I would be very careful. Always best to produce your own!

To freely use an image, design, music track or video it needs to have a Creative Commons Licence so if you don't see this licence DON'T USE IT or otherwise expect a nasty law suit heading your way, especially if the image is from Getty *shudders*

Another confusion for some is that copyright needs to be registered, it doesn't. In fact as soon as someone draws a doodle or writes a sentence a certain way it is copyrighted to them whether they tell the world about it or not. A trademark however can be registered although you don't have to. A trademark is like your brand name and registering that will certainly set in stone your legal right to own it but your logo design will still very much be yours in the court of law if you designed and came up with it first and prove with evidence that you designed it first because it comes under general copyright for creative works as mentioned above.

Today however I'm really talking about crochet patterns. Some people complain of designers shouting at them with legal threats because they have copied a design. It is true that a very specific design, for example Mickey Mouse, will be copyrighted to the designer and they could sue you even if you used different stitches to get the same end result. There is a time limit for copyrighted designs from the designer's death so without designing something different you could be in for a long wait.

However if you are not profiting from the design you've copied and credit the original designer you should be ok but some designers can still be funny about it. I am still amazed that people crochet Minions or Mickey Mouse hats because you are really asking for trouble then. One example is of Disney’s cutthroat approach to brand control in 1989, when the company threatened to sue the owners of three Florida daycare centers who had decorated their buildings’ walls with unauthorized images of several trademarked Disney characters. So do be warned! This should explain why you never see any popular designs on my website such as Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse, and also why I never design similar items from other designer's work such as owl hats.

However a design would have to be quite unique to stand up in court, it would be hard to claim copyright over a simple hat or booty design. You also cannot copyright crochet stitches so with careful modification you can make something your own but be prepared to modify hard! This also applies to music. You can't copyright individual notes and you can adapt anyone's work to make it your own and then the copyright belongs to you but a designer who is very particular could still cause you problems but legally it would be much more difficult for them to sue you for copyright infringement. They would have to put up a very good argument.

So you cannot copyright a stitch, fact! and it's hard to copyright a vague design but you CAN very much copyright the sequence stitches are used in, i.e a pattern and this is much easier to win a law suit over if you so desired to get that legal.

The video I mentioned earlier had not only clearly copied my design, which for me I am pretty lenient over, I am all for terrible coincidences but the woman had clearly copied my sequence of stitches, and even worse my very unique ways of working. A big fail of modification if she wanted to claim it as her own.

So am I ringing my solicitor, probably not because I don't think she has done it maliciously, in fact most designers probably won't sue you but will just ask for credit and some consideration or just scare you into submission. I prefer people to use some netiquette by simply crediting my work and if that fails I will moan for a while and try and get over it unless she did it again which takes the issue to a new level.

So the true facts when it comes to creative work and copyright are;

You can't
- Copyright crochet stitches
- Copyright fonts or colours in a design
- A vague design such as a 'hat' or 'shoe'

You can however
- Copyright a sequence of crochet stitches, ie a pattern
- Copyright a unique design

I hope this alleviates any confusion for both designers and crocheters and perhaps prevent upset and some nasty law suits. Other things to bear in mind too is that some designers will not allow you to sell items made from their patterns so do ask first. (I allow it) and in NO circumstances should you copy or reproduce a pattern for financial gain and that includes uploading to YouTube!!

For more information you can check out some copyright gumf here from YouTube;

Or UK law here


  1. I completely understand,I myself have seen Vintage patterns my mother made out of crochet magazines and People are claiming them,Its out of control,We have a pattern of our design to share and Tutorials,then someone makes a living off them.
    Now I am to the point ,where if I share, its a pattern I seen,If I designed it,I don't give the pattern or share it,I take pictures that cannot be enlarged to figure it out.
    How sad i cannot share my designs.
    You have a beautiful Talent.
    Thank you for sharing,hope you don't mind my opinion,but We all need to make a stand some how.

  2. Oh my Goodness Laura it is a rather cut throat business. I really do crochet as a hobby, however as a mum of 3 on a Probation Officers wage I make a tiny monthly earnings from You Tube for a 6 of my very own unique designs (CraigLoves2Crochet) which is wonderful. I was wondering if you have any advice on what you should write on the bottom of video's and patterns to make it obvious that this design comes under the copyright laws outlined in your blog. I have never written anything as I share my patterns free. I would love to make a living from crochet but I work fulltime and this maybe a little too much to take on. LOVE YOUR BLOG it is so informative. From Tonya Craig

  3. Fantastic blog! This behaviour of stealing other persons patterns or photos is unacceptable! I'm quite angry about it & your post about this topic is perfect! In the future I will just link to this blogpost when I have a discussion about it. I hope you could solve the youtube-trouble!

  4. Thank you for this info. I like to think of myself as a Self taught,new, aspiring crochet designer who has been crocheting for many years and one of my many fears is accidentally plagiarizing somebody else's work so I've been looking for answers to my many questions. Maybe it's me not knowing exactly where to look and what exactly to look for but it's been harder than I expected to find the answers. So thank you again. I've still got one more question though on stitch patterns. I would think that yes they could be but then it's kind of difficult to be all that unique. Plus I know I've seen a certain stitch pattern be called different things in different books but be the same "pattern" plus how would one know or be able to find out if a certain stitch pattern has already been created somewhere else. I'm thinking in terms of say creating an extensive crochet stitch book? any help you could give me would be wonderful. or even any advice or good places to find answers to these little questions i have would be great too��