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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Yours, Mine & Everyone Else's, Too

Make it but don't sell it??

Or, Don't Waste Your Time on Terms of Use and All that Crap...

I must admit to being quite surprised when I bought my first pattern and noticed that it came with a rather heavy-handed restriction on selling the finished product. The most surprising requirement was payment of an annual cottage licence, which was $100.00. (Yes, renewable annually.) While I appreciate the desire to protect and maintain ownership of ideas and designs, it seems rather draconian to ask that someone should pay for the privilege of taking the time to make something from your instructions and sell it. After all, most people barely recover costs whenever they sell anything hand-made.

But lo and behold, despite the fact that you may encounter interminably long, official-sounding stipulations of what you can and can't do with any given pattern, the compelling truth is that — in reality — there are likely no legal means to enforce those terms.

What's that, you say? Well, I came across a page on Tabberone.com in which the webmaster states that "We cannot locate a single federal court case [USA] that has gone to trial where the designer of a pattern has successfully sued someone who used that pattern to make and sell items without the permission of the designer." Furthermore, there is the fact that patterns are really not "copyrightable"; i.e., "A pattern is a procedure, process or method of operation, for making something. The specific instructions for making the item might, might, qualify for copyright registration but that copyright only would cover the written instructions, not the patterns or what was made from the patterns."

I encourage you to read the full page at the above link (as well as the discussion on this blog posting at freshstitches.com) if you have ever had any thoughts of designing a pattern and/or making something from a pattern and wanting to sell it.

The information will open your eyes.

And then you can probably go ahead and make and sell as many "whatsits" as you want, without fear of legal teeth coming to chew on your butt.

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Basically, if you are a designer who has chosen to impose severe limits on what crafters can and can't do with the fruits of their labour... well, good luck with that. Not only can I not imagine you ever finding out that your terms of use have been violated, I can't imagine any average online pattern designer choosing to go down that ultimately stressful, expensive, and bumpy road of engaging lawyers and taking legal action on something essentially indefensible.

Let me be clear: the point I am making is that when I create something with my own materials and my own hands — and merely follow instructions provided by someone else — that is ultimately my property and I should be free to sell it. I am not saying that I can take that same set of instructions that someone else has provided, post it under my own name, and sell that.

Legal notices aside, I think most designers out there are perfectly happy to be given credit for their work/ideas and to have others admire that work sufficiently to want to make their projects and sell them. Count me among those. I have released patterns via this blog that I want people to make use of and have fun with, and I don't believe in restricting that in any way. (Let the crafting markets of the world be overrun by Wave Purse Organizers and Cutting Corners Collapsible Travel Trays and the soon to be released Crafty Cosmetics Caddies!) All I have is just have one simple request attached to each of them:

If you are "sew" inclined, feel free to make and sell as many [whatevers] as you care to; I only ask that you credit me and this blog by attaching the following card to the item:

eSheep Designs swing tag

And while I would hope and appreciate that each of the project ideas that come to life through the hands of my supporters will include this tag, I also know that I won't really have any way of enforcing even that small requirement. But whatever. I believe that most people, most of the time, do the right thing. For those who don't, maybe karma will have the last word.

What do you think? Voice your opinion by entering a vote on the little poll that I have on the sidebar at left. [UPDATE: My poll results disappeared after four months so I've deleted it. Last I checked, the majority of voters thought that crafters should always be free to sell what they make.]

On that note, happy sewing! (I'll be back next week with an update on my Make it Yours bag.)

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