Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Question of Copyright

Use of pictures in a snark blog is a tricky thing.   Finding pictures of ugly, loathsome and downright horrible crocheted articles is easy, finding those that are not protected in the Sanctuary of Craft- Etsy requires careful, methodical, prowling.

Once the in-season, correct size, non-pregnant Fug  is bagged, Fair Use and Comment - that taking/utilising a picture in order to make remarks, wax lyrical and/or snark without claiming, purporting or representing it as "mine own" - is according to the laws of several countries (at least) allowable.

Whilst trawling for fug (Here Fuggie, Fuggie, Fuggie... Eat the nice merino.... Goooood Fuggie..... Gotcha ya little Bastard!) I have preferred and legal hunting spots.  But it also means I have seen much in the way of crocheted articles, Fug or otherwise.   I also, courtesy of some OCD-ish streak honed by years in jobs where remembering minutae is rewarded, have a good, acknowleged as some as 'phenomenal',  memory.

Thus, while lurking in the long grass of one manufacturing marketplace, I noted a merchant, touting his ability to mass produce wares, specifically crocheted, specifically... this.

Not a brilliant picture, I'll admit.

A relatively inoffensive yellowy Baby Afghan.

Which I instantly recognised because a) I'm a pattern hoarder and b) I've made this pattern three times myself.

It is, for those of you who don't recognise it,

one of Terry Kimbrough's designs.

This one, shown in pink.

Which makes me curious.

Most of us who write patterns (for free usage on our blogs, Crochet Pattern Central or Ravelry) put a caveat regarding what use items made from our patterns may be put to.

And commercial quantities is usually cited as a no-no.

Which leaves me wondering whether this is actually a licensed and legitimate use of a pattern, or if a Shonk has crept into our field of view?





  1. The copywrite is on the pattern, not the finished object(FO). This means that while the people who create the pattern can ask people not to use the FO to make money, etc. there is no leagal recourse.

    It makes sense to me, since the person who made the object put the time and materials in, and the person who designed the pattern already had the choice to sell copies or make it available for free.

    Even if the item is being massed produced, as long as no copies of the actual pattern have been made, there is nothing that can be done.

    In some ways it sucks, but it makes sense.

  2. the extent of pattern 'sharing' online is alarming. however, unless one dumps on the project, the appropriation of a picture of a crochet FO is not usually treated as a 'shooting offense'. i know i've done it plenty of times on my blog. only one time did someone take me to task for using a picture of her item with a link to her free pattern. she was enraged. okay. i'm giving you free publicity and saying nice things about your pattern and FO. so, go away and shout alone cuz all i'm gonna do is delete you from my blog and never visit or mention your site again. works for me.

    i like terry kimbrough's designs but they're usually a bit fru-fru for my taste. beautiful to look at, not so beautiful for me to crochet.

  3. This analysis cites case law which suggests that even the pattern may not be copyrightable, despite claims to the contrary:

    They're specifically discussing sewing / quilting patterns,but I suspect the principle would apply. I believe the same is true of recipes -- they can be trademarked and controlled as trade secrets, but are not subject to copyright as such. Specific phrasing of directions might be, but not the combination of ingredients/stitches.

    Plus, the vendor is almost certainly outside the US, so even if it were technically a violation, it'd be utterly unenforceable, and depending on the country, might not even be a violation of their local laws -- that is, if the country hasn't signed an international copyright treaty, the vendor is totally off the hook, so far as I know.

  4. The text and photos/diagrams included in the pattern are copyrighted, but it's quite possible that the blanket itself can't be. Anyone could rewrite the directions by rearranging the words a bit and copyright their own version of a pattern for making the same thing. (the Facts included cannot be copyrighted.)

    According to U.S. copyright law, the functional aspects of a utilitarian object cannot be copyrighted, only elements of the design that can exist separately from the construction. (i.e. you can't copyright a skirt, but you can copyright an image printed on the fabric it's made of.)

    Designs for clothing, furniture, cars, and most utilitarian household objects are not eligible for copyright protection in the U.S. (Some things can be patented, but I doubt that would apply to a crocheted blanket.)

    Also, (even if that wasn't an issue) to be copyrightable a design has to be original & distinct enough from designs that already exist in the public domain. Crocheting has been popular for a couple hundred years, and it would be difficult for either pattern maker to prove that any particular placement of well-known stitches was invented by them.

  5. For those of us not in the Antipodes, which definition of -shonk-is correct? definition&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

  6. Try this

    Or just go have a look at the Indian's attempt at building venues and accomodation for the Commonwealth Games...