Thursday, March 24, 2011

Copyright Law and Cottage Licenses

Have you seen those "cottage licenses"?  You know, the ones that sellers try to get you to pay $50 or more for, and then they give you "permission" to sell something YOU made?  Yep, those are fake.  Don't buy them. Ever.  I have done some research on this topic.  I don't claim to be the guru on Copyright Law, but here's what I've found...

Wait... I first want to say that I'm NOT saying it's OK for you to "steal" ideas from others.  That's just bad juju.  All of the knitters, crocheters, seamstresses, and other artisans in the handmade community should STICK TOGETHER, not try to best each other.  If we band together & do the right things, we can all get a slice of that "pie". 

OK, so... more about the BS...

1.  Copyright Law does NOT protect ideas, only their expression.  (For example, it protects my tangible, written pattern... but could not prevent others from making similar items.)       
*1a.  If you find an item online & you want to recreate it, go ahead.  As much as I hate to admit this, since I'm in the business of selling patterns, there's no law that prohibits you from being "inspired" by someone else's work.  However, it's just NICE to give credit to pattern writers & designers.  Do you have to?  No.  But giving credit among others in the handmade community is good for everyone!!

2. You are not allowed to resell/reprint patterns or other copyrighted works.  Changing/altering them & claiming them as your own is also a no-no.  Using someone elses photographs, graphs, charts, and/or drawings is a BIG no-no.

3. Copyrights & Patents are only good for a certain amount of time anyway, so don't get suckered into renewing a "cottage license" forever... because even if the pattern you got ripped off on DOES have a real copyright, it's only good for a certain amount of time anyway, before it becomes public domain.

4. The Doctrine of Exhaustion states that, "the first unrestricted sale of a patented item exhausts the patentee's control over that particular item." In human being words, that means that once a seller sells you the pattern, they have no control over what you do with it.

Long story short... a "Cottage License" is not a condition a copyright owner/seller can place upon the sale of an item... at least not without the consent of the purchaser. (If you paid for a "license"... Sorry Charlie, you got ripped off.) A license requires the approval of all parties (buyer & seller, in most cases), as well as many other conditions. Patterns are sold, not licensed. Anyone who says otherwise is just blowing smoke up your ass.  HOWEVER, if a seller asks nicely for you to not sell their designs online... it would be nice of you to follow.  If you REALLY want to sell something online, design it yourself, or buy the pattern from someone who allows it.

Some of you might also want to look up more information on trademarks, while you're at it.

And on that note... Happy Crocheting. 
You are always welcome to sell the items you make from my patterns.  Sell a billion hats, really!  I just ask that you help spread the word about my patterns by giving me credit for the pattern I wrote.  If you become a self-made millionaire selling crazy owl hats, throw me a bone, would ya?  ;)