Knitwear Design Copyright

Knitwear Design Copyright and Copywrong

For all the years I’ve been participating in on-line knitting forums, knitwear design copyright and fair use laws have always caused a lot of controversy.  I don’t want to be involved.

The Hazy U.S. Law On Knitwear Design Copyright

From what I can tell, knitwear designers can really only copyright their patterns.  They can protect how their published patterns are printed, copied, sold, distributed, etc. There is technically no law that dictates what can be done with a garment made from their patterns. And no case law that really clarifies it (from what I understand).

So is it okay to make a dozen garments from a knitwear designer’s copyrighted pattern?  Seemingly, yes.  Can I sell those garments for profit?  Again, seemingly yes.  Can a factory steal that design, make thousands of them and sell them widely?  I don’t know.

Here’s my advice on the topic.

Do what’s right.

I won’t have anything to do with people that hurt knitwear designers or publishers.  That includes not sharing others’ patterns on my blog or anywhere publicly.  I won’t allow people to distribute copyrighted materials on forums where I have control over the content. And I definitely won’t steal someone else’s design and publish it as my own. Finally, I won’t sell garments made using someone else’s copyrighted pattern.

Not because any of this is illegal (if it is, in fact, illegal).  But because a lot of my friends make their livelihood from copyrighted material.  I want them to continue to create and to make a living from their creativity.

I have always been dismayed by the crochet community who seem to have very little issue flouting copyright laws.  Knitters seem to be a bit more concerned about stealing designers’ work, but perhaps that’s just my limited exposure to the two communities.

One final thing I will say on this issue.

I don’t have an issue with people selling garments made from my designs. Feel free to ask me, and I will give you permission via e-mail. I do have an issue with people selling or giving away my published patterns without paying me for them. And trust me, I could never make a living on pattern sales, but for me, it’s a point of what’s right.

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions about selling garments made from copyrighted patterns.  They pushed me to go out and learn a bit more about the legal aspects of this issue.  The additional research also leaves me quite pleased with how I deal with this, and that’s really all that matters to me.

Current Knitting

I am making great progress on the Cross-Hatch Shawl (for a full-size shawl).

Cross Hatch Shawl 10-18-19 01

I’m not quite at the halfway point yet (about 25″ out of 60″), but my hands are quite used to executing this stitch pattern without thought or hesitation.  So the last half will go faster even.

4 comments on “Knitwear Design Copyright and Copywrong

  1. As a lawyer who works in the area of copyright, I appreciate your comments. Copyright of fashion design overall is a bit hazy. Copyright protects creative works but does not protect functional features or elements. Hence, a cookbook can be the subject of a copyright, but the recipes in it are not (except as to the decorative elements– arrangement on the page, etc.). I think copyright applies to knitwear designs and patterns in much the same way, so that the law may not necessarily offer a lot of protection. I agree this has probably not been thoroughly tested in a court. Still, there is a vast different between what is legal and what is right or fair, and I agree we want people to continue making new patterns for us to enjoy and to be able to make a living doing so! Kudos to you for considering all of this!

    1. Fortunately, I enjoy the luxury of not having to make a living doing this, and the luxury of not having to come close to stealing someone else’s creative property.

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