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Copyright Rules

There is a lot of talk about what does "copyright" cover when it comes to designers' patterns???? Some of these statements might help you understand the laws. There are two ways of looking at copyright rules. Most of what I understand is that "patterns" are protected by copyright rules. But after the items are made by the purchaser they can do what they want with them, including selling the finished product.  
  • False claim: It is also legal to make items for sale as long as you purchase a pattern each time so that the buyer is buying the pattern and paying you to sew it This is the "lite" version of demanding you purchase a license. There is nothing in copyright law that requires you to only use a copyrighted article once. Imagine throwing out books after you have read them? You know you have the right to keep the book and read it again. Or to sell the book if you wish once you are finished with it. So why is a pattern different? It isn't. Music CDs are copyrighted as are DVDs with motion pictures and shows. Do they require you to purchase a new CD or DVD every time you want to listen or watch it again? Of course not. So why do pattern designers make such a demand?
  • False claim: 
    Any finished product made from a copyrighted pattern, step-by-step instructions, chart, or photograph is also covered under copyright law.
    False, false, false. See Adelman v Sonners & Gordon just above. The pattern, not the end product, is the subject of the registered copyright. But again, patterns are not generally copyright-able. And clothing is not copyright-able. Imagine if Simplicity had a registered copyright on the pattern for an apron. Simplicity could then prevent all others from designing and selling patterns for making aprons. Because, really, how many different ways are there to make an apron? To allow such copyright registrations would be to grant virtual federal monopolies to companies. Read More
  • False claim: 
    Anything made from the pattern is a derivative and therefore belongs to the copyright owner.
    A derivative, a work that has been transformed or recast, must be independently copyright-able. Weissmann v. Freeman, 868 F.2d 1313, 1320-21 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 883 (1989). The original copyrighted work must be changed into a new work in some manner. If there exists a registered copyright, that copyright would be on the pattern. Therefore a derivative of the pattern would have to a new version of the pattern. We have already quoted from the Supreme Court where the copyright owner not have the exclusive rights to what is made from the instructions contained within the copyrighted article. And clothing is not copyright-able. Read More
  • False claim: 
    By purchasing this pattern, you agree to the following terms.
    Absent some form of consent, or a written contract, the pattern designer/manufacturer has no right to impose conditions upon the purchaser. The courts are in agreement that some sort of consent must be shown by the purchaser before any limitations on the use of the copyrighted item can be enforced. The simple act of printing such a statement on a web site or on a copyrighted article is not enforceable without consent before the purchase. Read More
  • False claim: Making items from our patterns for sale violates our copyright policy.Federal courts agree that copyright owners have ONLY those rights granted to them by statute. Therefore, US Copyright Law dictates what "copyright policy" is, and is not. The pattern designer has NO say concerning the use and further disposition of the article that has a registered copyright once the designer/manufacturer has releases that article into general commerce by selling it or by giving it away. And, once the designer/manufacturer places the pattern into general commerce, the pattern with which to make the "designs", that designer/manufacturer is giving the new owner the right to make the "designs".A copyright statement as defined in the US Copyright Act is using the symbol © along with the word "copyright" (or abbreviated "Copr."), the first year of publication of the work, and the name of the copyright owner. Nothing else. Any other statement by the copyright owner is irrelevant, extraneous, unenforceable and improper. Yet companies, and individuals, persist in issuing what they call their "copyright statements" and/or policies. Again the Supreme Court: Read More
  • Can you "share" copies of patterns (this includes scanning, photocopies, emailing, posting to Bulletin Boards, any manner whatsoever)? The answer is NO if the pattern is still under copyright protection. The designer has the exclusive right to say how his/her patterns are distributed. You shouldnever distribute any pattern that's still under copyright protection in any way without the designer/publisher's written permission (crediting the designer doesn't make it all right for you to distribute those patterns without permission - you have to have the designers or publishers written permission. Seek written permission each time for each pattern per individual designer or publisher. The designer or publisher may also choose not to give that permission and that is their right.)
    (I didn't make this up ... it's the law; it's public knowledge. See links below to US Government Copyright Web Site.)
    The answer is YES if the pattern is no longer under copyright protection or if it is your own original pattern (by law, only the designer has the right to decide how his/her patterns are distributed.)
    How can you tell if a pattern is under copyright protection or not? These guidelines will help:
    Works created 1978 or later -
    After 1978 - A work is copyright protected from the moment it is created, whether a copyright notice appears on it or not. Most people place copyright notices on their works, as there are advantages to doing so. But don't assume that a work is in the public domain if there is no notice on it. Research carefully.
    After 1978 - A work is in the public domain only if the creator places a notice on it that he/she is placing it in the public domain. If this notice isn't there, then assume that the work is under copyright protection.
    On works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for author's/designer's lifetime plus an additional 70 years after author's/designer's death.
    Expired Copyright -
    Statutory copyright period has expired on works first published in the United States before the year 1923, placing these in the public domain, so it's ok to make copies of those works.
    The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (P.L. 105 - 298) enacted October 27, 1998, extended the term of copyrights for an additional 20 years (works that were already in the public domain, when this Act went into effect, remain in the public domain).
    Works published before 1978 that did not contain a valid copyright notice may be considered to be in the public domain. (Works published after 1978 do not need to have a copyright notice to be under copyright protection.)
    Works published before 1964 in which the copyright owner failed to renew his/her copyright. (How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work: see US Gov. Site at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ22.html; some research can be done online; otherwise in Washington, D.C. or pay them to do the research.) A renewal registration could have been made during the 28th year of the first term of the copyright for works published, with copyright notice, before 1964.
    On works copyrighted between Jan. 1, 1964 and December 31, 1977 the copyright term was automatically extended to 95 years by the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992 (renewal registration not needed).
    Before 1978, the copyright term = 28 years.
    The above are the basic guidelines for determining the duration of copyright protection, however, some time periods may require further research on your part to determine if a work is still under copyright protection or not. You can find most of this information online at the US Government Copyright Office web site. Under "Publications" heading: ( http://www.loc.gov/copyright) Circular 15 ( Renewal of Copyrights), Circular 15a (Duration of Copyrights) and Circular 15t (Extension of Copyright Terms) will be helpful.
    Works created after 1978:
    It's important to remember that all works created or published after 1978 are definitely under copyright protection at this time, whether they are registered with the Copyright Office or not and whether they have a copyright notice on the work or not. Keep in mind that this includes designs, patterns and other works that are placed on the Internet. (Research the separate guidelines for copyright protection length of works created before 1978.)
    (The exception to being copyright protected are those rare cases where the author/designer has declared on the work that he/she has placed it in the public domain.)
    When someone asks you to "share" a copy of a copyright-protected pattern
    It's up to you to make your own commitment to honoring copyright laws. I know it's sometimes not easy to say "no" to someone if they ask you for a copy of a pattern you have and you know that pattern is still under copyright protection. Sometimes just telling them the year that it was copyrighted is enough for them to realize it's a pattern you can't give them a copy of. You could, instead, tell them who the publisher is, give them the publisher's address and (if you know this) where they might be able to purchase an original copy for themselves. If on the Web, give them the URL to go to for themselves.
    But it's out-of-print ... If out of print, there are still Bookstore sources for locating such books; see http://crochet.about.com/msub2.htm for links to Hard-to-Find Needlework Books (free search service), Powell's Books (used, out-of-print) and Wayne Pierce Wonderful Books-By-Mail (used, out-of-print). Auctions such as Ebay are another possibility for places to purchase out-of-print books. The fact that it is out-of-print does not make it legal to distribute photocopies or any of the other manners of giving away illegal copies. Copyright protection still goes by date of copyright. In print or out-of-print has no bearing on copyright protection - go by the copyright date.
    If they don't know enough about copyright laws yet themselves and they don't fully realize that they're asking you to commit an illegal act by sharing a copy of that pattern, so they are persistant, feel free to point them to this page, telling them that this page will explain why you can't give them a copy of that particular pattern. URL of this page is http://crochet.about.com/library/blcopyrightguide.htm
    Think about it. Anyone who says on a public bulletin board that they're sending a photocopy of a copyrighted pattern, asks someone else to do that or commits any other copyright abuse on the Internet is doing it right out in the open for everyone to see, including the designer or publisher of that pattern. The fact is, that if a publisher catches you "sharing" copies of their patterns still under copyright protection, they can charge you with that and take you to court. The amount of the fine that the judge orders you to pay may be less if you didn't charge any money for the copy you distributed but it would be a fine, nonetheless. Maybe you think you'll never get caught. Think again. There are plenty of staff of publishing companies online and more all the time. Besides the moral issues involved with taking profit away from the publishers and designers by illegally distributing their patterns, you have to decide for yourself how big your piggy bank is and whether you want to take a chance on being one of those people paying a fine for illegally "sharing" copyrighted patterns.

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