03 May 2014

Lighting a little legal fire

I've been contemplating selling quilts and bags. And I frequently come across statements like this on patterns or etsy listings and such:

"Please respect COPYRIGHT rules.
Pattern is for PERSONAL USE ONLY.
Design, photographs, & written instructions cannot be copied.
Finished bags cannot be sold."

And after I purchased a pattern, the friendly note from seller:
"Thank you for your purchase. Please respect copyright rules. Pattern is for PERSONAL USE only."

Can I tell you all this is bunk?

Total, absolute bunk.

First, they are not rules. They are laws. And they have nothing to do with the finished product I make from your pattern. 

Copyrights apply to the pattern, not to the finished product. There are some great websites (one of them is here) out there that break it all down, logically and with documented court cases and copyright law that says differently. I won't do it all here since it's been done before.

I'm not saying we should all go out and flaunt the sale of Weekender bags, or little zipper purses, or quilts. But I'm saying we are not bound by the misleading copyright claims of pattern designers. And we shouldn't be feeling guilty about it either.

I bought a pattern today. $9 on etsy. I bought it to make a little scripture bag for my daughter for Sundays. What if someone compliments me and asks if they can buy one from me. Well, and why not? I'm not claiming the design and pattern as my own. But the end product is mine.

I've had several people ask me to make them a patchwork Weekender bag. I hesitated, but no more. I'm not claiming to have designed the Weekender. I'm just making the finished product and selling it. And it's legal. It's not pirated goods. What a ridiculous claim (and one that Amy Butler made in the past).

There are so many amazing designers out there, with great patterns, who generously allow the purchaser of their pattern to make and sell items. Granted, this permission is not needed, but it's such a generosity of spirit that I find refreshing from the witchy, "You may absolutely not make and sell anything with this pattern. Keep it at home!" If I had designed a tutorial, or pattern, I'd freely share it. Make it. Sell it. That's awesome. There's room for everyone. Don't take the design and call it your own, but by all means, make the end product!

The deviant part of me wants to deliberately make and sell things from these people! Is that awful?

I don't consider it, and neither does the law, that I am profiting off the work of another. The work, the production of the bag or quilt or stuffed doll, is mine. I never claimed the design is mine. Yes, they designed it. A copyright is not a license, and I don't need a license to sell items made from a pattern I have purchased. It's that simple. The law is on my side. Thankfully, I have in house legal counsel that has discussed and researched this endlessly for me and with me.


  1. What an interesting post! I did not know all of this. I will rethink my texts in my patterns.

  2. Crazy world nowadays! I liked it years ago when there was not a peep written on the patterns.

  3. This is very interesting information. Thank you for sharing. I wonder, if someone buys a pattern produced in the U.S. but they live in another country if the U.S. copyright laws apply or those of the country they reside in? I would think it shoud be U.S. copyright laws that apply. I fully agree that no one should try to pass off a design as their own or copy a pattern and put their name on it. That is just plain wrong. But I always thought it was unfair that we couldn't sell something we produced using the pattern... especially after we bought the fabric, batting and thread which are a significant expense and the pattern is only $8 or $9. I think we should be able to sell the quilts we make so long as we credit the designer and don't try to pass off the design as our own.

  4. Well said! I bought an expensive pattern once, only to find a whole slew of restrictions on its use. How disappointing, and I think less of the designer now. As long as the designer of the pattern is credited, I think it's a great compliment to use a pattern many times and sell the finished items. Not only that, but everyone puts their own personal mark on the items they make from patterns. I LOVE seeing what people make from my patterns, and I wish them well in selling finished products. Maybe they'll earn some money to buy MORE patterns, and so it goes...

  5. Couldn't agree with you more. And the rebel in me wants to do the same - LOL. I've researched copyright law ad nauseum...and you are 100% correct!! You go, girl!

  6. most of the patterns today are based on older patterns from centuries ago. i see patterns for sale that are called something other than what the block is actually called, and they call it a new pattern. why because it is made with modern fabric?

    there are other new patterns made for precuts that were not available back in the day. but most of those are easy to figure out.

    i agree with you 100 %

  7. I was always bothered by this claim on smaller blogs offering free tutorials. For one thing, there are only so many ways to make a bag, and while patterns are extraordinarily helpful, there are some, like a zip pouch, that good sewers could probably figure out on their own. Then also like you said, the end work is your own- you are not trying to sell the pattern, you are selling the end product that you produced. Thanks for posting this!

  8. I am glad to see this in writing. I have always believed what you have said to be true. And what I find even more interesting is that many, many of the patterns on the market today are very similar to one or more patterns from the past. I don't know how many patterns I have seen written for a log cabin quilt that someone has copyrighted and called their own. These block patterns have been around for centuries. So have zippered pocket pouches and purse handles. Very few of the patterns put out these days are true originals. Many are made in EQ 7 and another person could stumble on the same design while playing with patterns.

  9. I agree. While I know that I do not have to give permission to sell items made from my patterns, my patterns I sell contain a statement (on both the pattern and the item description on the selling site) that you can sell items made from the patterns just to make super clear.

  10. Thanks for this post. I've always found the "don't sell" restriction infuriating. I live in Germany and work for an IP law firm, so might try to hit up one of the copyright lawyers for information about the European law in this respect. In general, IP law in Europe is much stricter than in the US so it could differ significantly.

  11. You are so right about this. I have made it my goal to boycott all patterns and fabric from people who go overboard about copyright and their designs. It 's not just patterns. If I bought fabric I should be able to sew what I want with it and freely display it. What confuses me is, isn't it counterproductive to their business, wouldn't they want us to advertise their products to others?

  12. Thank you for clearing up any confusion out there. Also love to know you have deviant in you!

  13. Thanks for the information. I always wondered how they could enforce that. Thank you for clearing it up!

  14. I agree with you regarding those statements - as you said, you are buying the pattern - the finished product is yours to do with what you want. I give credit to the pattern maker but I take the credit for the finished product. I don't understand what the pattern designers are thinking - I would be thrilled if someone was making products from my pattern and selling them. Its seems that more patterns would be purchased. Win-win. Also, I have seen fabric selvages that have the same wording - only for personal use. What the heck? I also feel the little rebel in me when I read those statements - As long as I am not copying the pattern and selling it as my own - I really don't see how the pattern maker has any say in the final product. Well, I will step down off my soap box. (Love your blog - you make such pretty things)


"The more things you do, the more you can do."

Lucille Ball