Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Copyright on Knitting Patterns

Dear Rich:  I wrote 7 separate patterns detailing how to knit things that I designed.  I adapted my patterns from old patterns published in the U.S. in 1962 by an author then living. I now seek digital publication for my "how-to" articles for my patterns.  I knit mittens based on these patterns and gave them as gifts and took a picture of the children I gifted these mittens to, expressly requesting them and their mother not to use the picture or the articles for their publicity or gain without asking me. I believe they used these photos for gainful purposes and had gain from them. What are my rights to others' profits or gain for their gainful use of the photos or articles gifted? Sent from my iPad. Dear Sent From My iPad: Good luck with your knitting and your patterns. We support crafts makers because they try so hard and they've been around for so long and because we have a book we're trying to sell them (yet, they don't seem to want to buy it ... okay okay, we can handle that!). 
Right you had a question. The short answers to your questions are: (1) copyright law protects the portions of your patterns that are original to you (though pattern protection can be iffy); (2) you may not have much claim to copyright  if your designs are derived from the patterns published in 1962; (3) the author of the 1962 patterns could claim rights to your derivative patterns but only if those 1962 patterns were registered and renewed (unlikely); (4) you own the copyright in photos you take so you can chase people who copy without your permission (although you'll need to register with the Copyright Office if you file a lawsuit); (5) the parents of the kids you gifted can come after you if you use the photos to sell the patterns (under a theory known as "right of publicity")  unless you got authorization from them.
A little confused dept. We're not exactly sure what happened between you and the people you "gifted" but it sounds like everybody involved in the gift giving process now regrets it. That's so sad. We believe, like this writer, that gift-giving is actually a form of "taking" but in your case, we feel like there is a little bit of overtaking. Maybe one reason our crafts book doesn't sell so well is that many crafts people recognize that what matters for commercial success is not a proprietary attitude but quality and craftsmanship; these skills will always transcend the underlying patterns.