Basic Copyright for Crocheters

Most designers have seen a pattern and thought that they could take it and put their own spin on it. Or they’ve come up with a great idea by seeing something else. There is a fine line between an original design and copy someone else’s work. Some things border on that fine line, while others are just plain and simple wrong. Let’s take a basic look at some copyright issues.


Designing Your Own Crochet Pattern Series - Basic Copyright for Crocheters


Welcome to Part 6 of the “Designing Your Own Crochet Pattern” Series. This series guides you through the basics of crochet pattern design. If you’re just joining us and would like to start at the beginning, read Part 1 – the 6 Basic Steps of the Design Process. Even if you have no desire to be a designer, you can still benefit from this series.

Basic Copyright for Crocheters


The term “copyright” gets thrown around a lot in the crochet world, but what exactly is copyright? Copyright, by webster’s definition, is “the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.: works granted such right by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 70 years after his or her death.” 

What does all that mean in layman’s terms? It means don’t copy someone else’s work, plain and simple. There are a bunch of legal aspects that I am choosing not to cover because I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to misspeak, but here are 5 things that are a given.


Do Not . . . . 


Copy Other designs

Some people claim they look at an item and can figure out how to crochet it so they don’t need to buy the pattern. That’s great, but that doesn’t mean you can then write the pattern and sell it as your own. Plenty of designers get ideas from crochet pieces they see. But they come up with their own ideas or spin on what they’ve seen. I’ve heard figures of everything from 10% – 20% needs to be changed, but an article from Vogue Knitting states that there is not legal percentage. It has more to do with whether or not your interpretation relies too heavily on their idea. Even if you take their design and write your own pattern for it, it’s still violating copyright.

Rewrite or Share Patterns

Do not take a purchased (or free) copy of a pattern and rewrite it into your own words/terms. Just as you cannot copy a pattern and “reword” it to make it your own, you also cannot share a pattern you have purchased with a friend. Even if the design is free, send them to the designer.

Use Someone Else’s Photos

Do not share photos from a designer to sell your finished product of that item, or for any other purpose. I once purchased a crochet book and to my surprise found one of my tutorial photos used in the book! That’s copyright infringement!

Make or Sell any Logo Items

NFL, NASCAR, Star Wars, Disney, Pokemon, etc. – they are all copyrighted, and without permission you are violating a copyright law. And believe me, they will take you down if they choose to. Companies like these have been know to police Etsy on a regular basis, not to mention they have had shop’s that violate their trademarks closed. That’s being nice. They have the right to sue you for thousands if they choose to.

Make or Sell Characters

If you create a pattern, or a physical item (hat, blanket, etc) to visually look like a character from a movie you are still infringing on their trademark. Most companies (like Disney) register the look of the character as well. (Ex: Storm trooper helmets have a trademark attached to them and you cannot make any helmet/hat to look like it.)

Use Character Names

Come up with your own original pattern name. Honestly, there are some names you could easily argue and get away with (Ex: Pocahontas headband). But there are others that are too obvious to be your original idea (Ex: Minions). Many companies also trademark their character names. (See the Star Wars link above. Disney is suing a company that makes holograms because they are calling themselves LEIA – and Pokemon is suing a company for using the word Pokemon in their name).


Be Original


Things like the granny square do not have a copyright, but if you were to copy either the design for my Vintage 60’s prayer shawl, or the written pattern itself, that would be copyright infringement.

You want your pattern to be original because it will represent you and your brand. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon because everyone else is doing it, but it’s not worth it. Be original. Be yourself.

If you need help coming up with design ideas, see my post: Finding the Perfect Design Ideas.


For more on this series, read:

Part 1 – 6 Basic Steps of the Design Process
Part 2 – Finding the Perfect Design Ideas
Part 3 – Finding Your Designing Niche
Part 4 – Creating Your Brand
Part 5 – Steps to Publishing Your Crochet Pattern
Part 7 – Should You Charge for Patterns? The Free vs. Paid Dilemma


Happy Designing!

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