I think it is safe to start out saying that any person who crafts and is online knows, copyright infringement is a huge issue. People are constantly talking about it and trying to figure out what they can and cannot do. The internet makes sharing so much easier but we all know that sharing of printed patterns is also a violation. I personally have strong opinions on the matter.
For example: giving someone a free pattern I printed off the internet is not really a copyright infringement because the person I gave it too could have done the same thing. Its saving paper. Of course, this is provided that I didn't try to make the other person believe the pattern I gave them was mine..... ya know? Passing someone a pattern I paid for, regardless if it is in a magazine or something I bought from Ravelry, is unethical and illegal. Distribution is covered in copyright laws. Don't ask me to give you a pattern that I paid for - you won't get it. I'll give you information on how to get it yourself... but that's about it.
But inevitably, copyright laws are discussed.... a lot... in real life and online. People try to ask too much of their rights and others take advantage. It happens all the time. Just last week I heard two people talking about the possible violation if they passed a pattern along to another member. That pattern was paid - so I must admit I was a bit impressed they were that conscienscious. I would hope the patterns I sell get the same courtesy from everyone who has purchased one. At least I'd like to think they do.
But what I don't hear a lot about (and maybe I just hang in the wrong online circles) is trademark and license violations. And the funny thing is, I think I see way more of these than copyright infringement. I see them around me all the time. Heck, just go to Etsy and put in a search for a common trademark character like Angry Birds, Garfield, Hello Kitty, M&Ms, or Mario Brothers. You'll see many different craft types and items and my guess is, none of them have authorization to create and sell these items from the trademark owner.
Perhaps there is something I don't know - that creating a character and calling it something else or saying it is "inspired" by the trademarked character is ok. I found a great summary of trademark laws on the Harvard website: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/metaschool/fisher/domain/tm.htm#7 and from what I can tell, there is no caviot to crocheting something the same or similar to a trademarked character and selling it. It remains illegal.
I know the main reason I wanted to write this down. While I went about it in a different way, I'm happy I was able to get these words down and share some of my thoughts. Perhaps its best to not make something like this personal as I'm sure one day, I'll look at something I made and think OOPS! But hopefully that item will be nothing more than a gift which I believe would hold up in court. *smiles*
Image 1 - the theif: http://www.thelogofactory.com/logo_blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/copyright-trademark-logo.png
Image 2 - copyright symbols: http://runapptivo.apptivo.com/files/2011/05/trademark1.jpg
Image 3 - screenshot from etsy after searching Angry Bird Crochet Hat (removed the names)