Thursday, March 15, 2012


I have typed and retyped this message several times. I thought I had a good direction when I sat down and started to write, but it got too personal. I'm having difficulty addressing my thoughts in a politically correct manner - a way that won't offend anyone although there are plenty of people who will be offended, some of which may read this blog.

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.

(c) Apptivo
In a nutshell: what you can copyright are images, your writing (like the pattern itself), your music and lyrics, and in some cases, an idea. You cannot copyright a stitch or stitch pattern, the item made from the pattern (yup, that means even if you don't like it, a person can sell whatever they make from your pattern - so stop telling people they can't!), an acronym, or a book by simply printing a copy and mailing it to yourself as a certified document. Copyright covers the distribution of these items and that another cannot pass them off as their own. If you don't believe me - feel free to check out the federal copyright website:

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.

An example I have not seen too recently on YouTube (so I should be farely safe in the offending others area) are Angry Bird hats. It doesn't matter what you call them, a trademark violation is one that attaches a trademark without the authorization of the trademark owner OR when one party uses a trademark that is the same or confusingly similar. So calling a hat an "angry chicken hat" or an "angry fowl hat" when it clearly looks identical to the yellow angry bird is not legal. I can appreciate making the hat for a child or as a gift - something that you make no money from. But many of these hats, toys, and other novelty crafted items are being sold on Etsy or at craft shows.

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: 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:

Image 2 - copyright symbols:

Image 3 - screenshot from etsy after searching Angry Bird Crochet Hat (removed the names)


Kat said...

All of this has been said before so I wouldn't worry about offending anyone. There is a lot of interest in Pinterest and people pinning other's work. Those of us who travel in these circles of 'crafting' know what the deal is. There are those that don't care and will take their chances on getting caught. There's no way to stop others from doing what you're talking about other than catching them in the act and threatening them with a law suit.

Cris said...

 oh, I know that talk of copyright goes on frequently. The issue with offending folks are a few individuals who I know from online contact that do this - I know they would most likely take it personally.

As for Pinterest, I started reading up on those issues just recently - it definitely is interesting and I eagerly wait to see what happens with it all.

Susan D said...

It's your blog so you write what you want!  It has all been said before and will be said again.  You are right with everything you said. 

Bethany Wright Dearden said...

I have a question, what if you are posting a free pattern for a trademarked character? Would it be illegal if you weren't making money off of it? Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Cris said...

Absolutely - the character is trademarked and you are benefiting in a sense when it comes to exposure because people are looking for that character. Trademarking has nothing to do with "free" or "profit" - its an image/design/whatever that has a legal contract behind it that the owners are the only ones who can use it.

In a nutshell, yes, it is still illegal BUT we have to be realistic and know that the trademark owner is going to be more concerned with people who are making items or patterns and selling them because that is where they can make money. The idea of making an item and giving it as a gift (like an angry birds hat or pokemon ball hat) is still a violation but again, because no money was exchanged, the target on your back is significantly smaller than someone selling the items.

But like Kat said below - people know its wrong and there really is no way to stop others from doing it.... because its "small potatoes" in the grand scheme of things, people simply take the risk.

Sonya said...

To answer your question about the licensed characters: It is ILLEGAL to create and SELL an item that looks like any well known character. So renaming it is most definitely still a violation! The law states that if an item created resembles a licensed character then you are infringing! How do I know? Because I was contacted by the law offices of Sanrio who sent me the paperwork explaining the laws and my violation for making and listing a Hello Kitty purse on my Etsy!

Cris said...

Definitely. If it were legal, something would have been written into the law about it but as I said - there is no caviot to the law and using the word "inspired" is a failed loophole. I am very sorry you ended up getting a letter on your violation (assuming the purse was hand made, not something you were selling that really was ok as far as the trademark). I just saw some activity on the Crochetville Facebook page about this - people posting links to their businesses/websites... and even though they were asked to not post if there were violations... LOTS of people posted.

Shame, really :( I think it can really hinder the fiber arts. We have to be conscious of trademark and copyright laws if, when we release our own patterns, we want that same protection.

Abi said...

Thanks this has been bugging me for a while, now I can sleep soundly and make sure I send all my minions to those who need helpers looking for unicorns :) Thanks (if you haven't watched despicable me that sentence will probably not make much sense!)

aubrey said...

There are licensed character patterns in crochet and knitting--so if you buy the pattern and then sell the creations you're ok? What if you use that pattern and tweak it---is it still okay cuz you used the pattern? Remember, the making to sell isn't infringing if you paid for the pattern, right?

The thing about this is that people crafting up a pattern "in the likeness" of a character or even a logo aren't likely to make millions of dollars...or even thousands of dollars...on their crafted sales pieces. For instance, Disney's likelihood of pursuing people over infringement is small, so people take their chances. We can't police the world, like it or not.

Bebe S. said...

THANK YOU! Yes! I am SO disgusted with all these uncreative people STEALING characters and infringing on trademarks and actually making good money off of it, while the rest of us are suffering low sales because we refuse to stoop to that level. The buyers need to be educated. They buy from these people and other people lose customers.

I saw this on TV this morning (below) and just had to share. Check out this woman actually BRAGGING that this seller in her store sells a whole bunch of these Minion (TRADEMARKED) crochet caps...on TV!! She clearly has no idea about trademarks. How much you want to bet the hat maker does not own a license to sell Minion-anythings? I visited this location and saw this maker (crochetmoi) sells other trademarked character caps. SMH! I did not purchase anything from her.

Scar said...

Recently got a lot of requests for trademark items to create patterns for. Now I don't charge a thing for the patterns I create. They are free. But I have been concerned about doing trademark requests because of all the issues with violations. Sadly having a hard time finding results of if you are creating trademark patterns and offering them for free, is this a problem? I have always heard it is fine as long as I am not making money off of the trademarked item. Does anyone have an answer or suggestion?

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Anonymous said...

May I please have your permission to copy and quote this article on a couple of Facebook pages? I've been trying to tell people about trademark and copyright laws for the longest time, and your article and links are perfect.

Unknown said...

In ma many regards, the stringent trademark protections create massive monopolies, especially in a bottlenecked system where only some people are allowed to gain the success needed to make the massive profits off their item. There should be either trademark limits to a dollar threshold, or there should be allowances on inspired works for the individual.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I explained the Enesco case easily enough. Bottom line is the fabric maker paid Enesco for the use of Precious Moments on their fabric. The payment to Enesco, by the fabric maker, for permission granting the use of the copyrighted subject matter, covered all person's purchasing the fabric and items made ftom the fabric. Enesco was not entitled to NEW copyright royalties on each new sale for the SAME fabric just because it changed hands. The permission to make the fabric had been paid for, and that was all Enesco was entitled to. They were not allowed to monopolize commerce on an item they'd already been paid for. (Hope that explained it better)

Unknown said...

I appricate this more then you know. I have been telling people no for a few years. They want me to make then sell them minnion hats. I have always had a small gut feeling that it wasnt right. But, without the laws in front of me. It was just hard to tell them my reason without having it. I thank you for posting the links. Now i can show them why i refuse to make anything trademarked. Id rather sell things that i know i cant have either huge fines, or jail time for. Thank you again.

crochet doll clothes said...

I sell my crochet patterns on Etsy. I do tell people that they can sell the items they make from my patterns. I consider that their work. But recently I discovered that there is a group of people that get together and one person will buy 1 pattern, then email that pattern to everyone in their group. (this group appears to be quite large). By doing that all members of the group get a digital copy of every pattern, if they bought it or not. They claim since the first one was bought, they can do what ever with it. Including sending it out to 50 people for nothing.

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