There are a couple of topics in all yarn arts that people fail to understand, get confused, or just flat refuse to follow. Copyright and trademark. Some people avoid the topics altogether. Or have misinformation. Exactly what is copyright? What is a trademark? What are the differences? How does either affect patterns that are being written? How does either affect translating or converting needle knit patterns to loom knit? How does either affect sharing patterns? What can be shared or how? Why are there so many questions regarding this topic?? Let’s start with the definitions of each. Then discuss how each affect loom knitting.
Copyright as defined by Dictionary.com
And neither copyright nor trademark is a patent. A patent is a completely different critter altogether. You cannot get a patent on a written pattern.
Can I share patterns?
When someone asks if they can share a pattern, my first thought is What is their definition of “share”? Social media has made the world a much smaller place. We are connected in ways our parents never dreamed could be possible. We have groups on these sites that bring like-minded people together to discuss, share, ask for help, etc., on various topics. Connecting with individuals who have the same interests as you has never been easier. And even if you do struggle to find groups, using a managed Instagram service like Nitreo, can help you to grow your account and to increase your followers, in the hopes that more people can see your profile and connect with you. It’s amazing what social media can do these days. As for loom knitting and other fiber related endeavors, we want to show off and share our creations. And people will inevitably ask for a pattern. Some quite rudely, unfortunately.
So can we share the pattern we used? Depends on the method of sharing. You can always share the link to the pattern if it is online. Share the name of the book or magazine it came from. You cannot share the written pattern itself. Even if it’s free. The other person must get that pattern in the same manner you did.
But the pattern is free so it’s ok to give and share the written copy, right?
No. Free patterns are also covered by copyright in the same manner as paid. Free patterns can always become paid patterns. It is still the intellectual property of the designer or publisher that obtained the copyright.
Can I copy patterns?
You are allowed to make copies of a pattern from a book or magazine that you own or off the internet for your own personal use. If copies are made to give away or sell, it is a violation of copyright unless you have permission from the designer/publisher. Even when giving a class on loom knitting, you cannot give out printed patterns unless you have permission. Or it’s your pattern.
You are not allowed to make copies from a book or magazine from the library. These types of books and magazine are not considered resource materials. Resource materials are the only thing you can make copies from in a library. Resource materials include encyclopedias and other books that cannot be checked out that are located in the resource section. If in doubt, ask the librarian. I have seen several people on social media tell others to just go to the library and make copies out of the pattern books. This is wrong and takes money out of the designers pockets.
Can I translate or convert patterns to loom knit and can I share them when I do?
Everyone is looking for new and more loom knitting patterns. More and more are learning to convert needle knit patterns to loom knit. And want to share the finished pattern with others. But…. Unless you have permission from the designer of the original pattern, it is still a copyright violation. Even if it’s free. It doesn’t become your pattern just because you converted it. But the pattern is changed more than 10% by changing every other row so it can be considered a new pattern, can’t it? Yes it’s changed by 50 % BUT it’s still the same exact pattern. Besides, if you are designing and writing loom knit patterns, would you want someone to convert it needles and claim it as their own? Try putting yourself into their shoes. It really comes down to common courtesy which actually isn’t all that common…
I hear a lot about the 10% or more change makes it a different pattern. As far as I can find, that clarification is not in the actual copyright laws. It’s just a general guideline to go by. Usually if it’s a 10% change, it’s not close enough to be considered a copyright violation.
But this opens the door for people to take a new technique by another designer, change the stitch pattern from stockinette to rib, change the cast on and bind off, then claim it as a new design. In my mind, it’s still WRONG. But what’s a girl/guy to do? Not much. Always makes it worse when yours is a paid pattern and theirs is free.
But different countries have different laws?
Some will try to justify that they live in a different country and/or speak a different language so the copyright in another country doesn’t apply to them. Well that isn’t true either. Most countries honor other countries copyright laws. And the internet in global so it isn’t like the original designer cannot find it. If your country has copyright laws, then most likely your country honor the copyright laws of other countries, and therefore you should honor them too.
Can I make a video or ask someone else to a make a video on another person’s pattern?
I see on social media A LOT people who are asking for a video or for another person to make a video on a pattern that isn’t theirs. I realize that a lot of people consider themselves “visual learners”. Well here’s something to think on…. Almost ALL people are visual learners. Very few people can just learn a new thing by reading words. Almost all need to see how it’s done first. Which is why there are so many pictures in how-to books… Once the techniques are learned, that is when a person is able to read the written patterns to make items.
But what about making videos? Same as writing out the pattern. It cannot be done without violating copyright if the designer/publisher’s permission has not been given. A video is just a different medium of sharing a pattern.
There are several designers that allow another person to make videos. These people will and should acknowledge the permission given that allows them to make these videos.
What is the difference between a pattern and a stitch pattern?
A stitch pattern is the actual stitch itself, like garter, seed, and rib, just to name some common ones. A stitch pattern does not include instructions for a finished item. These are not protected by copyright and may be used in any pattern written. If it’s a new stitch pattern that someone has created, it is common courtesy to acknowledge them in your pattern. If they have made a pattern with the stitch pattern, then you cannot write a pattern that is exactly like theirs since that would fall under copyright.
A pattern is the instructions that include the stitch pattern, cast on, bind off, and all other information to actually make an item like a hat, scarf, shawl, etc.
A person is allowed to convert and share a stitch pattern without violating copyright.
But really isn’t it true nothing new is created?
I hear that a lot. Nothing new. Ever. Well in a sense that is correct. The shape of a hat. The fact that a sweater has a neck opening and arms. That all blankets are either a square, rectangle, or round.
But we are not limited in our imagination that prevents us from mixing different combinations of stitch patterns or techniques to create a hat, scarf, etc. that is completely different from anything that has been seen before. New stitch patterns and techniques are thought up all the time. This is why we keep moving forward in the creative world.
Other patterns inspire us to create something new. Nothing wrong with taking inspiration from someone else’s pattern as long as you are not stealing their exact ideas.
And nothing keeps 2 people from independently creating the exactly same item. The invention of the radio is a prime example. But before you publish, make sure someone hasn’t beaten you to it by a few days or weeks. And if you have created something but haven’t published it then someone else does the same type of item/idea, please don’t talk about how you did it first but never released it. That just sounds petty and like sour grapes. If you want your pattern out there before someone else does, then just do it. Don’t use an excuse for your lack of doing something.
In my opinion, these guidelines should apply no matter what the medium you choose. So, whether you are working on a loom knitting blog post, or an entire book about the topic, then how you express your ideas should be unique and your inspirations should be clearly outlined. You can learn more about how to publish a book and how to avoid running into any trouble regarding copyright infringements by checking out some of the resources on the Reedsy website.
Can I write patterns for trademarked characters?
There are a lot of character items that are being made and sold due to the popularity of the character due to a movie or show. While any pattern that is written would be yours, you do not have the right to use the image of a trademarked character unless you have permission from the trademark owner. Most times they will not grant permission because it would be money they are losing on merchandising. Large companies have been known to go after people for selling items that they make using trademarked images. This will also give the right for these companies to think about hiring a trademark opposition lawyer to help them start the opposition process against this trademark. So either make sure you have permission, or think about going down another route instead. This is why a lot of people who do write patterns do not sell the patterns and claim the items made are for personal use and not to be sold. They also use the word “inspired” a lot as well so they can claim it isn’t that character. Or just use a name that is completely unrelated to the character.
To answer this question? No. Technically you are not allowed to write patterns for trademarked characters or logos. It happens a lot though….
But I have yet to see you actually site your references…
For those of you who like references, you can and should always double check what I have said or what anyone else says by going to the following websites for the official information from the government.
Any questions? While I sit here giggling like a loon at myself over that last question, I wish you all creative thoughts and the proper knowledge of sharing your new ideas and creations. Happy loom knitting!!
5 thoughts on “Loom FAQs: What is Copyright? Trademark?”
Is there wing nut covers for the all in one loom?
Thank You, Judy
Great article and thank you for writing it. I was wondering how “fan art” fits into this, I have done a few articles of clothing with trademark characters as gifts and always received the “you should sell these” comment. An example that many would recognize would be the “Jayne” style ear flap hat. I have tried to research the “fan art” for sale concept and have found very little on it other than it is a hit and miss on who does and does not allow their trademark to be sold as “fan art” or “inspired”. An example of this is this website https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/05/13/the-messy-world-of-fan-art-and-copyright/.
Any further thoughts on this?
Heather, that is a great question. Fan art does fall under trademark. If an image is trademarked, it cannot be sold in any form by an unlicensed individual. Licenses can be obtained but I am unfamiliar with the process.
I know that Fox owns the trademark for the Jayne Hat and gets very defensive about it. Which is ironic considering how Fox felt about the Firefly show to begin with and that hat was only in 1 episode. But Fox cannot keep someone from making and selling ugly orange and yellow ear flap hats. It really is the name in that example. There is nothing “special” about the style or color of the hat. This is why so many people use the word “inspired”. But even that can get the attention of the trademark owner because they are using the trademarked name as well along with “inspired”.
Another interesting thing is all the trademarks that are owned by the BBC that are Doctor Who related. All but the blue phone box… While the name of the TARDIS is under trademark, the BBC cannot trademark the police phone box image since it’s not their original idea. It’s free game as far as fan art goes since it is not under trademark.
Therefore you would need to check and see if an image is trademarked. Not all of them are that would seem obvious.
I hope this helps a bit.
They are for all the knitting looms that have the little wing nuts at the end, so yes.
Beautiful. Can’t wait to make this project. Please continue your monthly blog I enjoy it so much.
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