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Your Copyright Questions Answered

By: Maria Nerius, Resident Craft Expert

I continue to get questions about copyright infringement issues or just questions about copyrights and crafting in general. So let me answer the most frequent questions to clear up confusion.


We received many letters about our Creative Income newsletter discussion on originality and copyright laws. Here are some questions that come in:

  1. How much and what types of changes must be made to a design to not be guilty of copyright infringement?
  2. If I use a flower pattern that someone else made, but used in a totally different way, like say knit bouquet to a flower scarf, will there be a problem?
  3. What makes anything original?
  4. If I use a pattern that was originally designed using fabric and I painted it, did I break a copyright law?

I went back to my network of editors, publishers, and designers to get their insight. Almost everyone said that an artist or craftsperson should know in their gut whether they were inspired by another’s work or they copied the work.

As artists and craftspeople we should never reply on inspiration from other artists, crafters, or designers. We can’t help but come in contact with handmade items, but we should use magazines, gift shops, or online handmade stores as our only source of inspiration. You know whether you enjoy a technique. You know you want to earn income from this passion. So just be yourself and create (Answer to 3).

There is no rule about how many changes need to be made -- this is basically knocking off someone else’s work much like some designers do after the Oscars. These knock-off artists simply take fashion designer’s work and cheap it down to make it affordable for the average consumer to buy. Why be a knock-off artist when you can be an original. (Answer to 1)

Many of us start by buying patterns and designs. We fall in love with quilting, painting, jewelry making, or card making. After we are confident in our skills, it’s time to step away from what’s been done and do what’s in your heart. If you use a bouquet as inspiration for a sweater you probably aren’t breaking any laws (Answer to 2). If you copy a design from one medium to the next, you are walking a very fine line and if that design is licensed you broke the law (Answer to 4). 


The world is our inspiration and we can be original in our creativity!


For more information on the basics of copyright, see Be an Original - Copyright and Original Designs. And be sure to check out other articles in the Craft Business section for answers to more questions about how to run your craft business. And to stay up-to-date on articles and more, subscribe to the free Creative Income weekly newsletter.

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This is good information but I'm not sure I have the answer to my question. I knit an item I call Sock Monkey. It's my pattern and it looks like it's made from a sock (which is the goal) But, is the name okay?


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