Those light bulb moments where you make a connection between your day job and something else are frequent when you work on copyright policy. The publication of a new copyright notice, clarifying the use of craft patterns, and the new season of The Great British Sewing Bee which starts tonight has really got me thinking!
I am fascinated by how the role of copying and the copyright framework support and enable the things I love - sewing, knitting and crocheting. There are many ways that the IP framework allows reasonable copying and adaptation as part of the craft process. But, crafters should also take care they are respecting the intellectual property rights of those who design the patterns we love to use. The new Copyright Notice gives great advice on how to make sure of this.
Take time to copy and fit
I started dressmaking for the practical reason that it is not easy to find clothes to fit when you are 6ft tall. At the cost of much frustration and wasted time, I've learnt that it is worth making the effort to adjust the pattern to fit you at the start. Sometimes you'll need to trace the pattern to do this. So yes, of course it is OK from an IP perspective to copy a pattern you own if that what works best for you. Presumably it’s what the designer of any pattern would want you to do. Why go to all that effort to make something that doesn't fit?
Adapt a pattern
It's also OK to adapt patterns you own by combining them to make something for yourself or a friend. I got married last year and to make my life simple, I decided to make my own wedding dress. I hoped to find a commercial pattern but wasn't able to, so I also made the pattern myself. I used the neckline from one pattern, removed the sleeves and redesigned the skirt. I also added a buttoned-up lace back in the style that I'd loved from many commercial dresses.
It's fine to take inspiration from others on styles and general components and to adapt the patterns you've bought to make something for yourself. That's what fashion is about and there are only a limited number of possible wedding dresses out there. I’m not saying here that it’s always okay to copy another’s design! For example copying a design for commercial gain may well infringe someone’s intellectual property rights. (Check out the Copyright Notice for more information)
The future of patterns
I'm so glad that the internet has opened up a world of new patterns to me and to all those people who make their original and diverse patterns available to download. I'm also grateful to all those people who write the helpful instructions and blogs that I use when I get stuck!
There are some helpful guidelines in the Copyright Notice for what you can do with patterns that you find on the internet. One of the most important things is checking out whether the designer of the pattern is happy for you to sell the item you've made. Also, whether you can share the pattern with other people.
This also applies for the scaled-down patterns you can download, or often come with magazines and books. You need to copy and enlarge these to get them to the right size, or stick multiple sections together to get the whole design - like a jigsaw. I'm still not sure what I think of them. Sticking together 40 pieces of paper isn't really my idea of fun. But I do know in the same way that you wouldn't photocopy a whole dress making pattern to give to your friend, you shouldn't forward these without permission either.
I really hope this notice is useful to all you crafters out there!