Making Products from Patterns and Avoiding Copyright Infringement

What a wonderful opportunity the internet has presented for crocheters, knitters, craftsmen and artisans. It’s every business persons’ dream to offer products to the entire world. This is realized in the Internet. Just make your products and sell them, yes? There are some caveats, and copyright infringement is one of them. Copyright infringement is punishable by fine or, in some cases-imprisonment. You’re starting a business or taking your business to the next level-why take a risk? You can stay within the law by making sure your products don’t infringe on another designer’s rights. Here are some options for you.

1. Make your own designs
2. Hire a pattern designer
3. Use patterns in the public domain
4. Use stock images
5. Get permission from the designer (easier than you think)

1. Make your own designs. Although you may be the least design oriented of anyone in the world, you can learn to design your own products. Start by getting large sheets of unprinted art paper and experimenting with pattern shapes, let’s say from an old garment. Alter the pattern until it fits your design criteria. For knitting and crocheting learn how to increase and decrease stitches and shape your items from there. No copyright exists on stitches, themselves, so you are free to use stitches as you please. Mix and match, and increase and decrease stitches to get the look you want. Making items you like is one of the best ways to get the feel for how stitches produce certain effects. And you can buy “Crochet Patterns for Dummies” and for knitting “The Knitting Design Book by Ank Bredewold.

2. Hire a pattern designer. I know you’re thinking, “I don’t have thousands of dollars to hire a designer.” Here’s an inexpensive option. Check with fashion design schools in your area (or even over the internet) and hire a student, preferably an upperclassman. Students are starving for income, and many would be happy to cut their teeth by making a design for you. Also, they would enjoy the prestige of having their works “realized” which is an advantage for them in gaining some notoriety early in their career. Also check on There are a few pattern designers there that will sell license rights to their patterns. Selling the license means more money for the designer and more exposure for his/her design catalog. So this is a good option. Bonitapatterns on is one seller. When you buy the pattern, you buy the right to make and sell the items. Also, leilaandben on etsy charges a fee less about $30.

3. Use patterns in the public domain. All patterns published before 1923 are in the public domain. And, there are literally millions of these patterns on the internet. Some of the advantages of using patterns in the public domain are,

you can use the pattern as is, or you can make design changes-and no headache or nightmare, you’re going to be sued till your pants fall off.

There are seller’s that offer these patterns for a profit on websites like ioffer, Webstore, and Bonanza. Or, Google “buy vintage patterns” and do check the year when it was published. Now, here’s an article on the copyright issues and the public domain as far as patterns and needle artists go. Here’s a heads up. Better Homes and Gardens magazine patterns only, before 1977 are in the public domain. Their company says they did not renew their copyright on magazine publications before that time. So if you find these patterns you are free to make the items and sell as you see fit. This does not include Better Homes and Gardens books.

4. For images where you’re looking for a design to print on T-shirts, greeting cards, or say, to use as an image on a product you’re making commercially, check with stock photo companies. A few are Dreamstime, Fotolia, istockphoto, stock.xchange and Corbin Images. Of the five, Dreamstime, Fotolia and istockphoto are literally pennies per photo/image. Stock.xchange is free. When you buy an image from these companies, most images already come with license rights. It’ll tell you right on the photo download page if it’s a standard license, an extended license or whatever use conditions go with it. The license rights allows you to use the image most times to make products, basically of your choosing, up to 500,000 reproductions. (This is the case for Dreamstime and Fotolia, however, istockphoto and stock.xchange do not allow reproduction outside of print media). Then after that you must contact the designer or company about use thereafter. Here’s some ways you can use stock images;

In digital format on websites, multimedia presentations, broadcast film and video, cell phones. In printed promotional materials, magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, flyers, CD/DVD covers, etc. Along with your corporate identity on business cards, letterhead, etc. To decorate your home, your office or any public place. On products up to 500,000 reproductions

To find your own stock companies, just input “buy stock photos” in Google and a whole list will come up. Dreamstime, and istockphoto also have a database of free photos, you can use the same way.

5. Get permission from the designer. You can also contact the designer or rights holder and ask for use permission. This is not necessarily like hitting a brick wall. The designer may readily give you the rights to produce a limited number of their items, or they may sell you a license for a small fee. Remember, they’re in the business to sell patterns. Too, when you see patterns in books and magazines, just contact the publisher of the magazine. They usually are the rights holder for the patterns and it is they who can give you use permission. To find the designer do a Google and Facebook search with the designer name and name of book. To find the publisher, look on the inside cover or first pages of the book, they’re contact information is always listed there.

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