Now that you have your “for personal use” photocopy of the pattern from your book or magazine or from the library or printed from the Internet, we can address:
Knitting Items For Sale or Donation:
So-and-so really likes the (insert-the-project-of-your-choice-here) I made from a copyrighted pattern and s/he wants me to knit her/him this item as a gift. Can I?
You are free to knit and give away as many of the (insert-the-project-of-your-choice-here) as you would like without seeking additional permission from the copyright holder, as long as you do not earn, make or otherwise receive any profit from doing so.14
So-and-so really likes the (insert-the-project-of-your-choice-here) I made from a copyrighted pattern and s/he wants me to sell her/him this item. Can I?
Here is the subtle difference. When money is exchanged, even among friends, you need to make sure that the designer allows this as indicated in the copyright notice of the pattern.
Many patterns include a statement similar to “this item may not be made for sale” or “may only be made for your own personal use.” Even if such a statement is not actually included in the copyright notice, you need to treat it as though it were included. You need to receive permission from the copyright holder before you can offer this item for sale.
As a general rule, if So-and-so is asking or hiring you to knit an item for them while they purchase the copyrighted pattern and yarn, then this is OK. However, if you yourself first knit up an item from a copyrighted pattern and then offer it for sale, this is not OK.
What about things I want to knit from a copyrighted pattern and donate to charity or to an auction? Is this OK?
Again, the subtle difference between a gift and a sale comes into play. If the charity to which you want to give the item uses the item itself, and does not sell it, you are free to give the knitted item away. If, however, the charity sells the item to gain proceeds, or auctions the item for its proceeds, your gift would effectively be the money and not the item itself. For this, you must have the permission of the copyright holder.15
What if I change the elements of the design to make it different from the original?
While copyright law protects the design as it was originally written, it also gives the designer the exclusive right to create a new design based on the original one.16 Please read the appendix: Copyright Issues and Knitting Design, by Carolyn D’Agostino, for further discussion of this complicated, but important, topic. The appendix appears at the end of this document.
I want to design an item using a popular character. Can I?
Please be aware that characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Barney and so on, may be protected not only by the copyright on their image, but also by trademark registration. Use of a registered character can lead to problems, because the owner of the character has the right to control all use of that character, including reproduction on knitted garments and especially in patterns.
If you want to produce a chart of a character, you should contact the owner of that character first to be sure you may do so. If you are doing a one-time sweater for a beloved child, then you are probably in the clear. But, if you post the pattern on a website or sell copies, then you need to get permission or you can be in trouble for using the character’s image without a license.17
A note especially for designers:
If you self-publish your patterns and don’t already do so, consider making it easy for knitters to contact you with problems or requests by including a mailing address and/or email address in your pattern.
For those designers who freely share their original patterns with their email or Usenet groups: make sure you know the policy regarding the ownership of content sent to the list to which you post. Unless you signed your rights away, copyright law covers the content of your post. Make yourself clear by adding a copyright notice to your pattern and don’t leave it open to interpretation by others.
For everyone: Educate yourself on copyright. It’s in your own best interest to know the basics of copyright law and how it affects your work not only in print but on the Internet as well. There are further resources listed at the end of this document.
Resale of Patterns
I have some patterns that I don’t want any longer. Can I resell them?
Once you buy a pattern, you own the physical pattern and can do as you please with it. You can give or sell it to someone else – but only if you do not keep a copy for yourself, or make copies for anybody else. Owning the physical copy of that pattern only gives you the right to use or dispose of that copy, not make other copies.18