Ask Kat: Can I Make a Copy of my Pattern?

 (This post is the first in a new series we’re starting in an attempt to publicly answer some of the mostly commonly asked questions we receive.)

As you might suspect, we field a LOT of questions by phone, and by email every week. And here’s the deal, for every person that actually picks up a phone and calls us with a question, it’s likely that there’s 4 -6 others that have toyed with the idea of calling and asking us the very same question. So I thought it might be a good idea to start posting some of the more common questions we receive in this public forum so that everyone can have the same access to the answer.

So… let’s start with a question I received three phone calls about just last week, and that would be,

“Can I make a copy of my pattern?”

t’s a logical question due to the copyright statement that’s printed on the back of every single pattern we sell so I thought I’d take a shot at providing some assistance in an extremely confusing area, an area of law I might add, that was surely created to help lawyers make money interpreting.
(But please remember that I am not a lawyer, so the information outlined below is therefore only my understanding of copyright regulations based upon what I’ve read and gleaned from others. It is by no means the final word.)

So… what exactly IS copyright?

By definition, the purpose of copyright is to provide balance between the rights of the creator/writer/designer/composer to profit from their efforts, and the interests of others who want to learn from, build upon and otherwise enjoy these works.

Generally speaking, the creator has the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Perform the work publicly
  • Display the work publicly
  • Prepare derivative works
  • Distribute copies of the work

What this means, is that it is illegal for anyone to violate any of these rights without the expressed permission of the author/creator. However, these rights however are not limitless…

“Fair use” is one of the exceptions to copyright law and it allows for the use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission as long as that use can be considered “fair”. So what exactly would be fair?
Listed below are a couple of questions that might help you make that determination for yourself.

  1. How do you intend to use your copies? Are they for your own personal use or are you going to profit in some way from them?
  2. How many copies do you need to make? The more copies you need to make, the MORE likely it is that you should seek permission.

Make sense? So…keeping all this in mind, here’s how we answered the three copyright questions we got last week! See if you agree!
1. “Can I xerox-copy the pattern template sheets to keep in my files, because they sometimes get really tattered from overuse?” This is a classic example of a “Fair Use” exception. This customer simply wants to make copies for her own personal use, just in case her originals get lost or become too tattered to use, so of course we told her this was fine by us!

2. “I would like to use your FREE Aeropac pattern as I teach a group of middle-school girls. The only thing is, some of these girls do not have access to the Internet and cannot download their own copies. Can I please have permission in this instance to make the copies for them to use?”  In this example, our customer wants to make several (in this case 10) copies and distribute them to her students so that they can take part in her class. This is perfectly OK with us. Even though it’s  always our preference for students to come to our website to download their own copies of our FREE stuff, it’s more important to us that as many people as possible learn the joy of creating with fabric!

3. “I had such a good time sewing up my Boho Baguette! So I’d like to have permission to copy the pattern so that the other ladies in my sewing circle can make up the bag too? I’m sure they’ll enjoy it and I bet they’ll come back to buy a few patterns of their own someday!”  This customer is unfortunately every pattern designer’s nightmare. I’m really glad she loved the pattern this much and it’s great she showed enough respect to ask for permission, but we never, EVER grant permission for anyone to copy our handbag patterns and distribute them. In class situations, ALL students must purchase their own copy. Sorry, no exceptions.
(However- Private instructors are always invited to contact us to receive a group discount rate for their students.)

And now…. it’s YOUR turn!

So…how would you have fared answering the questions? Did you read anything you found surprising here?

And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.


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