Copyrights and Ethics, Oh My

This post has been updated here: I had misinformation which led to these thoughts. I’m leaving this post active as it shows my journey.

Copyright law has come up a couple of times in the crochet world recently and it’s something I find rather fascinating. Especially when ethics come into play.

A few weeks back, a very well known crochet designer slipped up and made a Grinch scarf. It wasn’t available for long before it was hit with a cease and desist letter from Random House, the current owner of the copyright. Please note, this is third hand information, so the specifics may be wrong, but the concept is the same, big money hit little designer and little designer lost.

I had to look up who owned the copyright. This article has the scoop… ) It may have changed hands since then but that was the most recent reference I could find about copyright acquisition.

And then this weekend, a baby Yoda pattern took the crochet world by storm! A clever designer made a baby Yoda that is presumably life size (if Yoda HAS a life size!) and people got so excited about the finished product that they started a bidding war to purchase it, so she put it up on Ebay. It made it all the way up to $2175 before the auction was taken down. The pattern was taken off Ravelry yesterday and I’m not sure what happens to the money she was paid before it was removed.

This whole thing got me thinking about a number of issues, and not just copyright laws! First, it was so exciting seeing another designer virtually hit the lottery with a pattern. I loved watching the number of times this pattern was favorited and added to someone’s queue on Ravelry. Celebrating each other’s successes is a way we can all have more joy. It doesn’t have to be my success to make me happy. It’s fun watching!

In my discussions on the internert, I’ve been mightily surprised to see that not everyone agrees with me. In fact, some people got a little nasty about it, comparing this situation to stealing groceries and diapers from a woman dying in her car.

I can see the argument that by allowing designers to mimic other people’s art, we are weakening the strength of our own copyrights. BUT, I don’t think that Disney has any intention of manufacturing a crochet doll or a crochet pattern. A crocheted doll has unique properties that are different than manufactured toys and might actually be subject to Fair Use laws if we had enough money to fight a behemoth like Disney.

I’m still learning about copyright laws and my understanding could certainly benefit from more information. So, I Googled. I found this article about the Grinch.

Apparently if something is a parody that exists solely based on the existence of the original copyrighted material, it does NOT violate copyright law. There’s got to be something in there to allow crafters some wiggle room. It is actually starting to feel unethical to me to PREVENT crafters from expressing their love for a character through crochet and other crafts.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but a fire is awoken in my belly and I’m going to pursue it a little further. My father was a lawyer, and I just wish I could talk to him about this. He wasn’t your big wig corporate lawyer, but a man who fought for the little guy, a poor man’s lawyer if you will.

Wish me luck! We all stand to win if we can figure this out. Happy Hooking!

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