More on Copyright, Ethics and Trademarks

The following post has been updated here: I had misinformation but am leaving this here to show my thoughts.

I can’t stop thinking about this topic lately and how it affects my small business as I’m growing it. I’ve done a lot of research, and I feel like I understand the law pretty well. I have no intention of violating the laws as currently laid out, but what is really bothering me is that they seem very much in favor of the big guy and offer no protection for the little guy.

For example, I could make a beautiful cabled sweater and put an adorable little moose on the front of it and name him Gus. But, if I don’t trademark that character there is literally NOTHING stopping anyone from studying my pictures and recreating the same sweater, then call it their own and publish the pattern. Even worse, if I don’t put Gus on the front, and it’s just a cabled sweater, there isn’t really anything I can trademark and protect as my own unless I figured out a way to make the cable unique or something.

Yet, I keep hearing over and over “The reason to protect and enforce the law and report patterns in violation of the law is because the same law protects the little people too. We ALL benefit from the same law.”

But, I don’t see that really. I feel extremely vulnerable and protective of my little designs. I have about 15 designs ready to go, but I’m crippled by fear of letting them out in the world only to see someone with more exposure than I currently have take advantage of them and publish them. It’s a very scary precipice to navigate.

This whole process seems very unjust and I’m more than a little confused by the apparent anger it incites in some people. I’m not planning on making amigurumi, or designing derivatively. I celebrate the successes of other people, whether it’s a fabulous afghan design or an adorable little figure to cuddle. What I’m seeing is not that celebration of others, but something that seems rather sinister to me instead.

It’s reassuring at first encounter to hear that while stitch patterns have been done over and over, and combined in many different ways, the use of those stitches and combinations is not what makes a pattern yours, but the words and the way you write your pattern. So when it’s published, it has your copyright. But, the copyright literally only protects the exact words on the page and the images you share.

It might be unethical to copy my images and rework my sweater as your own, but it’s not illegal.Yet, someone sees a baby Yoda on the television and makes up a crochet pattern and that’s illegal? I totally understand the legalities of it but I don’t know why we as crafters are just accepting this. Disney is not going to make a Baby Yoda crochet pattern (unless they’re hiring the designer who made one and are going to publish her pattern? I can only hope!) So the avenue is just closed. And that seems greedy and wrong to me.

A crocheted or knitted item has unique properties that a manufactured item does not have, and vice versa. One does not replace the other. Your mom can give you a stuffed animal she bought at the local toy store, but the one she made for you has a different sort of meaning. It may not be an exact image of the movie character, but it’s imbued with love that the manufactured item can never have.

If we are going to have to respect the law and not mimic the art of other media, then the same should be true within our own medium. And that’s the bottom line for me. This trademark/copyright issue seems unfairly biased towards corporations with the funding to protect their images, but artists working independently have no protection whatsoever without great expense.

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