We've looked at sewing to sell just recently, and last week I published an article about sewing pattern copyright law, and the mis-information that is spread around to try and restrict your freedom to use those patterns for your own enjoyment or profit. I feared it might be rather controversial and attract a lot of attention!
So now this week, I thought I should write more about why I think that pattern companies and designers seek to put these restrictions on their work and what they are afraid of. I'll try to look at it from their point of view, which I suppose is in a way my point of view too as a blogger who creates sewing patterns myself.
So why do designers try to protect their patterns?
The answer is simple. We all have bills to pay. We all work hard and deserve to be rewarded for that work. You included, whatever product you are making. If you've read my earlier article about ‘How a Sewing Pattern is Born‘ you'll see what a So Sew Easy pattern can be between 1 and 2 weeks of solid work from start to finish. More for a paid pattern, probably less for a free pattern, but not always.
Therefore pattern companies seek to sell as many patterns as they can – obviously, they are a business and in it to make a profit. When I spend a lot of time creating a pattern and then it only sells a handful of copies, naturally I'm disappointed, but for a big business that could be devastating! So they want to do everything they can to make us all buy more patterns.
Therefore they will tell you:
- You have to buy a pattern for each person you are making a dress for. Making a bridesmaid dress for 3 girls, then you need to buy each girl their own personal copy of the pattern, not reuse the same one 3 times. What a load of nonsense!
- Patterns are for your own personal use only therefore can't be used to make something for someone else. What! Don't be silly.
- You can't sell things (or give them to charity etc) that you make using the pattern – this is a biggie, and again it's pretty much nonsense and to me this doesn't even make any sense.
Imagine the situation…..
Let's imagine a scenario to help clarify their thinking. You go to a work event with your spouse and take with you a bag you sewed yourself from a pattern that you bought. Another colleagues wife loves that bag and asks if you would sew her one and she could buy it from you. She doesn't sew herself.
The pattern company tells you that you aren't allowed to do that because of ‘copyright laws' so the pattern can only be used for yourself personally and no, you can't sell what you make from the pattern. I can only assume that their thinking is – this lady loves that bag, therefore she is a potential customer for this pattern. If you make a bag from the pattern you already own and sell the bag to her, they have lost out on the potential sale of another copy of that pattern.
Hello! Pattern company – that lady doesn't know how to sew, and probably has no interest in learning. She just likes the bag. If you said “No, sorry I'm not allowed to because the pattern company says so”, there is no way that lady is going to go out and buy that pattern, buy a sewing machine and all the sewing tools and equipment she needs, and learn to sew for who knows how long, just so she can have that bag she likes. Of course not. She'll just buy another bag. Duh.
It's a totally different market
If you watched the TED talk video in the earlier article (and I recommend that you do, it's really interesting), you will see how Tom Ford, lead designer at Gucci, quickly realised that knock-off copies of their fashions were not really a problem for them. The people buying the knock-offs could never afford to buy the real thing anyway, (or didn't want to) so they were not loosing out on any sales. In fact, the knock-offs were helping to promote and create a trend, and bringing awareness to their styles.
The same applies above. The lady who loves the bag and wants you to make her one, is NOT in the market to buy that sewing pattern. So if you make a bag and sell it to her, there is no way the pattern company has lost out in any way on the sale of that pattern. What is more likely is that she will wear the bag around, someone else who DOES sew will see it and then go to buy the pattern and make her own. So by having more of the bags in circulation, there may be a ‘trend' or popularity for the bag that actually results in more pattern sales.
Well, that's what I think anyway. Do you see my logic, or entirely disagree with me?
Pattern designers and companies are a bit ‘unfriendly'
In all of my research in this subject, I came across one lady who was all in a tizzy. She has a sewing blog and she used a pattern from a small indie designer, who she loved, to sew five small wallets. She took a picture of these beautiful bags and posted about it on her site, linking back to the original pattern she used, and explained how she was going to donate the bags to charity.
What happened next I find entirely perplexing. The pattern designer noticed that someone had linked to her pattern and went over to read the article. She saw the bags and that they were being given to charity and she commented on the article and told her it was not permitted under the terms of the pattern for her to give things to charity that she had made with the pattern.
The pattern maker posted in comments that I was infringing on her copyright by donating the items I’d made to charity.
Then the poor sewing blogger posted a public apology on her blog saying she didn't know she was doing anything wrong, but of course would respect the law and the wishes of this pattern designer and not use her patterns again.
That whole situation just makes me cringe. The poor lady who was sewing for charity had a big heart and was then torn down by a pattern designer who in some strange way thought that giving the wallets made to charity would deprive her of sales of that pattern. What nonsense to think that way and to leave a public comment on the bloggers article too.
And so we come back full circle. Sewing pattern designers (and others who design embroidery patterns etc) naturally want to sell as many as possible, but you have to recognise your market. Who is your likely customer for that pattern and who is not going to buy it? A person who wants to buy a handmade item probably does so because they cannot make that item themselves, therefore they are not a likely customer for buying the pattern. They don't sew!
So I'm asking pattern designers in all disciplines to be more understanding of the market and be more friendly and co-operative with their actual target market – people who sew and love to buy patterns. Don't confuse them, lie to them about it being illegal, tell them they have to buy a ‘licence' from you, or challenge them because they sold a bag made with your pattern. Feel happy and proud that someone loved your pattern enough to invest in it and then share what they made with someone else.
Please, don't see it as a possible lost pattern sale, see it as an endorsement of your pattern and encourage that sewer to buy more patterns from you and expand her business. Then everyone benefits.
What about So Sew Easy patterns and tutorials?
You go for it! You can use any of my patterns or designs if you want to sew up something to sell. If you can earn some money from it, I'll be delighted, no credit or mention (or share of the profits) required!
photo credit: Copyright books @ EFF via photopin (license)
That doesn't mean however that there is no copyright restriction applying to my own patterns. There are still some restrictions on how they can be used. What I am not so delighted about would be these sort of scenarios:
1 – you want to teach a class using my sewing pattern. You buy the pattern and then you email it to all of your students or copy/print it and give it to all of them, including the cost of the pattern in the cost of the sewing class, but then keep all the money for the pattern sales yourself. (Yes, this has happened more than once.) Reselling copies or in any other way freely distributing copies of someone else's sewing pattern is illegal. Each student must have their own copy which they have bought from the original source – i.e. So Sew Easy, unless some other terms have been agreed in advance.
2 – you buy a pattern, share something you made from it in a facebook group, and when people ask what pattern you used, you offer to send it to anyone who wants it, or you add it to the group files so anyone and everyone can just download it for free. (Yes this has happened more than once too.) If you see this happening, please to let me know – this isn't allowed.
3 – you buy or download one of my patterns and then you add it to your own sewing site as a free download to anyone who wants it, pretending that it is yours to give away to anyone, rather than do any work to create your own tutorials or patterns. (Yes this happens as well.)
4 – you buy the pattern and then you sell it over and over again on Ebay. Yes, this is illegal too. You should know better. Again, please let me know if you see this sort of thing happening.
All of these scenarios involve selling or distributing the pattern itself, which is very different to selling items you MAKE from the pattern. Use your common sense – you know what's right and what's wrong.
So – sew, sell and enjoy. It's So Sew Easy!
Want to read other articles in this series? Check out:
1. Sewing to sell, how to price your work (includes a handy calculator)