I had a bit of a shock earlier today. While browsing Facebook, an ad popped up in my sidebar which confused me. Because at first glance I thought it featured one of my crochet toys.
But it didn’t.
It just featured one that was ridiculously similar. Too similar.
When I clicked the link I found a crochet group, linking to a pattern that left a lump in my chest. This pattern was almost identical to my own, down to the tiniest details.
Is This Crochet Copyright Theft?
I feel it’s important to mention that this isn’t the first time I have fleetingly thought someone might be ripping my crochet design off.
I have on no less than two occasions written patterns and momentarily thought they had been stolen when I saw a photo on Pinterest of something similar.
Only to discover that the ‘copies’ were a) written several years before my own, and b) actually quite different when you looked at them properly.
It was nothing more than a coincidence. And my coincidence at that.
Crochet can be very alike within certain toy designs. They are almost all based on the same standard single crochet increase/decreases.
But in these situations although the overall feel of the toy was alike, the finer details were not.
But this pattern is so close that I personally feel it would be impossible for them to have independently created it.
The modification to make it a different pattern is minuscule and in terms of the photos practically invisible to the eye.
They have even posed the toy like I did in my pictures.
Using Online Crochet Patterns
All of my crochet patterns online are free for anyone to use.
You can print them out, lend them to your friends.
Make crochet items using them and sell the items on.
What you shouldn’t do is copy the pattern, then republish it on your own site, or print it out and sell it.
The pattern should be protected by law – but in reality, is it?
As a writer, my articles have now been plagiarised more times than I can easily recall. My words have been stolen, copied and pasted onto other people’s websites.
They have been slightly adapted a few times, and one particular site takes delight in completely rewriting everything my co-publisher (for our other sites) and I produce.
Having your words taken online can normally be tackled fairly effectively, if you have the time and inclination to do so. As long as they were actually copy/pasted.
The ‘feel’ of an article is harder to own when it’s completely rewritten, although obviously from your source.
So frustratingly sometimes you have to let this slide. For example, in the most annoying example with an entire website built on your rewritten hard work.
But this is different.
These patterns aren’t just my words. They are a tangible thing I created.
I didn’t think it would hurt more to have them stolen, but it does.
Least of all because crochet copyright law is not as clear as written copyright laws.
Crochet Copyright Law
Crochet copyright law does not seem to be terribly easy to follow.
My understanding is that patterns are a lot like recipes. We can try to protect them and add copyright warnings, but we are essentially reliant upon the honesty of others.
And not everyone is honest.
I found this on the ever-useful website, Plagiarism Today
“With knitting, this means that it is theoretically possible for a pattern to be creative enough and independent enough from the article’s useful function to qualify for protection. However, in most cases, such a protection is unlikely and would only extend to the creative elements, not to the techniques that make it.”
“In short, while there hasn’t been any precedent and most publishers don’t even both to register the copyright in their patterns, meaning a lawsuit is more or less impossible, no one wants to be the test case if they can avoid it.”
Basically, I probably don’t have a legal leg to stand on. Especially not as a small blog holder with a fairly new reputation.
I don’t do outreach or ask for links like some bloggers do, so I don’t really know any other crochet writers. Just friends who crochet at home.
I have no angry, powerful internet crochet mob backup. No online army to worry them into backing down.
Although I do have some seriously riled friends, they don’t have any sway in the imaginary world of online crafts.
What Shall I Do Next?
This particular pattern was a real labor of love and very personal to me. I worked on several revisions before the final one, and I am not exaggerating to say that dozens of hours of work went into making it.
I feel very angry, but also upset. To have been left feeling impotent, unable to defend the pattern. To defend myself.
I give all of my patterns away for free, but rather than link to it and credit me, someone has seen fit to recreate my work and pass it off as their own.
I’m not going to share a link to the stolen work, because I don’t want to give traffic to their site. Nor am I going to tell you at this point which toy pattern was taken. I think I need to decide what I am going to do first.
If you have ever dealt with craftwork copyright theft, I would love to hear from you about how you handled it.
I am off now to do a lot more research, and will let you guys know how to story ends!
Lucy Kate, x