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Are Sewing Patterns Copyright Free?

Are sewing patterns copyright free? The simple answer to this question is no, although what you are allowed to with your sewing pattern will vary depending on the pattern itself and the company that made it. Copyright when sewing patterns are concerned is a very controversial thing and many people seem to have differing opinions on it. If you went to a shop and purchased a sewing pattern you would see a copyright logo on the pattern and some where it would say "for personal use only" or "for home use only". This is where things get difficult. You as the consumer are allowed to purchase a sewing pattern and create the item for your own use (personal), you are not allowed to sell the item for a profit. For most home sewers this is fine and never causes a problem. Copyright problems start to occur when you take your hobby and turn it into
a business. If you wish to become a
dressmaker, for every dress you make to order (e.g. a client wants a ball gown), you have to purchase a new pattern, you are not allowed to re-use
patterns, each pattern classes as a license to make that dress. However, if you want to go into manufacturing, e.g. you want to make 10 identical dresses in different colors to sent to a consignment store, you will need to seek special permission from the pattern company or you will be breaching their copyright. The best way around this is to
create your own patterns from scratch, this way you are not infringing on anyone's copyright, and you own all the rights to that sewing pattern. Some patterns may give you more leeway as far as usage goes, e.g. you may be allowed to make as many items from that pattern as you please, but you will still not be able to sell the item for profit. There is also some confusion as to whether the copyright applies to the pattern or to the garment that is made, as many people believe that each garment that is made will be different, so the copyright won't apply. The copyright applies to both the pattern and the garment, as it is Intellectual Property, someone took the time to create that pattern, based on an idea to create a garment (or other item), which means the copyright applies to everything. If you are in doubt about copyright, it's best to ask the manufacturer or designer, they should be able to tell you what you are or are not allowed to do with the pattern. If you are looking for copyright free sewing patterns, be very careful as sometimes there may also be clauses which prohibit certain things, so again ask the designer or manufacturer before you start making anything.
Written by Laura Marsh. Did you find this information on sewing patterns useful? For more sewing patterns and information visit http://www.lauramarshdesigns.co.uk/e-patterns.htm

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Comment by pam ingram on March 26, 2013 at 11:22pm

how would anyone know?

Comment by Candy on July 29, 2009 at 1:18am
It does SEEM that licensed prints SHOULD be fair game, but they are not and some even say so in the margins of the fabric. The fact is that using licensed prints on fabrics, like Nascar and other sports, Disney, Barbie, and others like this in projects to sell is illegal. Fabrics that have licensed prints are for personal use only.
Comment by Sunshine America Clay on July 18, 2009 at 3:52pm
It seems that licensed prints, if purchased at retail price, should be fair game for whatever the seamstress wants to do with them. The owner of the design has already gotten paid for licensing the fabric, and whoever is using it in a project for sale or otherwise has gained no advantage by having to pay a non-wholesale, non-manufacturer's rate.

Regarding patterns, however, it is understandable that this belongs to someone and they paid to have it published - they should have a right to "royalties" should that product be made and sold from their design. BUT - what if you MODIFY a pattern so that it resembles the original, but does not mimic it exactly? Then is it considered your own? It seems you can't copyright a basic shape or item that is fairly common. How much would you have to alter it to be "safe" from copyright infringement? It seems designers "borrow" from each other all the time.
Comment by Patty Park on July 18, 2009 at 3:40pm
Am I missing something? If a person wishes to make a garment to sell either to a private party or at an art/craft show, the solution seems simple. Purchase a pattern for each garment and add the pattern cost to the cost of the finished piece. That way no copyright laws will be broken. Most commercial pattern companies offer special internet sales on a regular basis (i.e. 2 days only - all patterns $4.99) and most brick and mortar stores offer patterns at half price. The additional pattern cost is just the cost of doing business. Additionally, several independent pattern companies clearly allow for limited commercial use and say so in their patterns. If there is a flaw in my reasoning, please let me know. I am very interested in this topic.
Comment by Candy on July 17, 2009 at 12:00pm
I thought most all the popular pattern manufacturers, like those you see in the big books at fabric stores, were for personal use only.
I also wonder about those people who make AND SELL things from copyrighted fabric. They don't think they are doing anything wrong and get real offended when you ask them if they have permission from the licensed character or whatever's company to sell that item made with that fabric.
Comment by Catherine on July 17, 2009 at 8:54am
My experience is that people will do what they feel they can get away with. They share patterns, embroidery designs and copy magazines. This not only hurts the designer and the manufacturer, but the independent retailer who depends on those sales to provide service and stay in business. It's a honour system really.
Comment by Margaret "Marty" Cobb on July 17, 2009 at 8:33am
I truly don't think that seamstresses intend to violate copyright rules. Most people tend to believe that if they bought the pattern, fabric & notions that they should be allowed to do what they want with it. They just don't realize that copyright violation is the same as stealing from someone. It is something that I deal with a lot & am very passionate about not violating anyone's copyright.
Comment by Mary on July 17, 2009 at 7:15am
Good advice not to be taken lightly.

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