UPDATED - How is this legal? Copyright Q? And ethical dilemma

So I was captivated by YH’s pic of the baby surprise jacket, which I knew was some kind of marvel… when I saw her pic of it unfolded, I was intrigued, but couldn’t find a local source for the pattern. I though it would be interesting to see if I could work out something similar myself (yes, interesting, slow, and riddled with ripping). I thought that I could see how it worked, at least you start off with double decreases to make the CO edge into the neck/top and wrist cuffs. Later, increases to make corners… some other stuff… although I would quite possibly have chucked it all in and bought the pattern. With trial and error, I might be able to work out something similar, from the unfolded photos I found on the net (I have no moral problem with this). At least I was thinking about trying it. Then I found this.

~deleted link by Jan in CA~

Row-by-row instructions. The woman specifically states that she is not posting the pattern, that the notes will only make sense in conjunction with the pattern. But they make sense to me. Is she being sarcastic (like those blogs where someone posts 'if you have a copy of Rowan Summer ‘0X DO NOT contact me offering to send me a photocopy or scan of the Dragonfly pattern because if you do I will not accept’. Hint hint.)? Or does she think it’s legal? If this is okay I must have a serious misunderstanding of copyright as it applies to knitting patterns.
And now an ethical dilemma… I might or might not have ever gotten around to actually trying to work out exactly how to make this or something similar, but after coming across it, do I just ignore it? I still want to try to work it out what with not having a local source… but I don’t know if I have the willpower to do that knowing the instructions are available online, even though I totally believe that when you write a pattern it is a possession and if someone doesn’t want to buy it off you they don’t have a right to it. Regardless of whether you actually lose money or not from them having the information.
Don’t we have a lawyer with copyright knowledge somewhere on here? I’m really curious about how this is legal!


OK, the first caveat to this is that I have not passed the Bar (yet, I hope), so this does not constitute legal advice, only my opinion (it’s an ethical thing). Second caveat, I only got a B in Intellectual Property law, so take this with the appropriate grain of salt.

All that said, I’m not entirely sure you can copyright a pattern in and of itself any more than you could copyright a recipe (for more knitting and cooking, see my blog post for tonight). I would liken a pattern to a formula, which can definitely not be copyrighted. When people put together books of facts, like encyclopedias, they have a copyright over the exact presentation of those facts, not the facts themselves.

In addition, independent creation is a defense to copyright infringement. If you lived in a cave all your life then happened chistle out Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows on your wall, well then JK’s out of luck. Of course, this is a pretty tough fact to prove, but there it is.

So, that’s my 2 cents. Man, I should’ve gone to more class…

Stitch patterns aren’t copyrighted, but the specific wording of them is. Patterns for items, like a whole jumper with instructions from start to finish like in a knitting magazine or book, are copyright and are not posted free on the net without the author’s permission. Yor’re really not even supposed to make a photocopy from your book and give it to your friend (although it happens a lot of course and is difficult to enforce).
But this woman has specifically written out line-by-line instructions for the jacket.

In the Baby Surprise yahoo group, there’s similar row by row instructions for a daily knitalong. You can easily figure the pattern from them. Don’t know if this woman got them from there, or made her own notes as an aid to those knitting the pattern.

that woman has definatly posted the pattern line by line (i think she tried to feel better about it by saying this :“Here are my notes to help keep your place while you knit the Baby Surprise Sweater (Jacket) by Elizabeth Zimmermann. “) but then she gives you these instructions which makes her line-by-line pattern knittable :

[B]How to read these notes:[/B]
[B]Two sides are always same amount of sts, [COLOR=#800000]only one side of numbers is noted[/COLOR], with center sts next. [/B]
[B]The dividing stitch between sections isn’t noted, so there are [COLOR=#800000]2 more sts to add[/COLOR] to the row total on most rows. [/B]
[B](In other words: numbers show the amount of sts on one side, then you have the dividing st, then the center section sts noted next, then for the other side after the next dividing st you will also have the same amount that is listed for the first side)”[/B]

i am not a lawyer by any stretch, but seems to me she has violated some kind of law about sharing a pattern that is still available for purchase and not ‘vintage’. :shrug:

Exactly. I know the pattern is a bit vague but she provides gauge and number of stitches to cast on and everything. It’s entirely understandable and you could knit the jacket from it without the original.

I deleted the link because posting it here could also be constituted as a copyright violation especially since it’s a public forum. For future reference please don’t post the actual link in the forum in these situations. You can PM a mod with the info so it can be discussed privately. Thanks. :hug:

I’ve forwarded the link and info to the knitbabysurprise forum owner. I’ll let you know what happens.

Do please accept the potential that many people do not understand the issues of copyright law and if a person found there were omissions from the original they may have felt they were doing others a service by letting them know. Certainly there are ways to do that without publishing what is really the original pattern but some people may not know this. There is a difference in my mind in intent between someone going out of their way to offer free patterns when they shouldn’t and someone who acted perhaps guilelessly.

I’m just recommending that people not assume the worst in this sort of instance. Why not just give the person a quiet heads up and then decide on other action if they ignore or tell you to bug off?

If anyone is motivated to poo hoo my comment about not everyone understanding the laws I suggest you don’t. Last year a major telco ran a completely inappropriate ad that showed poor knowledge of copyright laws …so, if a large corporation that has a legal team can fail on that then so can individuals. I remember seeing notes from a copyright librarian in an academic institution a few years ago and I was floored by the detail of the laws. It is, as another posted suggested, a knowledge field unto itself.

Certainly, err on the side of caution but once again, don’t assume people are always poorly motivated.

That was my thought, that the woman posted the instructions to be of help to knitters because the original is somewhat vague, and not to simply pass around the pattern. And sometimes people forget about such things as copyright, or are not aware that being helpful could violate CR laws.

I received this reply to my query about whether this was a copyright violation.
---------------------------------------------------[FONT=Arial]Quoted from an email to me:

[/FONT][B][FONT=Comic Sans MS]Meg (Swansen) is already aware of this, and has approved it. I don’t know why Dawn didn’t put that on the pages, though, because you aren’t the first one to bring this to my attention. [/FONT][/B]

[FONT=Comic Sans MS][B]Truth be known, it isn’t any more detailed than the tutorial that we use on the list – that was also approved by Meg before we started using it. I think since the pattern was published in a magazine several years back, she’s a bit more tolerant of those who puts up worksheets on it.
Since the page has been approved I will share the link again.

Meg Swansen is a wonderful woman! Her company, Schoolhouse Press publishes Barbara Walker’s St pattern books and has given me permission on several occasions to use st patterns from the books as long as it is stated that the st pattern came from this book and permission was given by Schoolhouse Press.
Copyright is very gray when it comes to design. I’ve knocked off patterns that I’ve seen pictures of but didn’t have the actual book or pattern, specifically, Flower Power Washcloths. There is a washcloth is (I’m sorry I don’t recall the book) that has a pattern with a washcloth that is in the shape of a flower, I couldn’t find the book, so I sat down and played around for a few days and came up with my 1st design and have since done 2 more centers for the cloth. My design looks like the one in the book, (somebody, what’s the name of the book?!) but it’s made differently and I copyrighted these designs just as the other was copyrighted.
You find this all over with knit patterns, you can make a sweater so many ways, yet, it may end up looking very, very similar, but you did many different things, this doesn’t mean you infringed someone’s copyright because both of your sweaters look similar, yet they were knit very differently. Like I said and have been told and read, a very gray area!!! Ere on the side of caution and if you have a question, ask, that’s what I did with Meg Swansen and with Annie Modesitt when I wanted to use an edging I’d seen her use (but have since seen a few other designers use) and I give Annie Modesitt credit.
LOL, I don’t know if that helped or not, just wanted to include my experiences.

This exact issue is happening the world of high-end restaurants. New chefs work under famous chefs (known as “staging” - pronounced stahjing) and take famous dishes with them when they leave. If the recipe is not written down, or the new chefs tweaks it by one ingredient, is it theft?

There are threats of lawsuits and copyright infringement rattling across the globe with this. Much of the debate has to do with the internet and how quickly things can be discovered and copied. Recipes aside, there is also a lawsuit involving “every element” of a successful restaurant:

FYI, just to be clear…I never saw the pattern to which I referred in the post, just a photo of the end product online and then played around with yarn and techniques and came up with mine (simply because I couldn’t find the book)…I in no way, shape or form changed one or 2 things from something (pattern/recipe) that I had seen because I had not seen it…my entire pattern is from my imagination. So, please, please don’t think this of me (not meaning that you do, but just want to make myself very clear, I would hate for someone to think badly of me!), you would be hard pressed to find a more honest person.
One of the knitting books that Lonnie gave me for our anniversary the recently published Best of Vogue has a very good article on knitting and copyright in it written by a knitter’s husband, who is a lawyer, I think…anyway, it’s good to read and IMHO follow as he states! I would HATE to be a copyright attorney, so many different areas with anything to do with art whether it be writing, knittin, singing, etc.

OT: Just because I may never get to use this IP knowledge again, the restaurant issue from that link is one of trade dress. Basically, you have a right to protect your packaging, which can apply to restaurant decor. So, if someone decided to open up a fast food restaurant with red and yellow colors and a big W, serving double quarter pounders with cheese and a clown mascot, I’d say there’d be a pretty good case there.