Yet another copyright question :-)

Sorry guys, you must get sick to death of these questions, but I’m so hazy on all the random laws etc that are out there, ie. what’s law and what’s just common courtesy etc.

So, my question is this : I saw the fantastic scarf Binary on knitty, and was inspired. I made a DS case for my partner, knitted flat instead of in the round, using black and green, but with a stitch pattern slightly different to the one on Binary that I made up. Essentially, I saw the pattern, thought it was cool, but made something quite different without a pattern that had green ones and zeroes on a black background.

Now, what could I do with the pattern for the DS case? It’s kind of a hypothetical question, but it highlighted to me how little I know about this stuff. Could I :
a. not do anything with it except make gifts for my friends.
b. write out the pattern for other people to use free but with an ‘inspired by …’ waiver.
c. write out the pattern to sell but with an ‘inspired by…’ waiver.
d. write out the pattern to sell as my own work.

It’s just that stuff like this seems hazy copyright wise - I cast on a different number of stitches, stitched a different pattern, used a different graph set up, knitted flat and seamed to make something that wasn’t a scarf. I know that stitch patterns themselves are in the public domain, but what about ideas, like green ones and zeroes on a black background to make a binary code? Where does the public domain end and copyrighted ideas start?

I hope this doesn’t start a big heated debate, but I’d like to hear lots of points of view. I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to steal someone’s ideas, I just want to know what the actual rules are about this stuff, because I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. It just seems hard to create original things these days without being inspired somewhere or other along the way, so I’d like to know what our responsibilities are as artists?

Fi xxx

:shrug:I’m not sure what others think, but I think options c and d are absolutely out of the question. You can’t make money off of someone else’s pattern in any way. I’m not so sure about selling the finished product, but definately not the pattern.
I think option a is the safest, but b might be ok as long as you give credit where due, kind of like citing someone in a paper.

I think willowangel’s question is if she’s now created a new pattern, or if this is a “derivative” and therefore not an original pattern.


I’m not sure.

Unless I am mistaken, the original copyright holder could easily make a case that this is a derivative of their original work and therefore not your own original work, hence it would be a copyright infringement.

You’re safe to make as gifts and such, but not to profit from.

you used a different stitch pattern, knit it flat(not in the round) and your end product is a DS case not a scarf. BUT you did use the main idea behind the scarf (the 1’s and 0’s) I would contact the designer and ask for permission if you want to sell them or write up a pattern and share/sell it.

Knitting-Guy is correct. You have also stated the design inspired you which the original designer could (I say ‘could’) jump on.

*A colour change does not change a design copyright.
*If the original design can be basically ‘seen’ albeit a few stitch changes exist, the original copyright still exists on the item.

*You could only write out an ‘inspired by’ pattern IF the original designer agrees.
*You could only make and give to friends if the original copyright allows that OR, as I suggested in the other thread, each friend buys a pattern (original) also.

I don’t mean this as an insult to the excellent analysis folks have done on this thread, but doesn’t this strike anyone as silly? All knitting patterns share common elements. This person was inspired by the numbers in the original pattern; but those numbers were themselves inspired by something else – quite possibly something copyrighted. Does the original designer now own the copyright on anything with ones and zeroes in knitting?

The consesnsus here might be right, and in the eyes of the law you might be violating a copyright; but if so, the law is oppressive to creativity and offends fairness and common sense.

Thanks for your replies guys, it was basically what I figured. As said, it’s hypothetical, I’m not intending to sell the pattern anyway. I just wonder where the lines start and finish - like someone knitting stars into a wristband, I’m sure somewhere there’s a pattern to be bought for that, but does that preclude that person making up their own pattern for stars in a wristband and selling them?

It’s a different case, because in the ds case one I actually was inspired by someone else’s work, but what happens when someone just comes up with something that someone else has already done like that? Say I’d not seen the scarf pattern, but decided to make a binary ds case in black and green since they’re standard computer geek colours, would that still be violating copyright? And how, in the world of the internet, could anyone prove they had or had not seen a pattern or a picture somewhere in their web travels?

Copyright infringement is not dependent upon your having seen the original copyrighted item. The copyright exists and the holder of the copyright has a right, even an obligation under the law, to enforce it or risk losing it much like a patent.

Whether you purposely copied the item or came up with the same thing on your own actually makes no difference under the law.

And yes, in some ways one could argue that it’s somewhat oppressive, but it’s the best theft protection currently available.

I agree that it may seem oppressive, but it really is there to protect the creativity of the designer, not to opress. How would anyone feel if someone took their idea and modified it a bit and made money off it? I am sure that everyone can agree to a point that credit should be given when it is due, especially since just by knitting we are all extremely creative people and want to protect that. :muah:

Some interesting excerpts from Knitty’s article on copyright protection that seem applicable :

                             [b] Whether a work is sufficiently [I]original[/I]                                  is also a subjective assessment. Original,                                  in this context, does not mean 'unique'                                  or 'new.' Original means that the work must                                  have originated from the author. Certainly,                                  the author will have been inspired by, or                                  may have based her work on, someone else's.                                  That doesn't mean that the work is unoriginal.
                            Is there a minimum threshold of effort that                                  must be added? Yes. What is it? I can't                                  tell you. There's no hard-and-fast rule                                  defining originality. Sometimes originality                                  is defined as 'not a copy,' but that's not                                  a very clear answer either. Asking 'how                                  much must [I]not[/I] be copied?' is like                                  asking 'how much has to be original?

Copyright doesn’t cover ideas or techniques. Nifty concepts, like how to knit reversible cables, [B]or a neckwarmer worked in intarsia giraffe spots[/B], may be fantastic new ideas. But these are simply techniques and concepts, and are not protected by copyright.

What is copyrightable is an author’s expression of these techniques and concepts, in the form of written instructions, photographs, diagrams, patterns, or even knitted objects. If the creators of these techniques wished to protect the techniques themselves, they would have to treat them as trade secrets or obtain patent protection. However, trade secret protection requires that the technique be kept confidential and shared only under strict secrecy provisions – not very easy in the knitting context, and not very useful if another knitter can figure out the technique for himself without access to the ‘secret.’ Patenting involves an examination and registration process that takes time and money.

I can, unfortunately, see both sides of the argument. I do, completely and without reservation, believe that artists who create should be protected from other people taking credit for their work. I think it takes a lot of work to write patterns, to come up with something new and work out all the bugs in it.

But I also think that the way things are at the moment, without any real set in stone copyright ‘here’s what you can and can’t do’ laws, we’re handcuffed. From this perspective, how the hell do new introductory knitting books get written? How are there so many patterns available for similar objects just with different patterns? What is copyrighted? Are stars copyrighted? Or just stars of a certain gauge in a certain pattern? I agree that people should be protected for the work that they’ve done, and I’m ok cause I can work stuff out without patterns and can take ideas and make stuff for myself without needing to follow a pattern word for word, but what happens to people who can’t? What if someone wanted, for example, a binary ds case pattern? Why am I not allowed to write that for them? Why are green ones and zeroes on a black background, in a different yarn, with a different graph structure, for a different purpose, totally banned because someone once made a scarf with green ones and zeroes on a black background?

That’s why I have a problem with this, not because I want to rip off someone else’s work, or because I think artists don’t deserve protection or recognition, but because it cripples our ability to do new and exciting things and share them with other people. It’s great that I can sit at home and think ‘I have a nice new ds case for my bloke, yay’ but I want to be able to share that with other people, and if I put in the work to write the pattern, as different as it is, why is that wrong?

The easy answer has already been mentioned. You simply get the copyright holder’s permission to create an “inspired by” pattern. I don’t think asking permission is exactly crippling.

Okay, answer me this…am i wrong when i designed the Flower Power Washcloths (3 versions and the Flower Power hand towel/placemat (3 versions) after seeing a cloth online shaped like a flower that someone had knit from a book (I don’t know the name of it)? I sat down and played with yarn and needles and sketches for a couple of weeks for the 1st washcloth, then decided to do several versions of them…same with the hand towel/placemats. Was i wrong in creating something that I saw? FYI, I’ve still not seen the pattern, but have been told they are designed much differently. It’s a very, very gray area! Same thing happens in fashion when designers do their ‘versions’ of couture (sp?) designs.
In knitting (as in all fashion, I’m sure) items repeat themselves over and over in different ways.
Sorry, I never thought of asking permission of (I don’t know who it is) the person that designed the 1st cloth that looks like a flower (lol, probably not the 1st, i see all sorts of floral cloths everwhere!), I never gave it a thought after I sat down and did it all myself. I do so hope it’s not wrong, I’ve since read here and there and didn’t see where I was in the wrong. Most of you know me and know I would be MORTIFIED if I did or were accused of wrong doing because it’s never been my intention! Just to let everyone know!
My goodness, as you think about it, you see all sorts of designs repeated over and over in different ways…raglan tops like the Anthropology capelet I just saw in either a magazine or book. You can go on and on. Knitting, as in fashion will now and forever repeat itself, don’t you agree?! (fyi … I in no way mean that one should steal copyright, I’ve had this done, not fun…just that fashion repeats itself).
My conscience is clear, I do so hope ya’ll feel the same way:thud:Like I said, I’ll die if you disagree, but that’s me!

I notice on here quite a lot people coming and saying… I ‘saw’ this and want to make it can someone help me figure out how. Technically, doing this breaks copyright yes.

Re the binary scenario. The fact is that if someone, prior to you, has copyright on that pattern then, in the technical eye of the law, you are breaking the copyright by reproducing the pattern (without permission). Now, of course one can arrive at ideas and diagrams without knowing that information is out there and if pressed in a court you can claim ignorance. However an analogy is you saying to a police officer…“I did not know that rule or law” and the officer saying…too bad…that isn’t my issue…ignorance is not an excuse.

Can I simply suggest two things. If you come up with a design idea or set about to create one, do some research. Google “binary patterns” and “binary knit patterns” and ask around. Keep a record (diary) of attempts to locate if anyone already has a copyright design. If you’ve made fairly exhaustive attempts then, if legal action is ever threatened, you have an excellent case. Revelry will be an excellent resource for this type of issue I think.

In terms of being ‘inspired’. A design is more that the stitches. It is the shape, the way it is put together, the stitches, the seaming and so on. You need to remember this and that changing one aspect or two…does not necessarily alter the fundamental prior design.

We generally know when we see really innovative work because it IS so different. New shapes, new design elements, new patterns and so on.

My husband is in law school for intellectual property, so I was just talking to him about this issue. He does biosciences stuff, so no copyright issues (which is VERY different from any other type of law), so he is no expert. However, he pointed out that someone likely owns the copyright to the binary pattern, so the designer of the original scarf could have been unknowingly infringing on that. Wouldn’t that be a twist?

bip… :think: Binary numbers and code patterns are of course not new and applying two numbers to a graph is probably not copyrightable per se. In this instance it would be the application to an item that is the copyright issue. The application and then description of ‘how to make/achieve’. As others have pointed out here…basic stitches are not copyright; its how they are used and drawing in various design issues/elements that’s key.

One of the copyright success stories is the smiley face. The guy who originally designed that has done very very nicely thank you :slight_smile:

In terms of design moderation Target took a law suit against a company that had a bullseye design. The second company altered the bullseye (number of circles and width) and did not have red however Target argued, and successfully I might add, that the bullseye basic design was associated with them. The second company had to pay compensation and costs and alter their design.

Knitty’s Center Square Hat reminds me of the Target sign. Oooh, scandal. :doh:

lol :slight_smile:

It has been a long time since I took Literary Editing, when we discussed copyright and plagiarism, but I am SURE this is not right.

I feel that people are taking a stricter view of knit-copyright than actually exists, and while I do agree with “better safe than sorry” when it comes to lawsuits, I don’t think that the law is as black and white as it is being painted to be.

I need to think more on this issue, though, to come up with coherent arguments. (It’s late, and 3 beers doesn’t help my case. :teehee:)

I highly doubt it. Binary is just 1s and 0s used to represent on/off states - it’s a convention, not a design.

(Likewise, the dots and dashes of the Morse code aren’t copyright, even though Morse has a lifetime credit in its name. The ACTGs of DNA are also not copyright, just a convention on how to represent the nucleotides.)

In the original question, it’s probably best to look at the situation of what is the same versus what has been changed.

The technique? Different. The stitch pattern? Different.

It [I]is [/I]a scarf - but no one holds copyright on “the scarf”, or we’d all be broke paying the royalties.

So what’s the same? The colour? Not really part of the pattern. You can do a derivation in black and amber to look like the other common cga monitor type easily enough. And colour combinations aren’t copyrightable either.

So, it comes down to knitting a representation of binary code in a different technique, using different stitches. In my opinion, the idea of knitting binary is just not copyrightable, any more than the idea of knitting a stripe, or an intarsia flower, or adding Fair Isle snowflakes are copyright infringements. Stripes, flowers, snowflakes - and the 1s and 0s of binary - are representations of items that are not themselves copyright.

It would be entirely different if you were copying a design, or a logo that was identifiable and had its own copyright, but you can buy a thousand types of fabric, coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters, etc. all with binary designs (and some with actual binary messages). The idea of the binary 1s and 0s is firmly in the public domain (and the Matrix, apparently).

And the truth is that ideas cannot be copyright, only implementations can. And if the only similarity is that the item uses 1s and 0s, that’s just not enough to claim a copyright violation (especially given that binary representations are public domain).

To take this to extremes, what if I were to knit a binary hat, or sweater or afghan? What if I were to change the size of the motifs, or the colour, or the font? All these items would still be knitted, and still use binary - and all could be inspired by the initial scarf - but, IMO, none of them would represent an infringement of copyright.