Especially after last week’s Wingspan debacle, there have been a lot of questions about originality and copyright. How can you tell if your new design is ‘different enough’ from someone else’s?
This is a really tricky question, and frankly, I’m not going to talk about the legal side at all, because I’m not qualified to do so. But, today I’m going to talk about some questions to ask yourself when you’re wondering if your new design is original and suited to publish.
What’s the source of your inspiration?
I’m going to use the shawl that I knit last week as an example.
I originally began knitting Mrs. Tumnus by Eskimimi, but the lace pattern on the edging was too thought-intensive for my current knitting brain, so I decided to simplify the pattern.
In the end, I used the short-row shaping from Mrs. Tumnus, but enlarged the entire shawl and added a garter stitch border (with its own short-row shaping).
Would I consider publishing this shawl as a new pattern? No. Because I clearly used the Mrs. Tumnus shawl as an inspiration and made modifications.
But now, let’s look at the interesting case. What if I had designed the shawl completely from scratch… would seeing Mrs. Tumnus prevent me from publishing my new pattern? Probably not.
Mrs. Tumnus isn’t the first shawl to use short rows, and if I had come up with the ‘Stacey Shawl’ completely on my own, I wouldn’t look at Mrs. Tumnus and say, ‘geesh, that’s mine in a different size with a different edging’. I would probably publish the pattern, and it would be a case of two designers having similar ideas.
Do you see the difference? If you just ‘tweak’ an existing design, that’s not as original as coming up with the concept yourself.
Is the design your own style?
Creating an original design is tricky because we’re all using the same components. I didn’t invent crocheting in the round, increasing or crocheting through the back loop. But I use these components to create my own style of patterns.
You want to make sure that a design you publish is in your own style, as well.
Some students of my Design Your Own Monster class have done an amazing job of creating patterns in their own style. Take a look at this Mallard designed by Hollie:
It’s crocheted through the back loop, in the round… but whoa! It doesn’t look like a FreshStitches pattern… this little duck has some fabulous shaping and color changes that represent Hollie’s own style. That’s fabulous!
What if you took my cow pattern and changed the ears so it looked like a pig? You see… that would look like another FreshStitches pattern, and isn’t really developing a different style.
A note about working from ‘inspiration photos’
It’s very tempting to look around online for cute photos… and with a little bit of skill, it’s possible to ‘reverse engineer’ a cute design: that is, crochet it without a pattern.
Is this your own design? Not really. If you’re crocheting an item that was designed by someone else (whether or not it’s an existing pattern), then you also aren’t creating your own design.
Follow your gut…
In the end, it’s up to you. While there are copyright laws in place, in practice, there isn’t much of a ‘copyright police’ going around that are going to investigate your pattern.
It’s up to you to only publish patterns that are original and uniquely your own.
This blog post isn’t an ‘answer’ to how to decide that for yourself, but I hope I’ve at least given you a starting point of some questions to ask yourself!
Meet an adorable Teddy Bear!
I’m happy to announce that Teddy, the Bear from my Woodland Animals class is now available as an individual pattern!
So, if you didn’t sign up for the class, but still want to make an adorable bear… now you can!
Don’t you want to crochet a cuddly bear, today? Grab your copy of the pattern!
Excellent thoughts on this topic and I thank you for the way in which you addressed it.
So difficult to dra a line between inspiration and steel an idea… I have someting like that coming up now.
Even if I don’t sell patterns, it’s disturbing to see someone who was inpired by me amigurumi, made her own and sell the pattern.
Here’s mine: http://mibruno.com/terminados-44/
Here’s the other one: http://beberouge.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/summer-autumn-winter-who-knows-lets-crochet/
I don’t know what to do… any suggestions?
These cases are so difficult! If you feel like your design has been copied, you can try emailing the person. Sometimes they did copy, but didn’t know that is an uncool thing to do, and take the design down. It’s also possible that they came up with the design on their own (since it seems to be a play off of the Disney character, Piglet), and unless you’re willing to take legal action, I’m not sure there is much you can really do.
Looks like she was inspired by Olivia the Pig, same as you were… honestly hers does not look much like yours imo, the fact that they were both inspired by Olivia seems to be the only similarity.
The only people that could do anything about it are the trademark holders of Olivia; they could go after her for making money off their trademarked character, if they were so inclined.
What a great post Stacey!!
Teddy the Bear is one of my favorites patterns ever, I just checked and 5 out of that 73 projects on Ravelry are mine!!
Great post Stacey. I have a few ideas for patterns I want to create at the moment and this will help me to make sure mine are original.
What if i wanted to make one like you made! The shawl that is. I really like it but am not in anyway a designer? I would /don’t know where to start changing up patterns with short rows. How do you know where to put them, how many you would need, why do you even need them?? thought short rows are for turning a heal on socks, like if I need to make you knitting go in a different direction. And a thousand other questions. Hope you can help
@Lori… sorry, but I can’t even begin to teach how to design in the comments section on a blog! I’d recommend looking around Craftsy to see if there are any courses that teach what you’re looking for! 🙂
I find your articles very refreshing and honest and enjoy reading what you have to say. I’ve crocheted for 40 yrs and only started ami’s about 6 years ago, I’d seen them on a blog and decided I wanted to try one, Unfortunately I left the pattern at home and in a rush to start I decided to wing it. The results were different, I made it up as I went along and there started my love affair with ami. Your article was very interesting, your new dolls are similar to mine(great minds think alike) but so are many others. I needed to make a platypus, I am fortunate in that there is a creek five minutes away from home where the platypus play and I work at the info centre which is full of photo’s of platypus so armed with a photo I had taken I set to making a platypus, guess what…….it came out practically the same as everyone elses even though I hadn’t looked at any before hand. I would say it was my design but would be reluctant to submit it to the magazine as my design since it is so similar to others. It was amusing to see that some had only two legs and a tail marked like a beaver. To me ami’s are just caricatures in yarn of living things but if something has four legs I like it have four legs.
I realised I had missed a sentence out there, it sounds like the platys in the creek have only two legs, I meant the ones I looked at when I googled ‘images of crocheted platypus’.
Just curious because you spoke of a class you’ve taught. how does one go about teaching an online crochet class?
Teaching an online class is fairly similar to teaching to a large class at the national level… except that your students are behind a computer 🙂 I highly recommend Gwen Bortner’s class on teaching for details about learning to teach and apply to teaching positions!