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.
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!