Copyright… From the Horse’s Mouth

It seems there are some out there that didn’t like my post regarding designers thinking they can dictate what you can and can’t do with an item you completed from their pattern. You’ve bought the pattern, you paid for the materials, invested your time. Yet they think they can tell you that you’re not allowed to sell YOUR work or can dictate where you sell it? That’s like my LYS saying you can use the fleece you purchased here to make your own yarn, but you can’t sell that yarn locally or online because we want to reserve the right to sell ours there.

So I decided to send an inquiry to the U.S. Copyright Office to get the answer straight from the horse’s mouth. Sure, I did my homework and researched the subject thoroughly online. I just wanted to make sure all my “t”‘s were crossed and my “i”‘s were dotted.

This is the message that I sent to the U.S. Copyright Office:

Can you sell an item you have made from a pattern? Can pattern designers dictate what you can do with an item you have made from a pattern they have written? I purchased a crochet pattern and nowhere in the listing did it say that it was for personal use only. It was only after I was 3 rows from being finished that I discovered this. Am I legally allowed to sell this item?

This is the response I received:

Generally, you may do what you wish with your own personal copy.

The first-sale doctrine is a limitation on copyright that was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 and subsequently codified in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 109. The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained. This means that the copyright holder’s rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy end once that copy is sold, as long as no additional copies are made. This doctrine is also referred to as the “first sale rule” or “exhaustion rule.”

If you have additional questions or need further assistance, our contact information is listed below.


U.S. Copyright Office
Attn: Public Information Office-LM401
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20559-6000
Phone: 877-476-0778 (toll free) or 202-707-5959
Fax: 202-252-2041

There it is. Don’t believe me or don’t agree? The information is right there to contact them yourself. Nowhere did they say that I’m not allowed to sell the finished item regardless of what the designer says in the listing or on the pattern.

As I had mentioned before, I won’t purchase a pattern from somebody who states their wishes in the listing that they don’t “allow” items made from that pattern to be sold. Even though I don’t always buy a pattern with the intention of making the item to sell, I do need to have that option in case things don’t work out the way I had planned. I want to respect peoples’ wishes. I would also much rather support a designer that supports their customers. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. If a friend sees an item I made and asked where I got the design, you bet I’ll send them to the designer. BOOM! Another sale for the designer. I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. I’m sure there have been a few sales generated from my finished pieces for those designers who encourage sales of finished items. That fuels their business and allows them to keep writing patterns. They help us help them help us help them…

Happy stitching.


2 thoughts on “Copyright… From the Horse’s Mouth

  1. As a designer I never tell those that purchase my patterns they can not sell or so as they please with the item they make from my pattern.

    According to my Copyright Attorney I do not have the right to say what is done with that finished item. I do however have the right to say what is done with my pattern once it is sold.

    I own the written word of the pattern and any pictures that may be involved in that pattern.
    As was stated in the reply you received “This means that the copyright holder’s rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy end once that copy is sold, as long as no additional copies are made. ”

    This means the pattern itself can not be copied and sold with out permission of the copyright holder. If you want to sell the pattern you purchased you may do so as long as you are selling the original pattern you purchased and NOT a copy of it.

    However the reply you did receive really doesn’t address your question of what can you do with the finished item.

    • I think if a designer wanted to go after somebody for selling an item from a pattern, they would have a tough go of it. While the designer did put their time into writing the pattern, assuming it’s a paid pattern, they are compensated for it. They are not supplying the material to make the item or putting their time into making it or selling it, so I don’t see how they can stipulate what is to be done with the finished item. It would similar to an architect refusing to let a builder sell a house built from blueprints they designed in spite of the builder purchasing the blueprints, material and investing in the labour. In the end, these designers often end up shooting themselves in the foot by putting those conditions on. Any hardcore knitter or crocheter I have talked to will go out of their way to find a similar design or come up with something themselves rather than purchase a pattern where they’re not “allowed” to sell the finished item.

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