Copyright & Cross Stitch

We’ve detailed how to set up an Etsy store, and how to make patterns, and you’re all ready to go with the money making adventure of a lifetime!
But wait. Where’s legal? You don’t have one? Bah! It’ll be fine!

I’ve been there. I know that the idea of legal aid is just plain scary. But you know whats worse? When you get a letter from Nintendo saying you’ve broken copyright law and you need to take down your pattern.
As it happens the Pokemon company were pretty cool about it. Not only did they understand that I just took an image off Google without realizing I was doing wrong (apparently a VERY large problem now-a-days), but they also sent over some details on how to avoid it in future.
Turns out that this little foray into the world of scary law firms is a regular occurrence for the Etsy community, and even more so for cross stitch pattern makers. But it still didn’t scare me into shutting my shop for 3 years…

But fear not! Copyright law is actually pretty simple. There’s even an acronym. FCCP. I didn’t say it was a good acronym.
In fact, I’m going to do this out of order…

Shared under Creative Commons License!
Shared under Creative Commons License!

Copyright

Whilst copyright has 4 distinct flavors, one of those in plain old vanilla copyright. When someone creates something they have copyright on that thing. However, not that many people say they own it. Instead, its implied. If its implied, then look to the other three options here.
But if you see that little copyright symbol, then stay away. The person who created it has full rights, and unless you ask (and they agree) to use it, you’re in breach of the law.

Public Domain

Public domain rarely applies in the world of the internet. The reason? You have to go through a rather teedious process to make it public domain. Like dying.
I’m serious. There are two ways something can be public domain:

  • The creater is dead AND no one owns the copyright
  • The creater willingly gave up permissions

You’re never really going to know if something is public domain or not unless it is very old (and even then its not guaranteed; the Happy Birthday song had a copyright until last year), and you have to bear in mind that someone might be using it under fair use or creative common licenses.

Fair Use

Fair use is the first part of copyright law that you can actually use to your advantage (So long as your in the USA, sorry the rest of the world). I’ll use an example:
My favorite artist came out with a new painting, and I use the image to create a cross stitch pattern and make a cross stitch – fine.
Then I try to sell the pattern – That’s not fair use.
You see, fair use allows you to use copyrighted material for education, research, or personal use (there is an exception here about benefiting public good, but unless your Edward Snowden you’re not going to be using that).

Creative Commons

This is where it gets really juicy. If you find an image, which is copyrighted, then you can ask to use it. Some people will say no; so be prepared for that. However others will say you can. There are often restrictions on this type of thing, so just be aware of those, but this is your only source of images (unless they are totally original).

The Exceptions

Yes, there is ALWAYS an exception. In this case its purchasing rights. Some websites out there use a creative commons license with their images. You can use them personally, or commercial websites/literature. However other offer royalty free images with no caps. This means that if you wanted to you could sell the image onto someone else straight away, no edits required. However it also allows you to make cross stitch patterns for sale.

So now you can set up your store in the safe knowledge you’re covered by copyright. Phew!

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