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I have recently been wondering about the copyright of patterns and decided to look into it further and share with you what information I found. I by no means think I’m an expert on this subject; actually I’m very far from it and encourage you to comment and share your own knowledge on the subject.

Copyright protects a designer’s work from the moment it is created until 70 years after the last surviving designer’s death, 70 years!!! Designers are making a living from their work so by purchasing their patterns you are supporting them and the fact that they are selling their work indicates they expect people to use the patterns and make items from them. This means they are giving you permission to use it but for personal and domestic use only, they are not to be used for your own personal gain, i.e. making a profit.

When can you use a commercial pattern to make a profit? One way is when sewing custom garments for customers but you must buy one pattern per person; you can not use the same pattern for multiple customers. The pattern can be reused for the same customer though if they require more than one garment from the same pattern. Another way is to license the patterns for which you will pay a fee. To do this you must contact the publisher for permission or the creator and they will inform you as to whether they allow this and what the requirements are. The same goes for out of print patterns, get in touch with the publisher and ask permission, I know I have a few I would like to share with you all so I will be getting in touch with the appropriate people and will go from there.

Information, styles, techniques and methods are not covered by copyright. So by using a particular sewing technique created by someone else or creating something in the same style as someone else has etc you will not be infringing copyright.

Now as you know BurdaStyle is an open source website. What does this mean? Well, Burda is the first established pattern publisher to release its designs without copyrights; this allows members of the public to market their BurdaStyle creations in limited editions. Remember, limited editions!! The patterns are not to be used for mass production nor are the patterns themselves to be reproduced and sold.

Since I’m no expert pattern maker I find this to be a fantastic concept as it allows me to sew garments to sell without having to go through the whole pattern making part of the process. I have been working on a limited edition of denim Sidonie skirts to sell in a local store and in my online store if I ever get it up and running (so many things to do, so little time in which to do them!). It’s a great way for me to use my skills and make some extra money at the same time.

Are you using BurdaStyle patterns to make a profit? Tell us about what you are making and how you are using the patterns in the new thread I have created. And as I said at the beginning of this post, please contribute your thoughts and knowledge on the copyright subject here in the forum. It’s a topic we should all know about, especially if we intend to make money from what we create. I have discovered a lot of people don’t know much at all about copyright and I’d like to prevent them from getting into any trouble by sharing what we know.

Copyright symbol in image found here

23 Comments

  • Missing

    Aug 18, 2014, 01.26 AMby Calandra Cooper

    Wrong on many points. Smh. Research a good source people.

  • Missing

    Oct 25, 2013, 04.13 AMby Lena Taylor

    I know this is an old thread, but if I found it… Also, I don’t see any responses that include fact rather than the common misconceptions. PLEASE check out this site on pattern copyright laws: http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtml AMAZING reference!! Just because the company says it’s copyrighted, does not actually make it so. None of the patterns are even registered with the US Patent office!

  • Missing

    Aug 29, 2011, 07.17 PMby Kalicokitten

    When a pattern is used by a public institution to make a costume that will be used on a public stage where admission will be charged to view, will this constitute copyright infringement? What if the costume is sold later for a profit?

  • Missing

    Oct 31, 2010, 07.24 PMby stellass

    Great post, I learned something new today lol!

  • Missing

    Oct 31, 2010, 07.24 PMby stellass

    Great post, I learned something new today lol!

  • Missing

    Mar 21, 2010, 12.49 PMby missmkperez

    Check out this academic article from 1997: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/st_org/iptf/articles/content/1997121201.html

    Also the protection for fashion design IP submitted to the US Congress in 2006: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat072706.html

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    Feb 11, 2010, 09.21 AMby gatonju

    One last comment then I will stop replying. Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Dress—these are all very distinct form of intellectual property with their own set of rules, histories, protections, etc… They are all licensable as intellectual property. The holder of these rights are usually charged with policing their rights from infringement.

    ONCE AGAIN THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE!!!

  • Sewing_projects_045_large

    Feb 11, 2010, 09.16 AMby gatonju

    Also open source software is treated differently than printed works that are open for download in the public domain. I won’t bore you with specifically why that is. So its a stretch to try and compare copyrighted material that has been put into the public domain versus open source software which is treated differently by nature of the fact that it is software.

  • Sewing_projects_045_large

    Feb 11, 2010, 09.12 AMby gatonju

    Before I reply, I must state that this is not legal advice. It is not intended as legal advice nor should it be considered such.

    A copyright, by definition, is “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Copryight protection extends to the recorded expression regardless of the medium in which it is fixed. The issue with patterns is that they themselves are a recorded expression of another’s design. The underlying ideas, techniques, principles, themes or facts that make the design “a design” are not protected. It is the recordation of that original work of authorship that is protected. It’s a fine distinction.

    To appropriate the recorded authorship of another, as your own, without a license (express or implied permission) to do so, amounts to an infringement on that person’s recorded work. For example, you cannot take someone’s essay and write your name on the top to pass it off as your own, but you may use the same arguments they do or underlying facts and ideas to support your own later recorded authorship, i.e. essay. The ideas themselves aren’t protected, but the recordation is. This is why giving credit to the original author is so important. To continue the analogy, nobody wants to be accused of plagiarism.

    Each country, state, etc… has it owns laws governing copyright laws.There are international treaties and agreements between countries generally touching upon this issue. There is no real answer to the copyright infringement question with regards to patterns. Except to say that is better to err on the side of caution and credit the place from which your own ideas emerge or arise, whether or not you are using the original work as it was intended or originally recorded.

    I hope this makes things a bit more clear.
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    Feb 5, 2010, 09.30 AMby teasecloset

    I just recently discovered that patterns bought from the store can not be returned due to copyright issues… Weird!!! Great post and I enjoyed the education from the comments as well (until my eyes started to cross).

  • Missing

    Jul 31, 2009, 05.00 PMby africalive

    How will Burda manage pattern copyrights when they merge Burdastyle and Burda Fashion?

    Open source patterns sounds all well and good, until you upload your own patterns, and Burda pays you nothing, but gets money from advertisements off your intellectual property.

    Don’t be fooled by the promise of ‘free’.

    There is a discussion on the illegality of selling clothes made from burda patterns at burdafashion.com

    http://www.burdafashion.com/en/Community/Forum/Thema_Selling_Clothes/1000002-1016197-1016198-1016199.html?forum=25&thread=7158

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    Jan 29, 2009, 10.14 PMby arsonista

    I like that the dress pattern is called “Teenage Frock.” Hee!

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    Mar 21, 2008, 10.25 AMby opalmn

    I never meant for my posts to be negative or heated, I love this site and only use it to make stuff for my self or as gifts. But as I also love open source software I was only bringing in how I see that and how I see them as similar. I hope that discussion continues.

  • Missing

    Mar 18, 2008, 07.49 PMby oddmund

    The terms of use say: ‘Some content, such as open source sewing patterns, may be made available for use without restrictions. Any such content will be identified on the Site as a “open source pattern”. You acknowledge and agree that, except for items specifically designated as “open source patterns”] all of the restrictions set forth in Paragraph 3 will apply to all of the content on the Site.’

    I haven’t seen any mention of ‘open source’ on any actual creation/pattern pages or descriptions, downloadable patterns or instructions.

    So, either, (1) legally none of this site’s content is actually public domain, ‘free as in speech’ nor to be used by anyone without restriction, or (2) I’m missing something obvious.

    Also, obviously, it seems like the purpose is of this site is to actually let people do what they want with the patterns.

    My first thought would be that the makers of this site didn’t know the difference between ‘free’, ‘open source’, ‘public domain’, etc, but that also seems strange as it’s (perhaps indirectly) run by a big company.

    I’m puzzled. Can some please explain what is going on?

  • Mlonghs_large

    Mar 16, 2008, 08.08 AMby mlssfshn

    I’m a member of BabesinBiz an Austin, Tx Yahoo! Group for indie designers and crafters, this subject has come up so many times. It’s a fine line we walk but so many are misinformed. At one pint I actually e-mailed Simplicity patterns to get their take on it and here’s a little of what they had to say “If you are sewing as a seamstress, the legal interpretation is that the customer requesting the garment owns the pattern and you are only selling your work or skills as a seamstress. If you are sewing clothes in mass production, for the retail or wholesale market, no matter how small the volume, you are selling the design-which in this case belongs to Simplicity. You would therefore be in violation of the copyright laws.”

    They also sent me a link to a law website Pattern Copyright

    Another incident I encountered was when Amy Butler moved her fabrics from Free Spirit to Westminster. They were printing on the fabric not for commercial use but still allowing small designers to use their prints in their designs. They learned the hard way you can’t have your cake and eat it too, they were sued by one of the big manufactures and had to e-mail out a notice that they were removing the disclaimer and that even though they never intended the fabrics to be used for mass production they could not give right to one without giving right to the other. So Burda Style please understand, you can’t limit what is made from your patterns.

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    Mar 5, 2008, 06.24 PMby olar

    This is very interesting. I agree with Nikki that Burda must know what they are doing. My understanding is that they are the biggest seller of patterns in Europe but they didn’t have much market in North America, so probably this is also helping them to expand in here. I personally appreciate a lot the idea to allow people to sell clothes made with the patterns. Copyright is surely changing, especially in design. Look to all this knock-offs, and stuff “inspired by” it is very difficult I think to say this is “my design” because these are things have no patent of course. Many people picks similar ideas at the same time, this is fashion. So it is difficult to control too.

  • Emilykate_large

    Mar 3, 2008, 06.23 PMby emilykate

    This is a really interesting topic, I don’t know about others, but I didn’t read anyone’s posts as heated (in a negative way anyway?) just interested. Anyway, don’t perceive any heat coming from me :o) I notice while noone has yet responded to nikkishell’s forum topic “Selling garments from BurdaStyle patterns”, this blog post has garnered more replies than most blog entries do. Reading over the comments, I begin to wonder if it’s possible people are holding back on making-to-sell at this stage because they may be unclear on just what is okay, maybe waiting to see how others go first? Noone ever wants to step on toes or be seen to be taking advantage of largesse, and this is a very very generous thing for Burda as a company to offer, this is a wonderful resource they have shared. A lot of member’s first language is not English either so that may be a factor in understanding just what the scope is.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 05.39 PMby nikkishell

    Hi everyone, Thanks for commenting and adding your knowledge on this (it seems) sensitive subject. I would like to remind everyone that i wrote this post to help inform those that are not so clued up on the subject especially those commercial patterns that are not open source and i would prefer for it not to become so heated. As for BurdaStyle patterns being public domain and totally free of copyright like Karen suggests this is something i’m not so clued up on myself and would need to discuss with the BurdaStyle girls in more depth. But I am sure that Burda know’s exactly what they are doing and obtained the necessary legal advice.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 01.38 PMby sewlikecarolyn

    I have to say that although this discussion is quite informative and at times seems to be a little “heated” due to the difference in feelings, Burda and Burdastyle is a large company and I believe they are quite aware of the repercussions of sharing patterns. As for the other people involved with this website (other members), sharing their patterns comments and etc, I believe if you share a pattern, a how to, or a technique that is “unique and original” to you, sharing this knowledge with a public domain like Burdastyle gives up this so-called copyright. If you had no intention of people using your design, then don’t create a how-to or upload a pattern, it’s a choice that the designer can consciously make. I agree with Sabine, you can only really claim copyright to the pattern, not the piece of clothing made from it. Burdastyle is doing a great job supplying us seamstress’s with the basic patterns like Lydia and Sidonie to make our own designs, and I think their intention is for people to create unique wardrobes, maybe make a little money doing it and feed this sewing community with inspiration and positive feedback. Nikkishell’s research and attention that she has given to this topic is an interesting one that deserves more research, one that I am sure Burda and Burdastyle has paid attention to when creating this marvelous open source sewing website.

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    Mar 3, 2008, 04.50 AMby elegantmusings

    Great post, Nikkishell… and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments! I’ve been interested in the complexities of copyright for years (mostly because as a graphic designer, I have to have some awareness of the copyright issues). I’ve had people tell me that yes, vintage patterns are in public domain. Which upon further investigation isn’t true!

    I’m so glad Burda Style is offering these patterns as open source—its a great switch from the overly “tight-fisted” industry. :)

  • Emilykate_large

    Mar 3, 2008, 12.20 AMby emilykate

    I don’t think they are actually ‘public domain’, I didn’t see those words in the Terms of Use. Maybe in open source copyright just remains with Burda and in that way if someone did something horrible like the example you have given Karen in wichita, that would still give the company a way to put a stop to it, without meaning that the rest of the members were banned outright from using the patterns to sell a few of their own creations? Like they could still intervene on someone taking complete advantage of the goodwill and blatantly ripping things off at huge quantity, and just choose to let people who take it in the spirit in which it is intended go about selling in small quantities? I don’t think I would be selling anything I create with the patterns from this site, if I sew something, no amount of money can get me to part with it after all the blood sweat and tears! I am quite stoked to be able to upload and share MY patterns that I draft with all the members though! And I guess once someone downloads it they can pretty much do with it what they want, I would never probably know anyhow! In some countries, there is no such thing as copyright and it is not actually enforceable.

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    Mar 2, 2008, 11.59 AMby dairyheir66

    I hope all this leagl stuff doesn’t stop Burdastyle from allowing us “small” individual sewers from downloading your patterns. this is a fabulous way for me to try new things that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried if I would have had to buy the pattern. Being able to see other peoples creations is also inspiring and peaks my creativity. It is a shame that someone has to ruin things by trying to get rich off someone elses work. That just ruins it for the people who are following the rules. I hope you can keep the site going without copyright problems arising. Thank you.

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    Mar 2, 2008, 06.59 AMby nehmah

    In the mid-1980’s I was asked by a fashion design student to make several garments from one of Vogue’s top designers. She wanted me to make the usual “minor” changes and then add a label with her name. I started to explain about copyright and trademark infringement laws. She stopped me quite abruptly and said “Everybody does it. I changed the zipper from side to back, and moved the buttons from A to B; these are different patterns. Don’t be stupid.” She knew it was not legal but in “my country we do this all the time and no one complains.” I strongly suggested she go away; as much for the stupid bit as for being asked to cheat. I wish I could say it was solely for being a believer in fair play. Nehmah

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