Free Knitting Patterns: To Blog or Not to Blog

I had a somewhat lengthy reply to a question from Ginger, regarding posting a link to a free blog. I did answer her question via email as well as beneath her comment on my blog, but I thought free knitting patterns related to copyrights might make an interesting topic.

Copyright itself can be difficult to understand. I was told at one time that you might think of it as a bundle of sticks, each stick would represent a “right”. There are any number of rights involved. First North American Serial Rights are typically the first publication of something in a North American magazine.

Over the years, publishers have expanded what they want beyond First North American Serial Rights to include the right to put something in an Anthology, the right to store it digitally, the right to distribute it digitally or in a collection, and on and on. I might add that compensation for the use of a design has not increased to cover the additional rights the publishers want.

It isn’t that I think the publishers of knitting magazines are being unfair per se, as I don’t know what expenses they have…I only know what mine are. I also know that they have to remain competitive in the publishing world or they go out of business.

The market has changed over the years. With the advent of the internet and what consumers expect, that bundle of sticks has grown. Both in the number of sticks in that bundle, and the number of sticks that publishers want when they pay a designer for the right to publish their work.

Publishers don’t want to be left in the dark in the advent of new and as yet undiscovered technologies, which can ultimately leave them behind in consumer expectations.

For example, there are now magazines that offer free downloads of some patterns. This would not be possible if the publishers had not secured digital rights to these patterns, or the right to distribute these patterns. They had to think ahead in terms of technology to have in place the means to satisfy the demands of the consumer, who can now cruise the internet and have immediate digital access to many many things. And it had to be in a way that was not too specific so that new technologies were not excluded!

There are designers who are not keen to see their patterns that were published in a magazine then offered as a free download. They don’t typically get compensated for that, although it depends on the legal wording on the contract. Contracts are often vaguely worded as it gives more wiggle room in the advent of – you guessed it – new technologies. It isn’t that publishers set out to stiff anyone. They too have a budget and they also need to meet the expectations of their consumers.

That said, how does this apply to the average knitter/blogger who likes to share free patterns? Some argue that since the pattern is free it is meant to be shared freely. While there is some truth to that, unless the pattern states clearly on it that anyone may distribute the pattern freely (as long as the pattern remains in its original state with the name of the designer clearly on the pattern) that may be one of those sticks in that copyright bundle that the designer has not given up. The right to distribute the work ultimately belongs to the creator of that work, and then it may or may not be sold or given away.

There are people out there who do patterns just because they love to do patterns and share them. When you are looking at the work of a professional designer, that free pattern represents many things. To the consumer it is a free pattern and the consumer is happy because they don’t have to pay for it. To the designer, it is something they put work into for a purpose. The purpose may be to draw traffic to their site, and to give their target consumer a chance to see what their product is like. It is a marketing tool.

In the end there is nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with not giving permission to distribute the pattern freely. It the designer put work into a design expressly to draw traffic to their site and to give a taste of what their product is like, it is their right to distribute it as they see fit.

Unfortunately, statistically, those in search of free patterns are not necessarily the ones who click through and buy…especially the ones who get the free patterns from websites that have collections of free patterns. The only way the designer benefits off of their work is if someone purchases a pattern or the design if it is work going to a publisher. Warm fuzzy feelings don’t pay the bills, and there are costs associated with designing.

So, lets say there is a free pattern you love and you would like to be able to put it on your site. One thing you can always do without permission is post a link to the pattern directly on the site from the designer. You can make the link open in a new window so that folks still have a foot in your door, so to speak.

Look at the pattern. What kind of information is there on the pattern besides the name of the designer? If there isn’t anything, you need to write and ask permission to post it on your blog. I would state upfront that the pattern will remain unaltered and with the name and copyright information of the designer on the pattern. Offer to link back to the web site or blog of the designer as well.

When you receive permission to post it on your blog, state clearly at the beginning (the end would not hurt either) the name and copyright of the design, as well as the name of the designer and that permission was given (along with the date) to post the pattern on your blog.

Many people are delighted to have free patterns they have done appear on other blogs, but others want those free patterns to stay on their website, where they can see what kind of statistics they get and where they can use it as a direct marketing tool.

As long as you have permission, you are good to go with a free pattern. You can link to your heart’s content without permission, as you are not distributing with a link.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace, PR Chair The Association of Knitwear Designers, Inc.


3 Responses to “Free Knitting Patterns: To Blog or Not to Blog”

  1. ladyoftheloom Says:

    Thank you for posting about copyrights and linking. I have been wondering about all of this as I read blogs and write my own blog. You explain it so clearly. THanks again!

  2. jolenetreace Says:

    You are certainly welcome! JoLene

  3. connie Says:

    Thanks, JoLene, for clarifying this sometimes confusing issue. I must confess that I didn’t think too much about what stipulations a free pattern might have before I started designing. I just assumed (erroneously) that free meant it can be distributed by anyone (giving credit to the designer of course, it’s a big no-no to claim credit for yourself). I’m glad you brought it up because I bet many people are not clear on this.

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