One of the first fears that I hear from new designers is, “I’m afraid of my pattern getting stolen.” While I have seen it happen to a few designers, the vast majority remain safe. There are several ways to protect your designs — and most of them are very simple.
For starters, I want to throw out there that if you sell your rights to a third party, it becomes their job to protect it. From there, let the magazine’s legal department deal with all of that malarkey and expect that they will protect their investment. For that reason, I won’t be covering those types of copyrights in this article. Read this for more on How Copyright Works.
Thanks to the internet, when you publish a pattern, whether in an Etsy shop or on a blog, there is a set date that it appeared. That date — that beautiful moment your first design photo was posted — is your instant copyright (see also Poor Man’s Copyright).
No one can come along and say they came up with the idea first. You can PROVE you published it and exactly when (usually even down to the minute!).
Your blog makes an excellent log of these dates as well. The date and time of an original post are kept in the system indefinitely. You can also keep a page in your Designer Planner with the dates you published a pattern.
Search For Yourself
So, how do you find out if someone has copied your work?
Do a Google Search for your patterns. Use the title or use the 1st line of the text. Make sure that anywhere you find it, the site is linking back to you directly.
Make sure no one has posted your content in its entirety on their page, even if they give you credit.
Some people do not understand that even though a pattern is posted for free on a blog doesn’t mean they can cut/copy/paste it onto their own blog for people to see.
Protect Your Images
A quick watermark or logo added on Canva.com or Picmonkey.com can help prevent people from using your images. Yes, they can be removed, but watermarks are a deterrent to thieves. Most people who are lazy enough to steal pictures are also too lazy to edit them.
Regularly search on Pinterest for your own patterns. Sometimes, people take a particularly awesome pin (with one of your pictures) and link it to their website instead of yours. That is a HUGE no-no, and you can report that person to Pinterest to have the pin taken down.
Pinterest is really good about taking down pins as soon as you send them the web address of your image. They look it up, make sure it’s yours, and then remove the thief’s pin.
However, if you find your stuff in a place it doesn’t belong, don’t go off the handle! Before you throw things at your computer screen, please consider the following:
Okay, so remember that kid in 3rd Grade who copied his book report from the back of a biography of Millard Fillmore, thinking they were incredibly smart for not working as hard as everyone else? They quickly learned what “plagiarism” is and why it is bad. But they had to learn, right? Some of these rules are not ingrained in us.
Please consider that the person who “stole” your photo and is using it for their Etsy listing might not know that is wrong. They might assume (and we all know what THAT does!) that as long as they make the item in the pattern, it doesn’t matter that the image is from the designer, not their own work.
Be a little gentle with people, at least to start out.
Send them an Etsy message requesting they take down the image and why.
Speak Softly…At First
Don’t start screaming “COPYRIGHT VIOLATION!” in a person’s face from day one. Because you know what?
People are 50% more likely to defend themselves if you attack them, even if they KNOW they are wrong. It’s human nature.
So, to start out with, pretend they are doing it out of 3rd Grade ignorance, not with malicious intent. It will keep your blood pressure down, and you will have a better chance of solving the problem quickly and quietly.
If they don’t take it down or they respond with rudeness, then by all means, report them.
Be less nice.
Use an angry emoticon even.
And get familiar with Etsy’s Intellectual Property Policy or How To Report A Pin on Pinterest. These legal departments are here to protect you and deal with events of infringement if asking nicely doesn’t work.
Kati is the designer behind Hooked by Kati. With thousands of patterns sold around the world, Kati prides herself in creating innovative, easy-to-follow amigurumi patterns. She has designed for several publications, including Crochet!, Crochet World, Simply Crochet, and I Like Crochet. Kati finds her inspiration in science fiction, video games, and numerous visits to the zoo — all passions she shares with her husband and two boys.