I made another Amy Butler Fringed Hobo Bag, after doing all but swearing I wouldn’t touch the pattern again with my current sewing machine. Round number two wasn’t nearly as bad as the first. Perhaps it was a better experience because it was for Maryann, one of my dearest friends, and not for myself. There’s just something about making a gift for another that allows a process to become so much more enjoyable, you know?
It was a fun little birthday collaboration, prompted by her husband who thought that ringing in her 29th year with a bag from her pal would be nice. I had fun picking out swatches and emailing them to Frank, getting his input and trying to make it just the right gift. I think the most gratifying part of it all, though, was the fact that even after four whole years of living with an ocean between the two of us, I still felt like I knew just what Maryann would like.
While I’m sharing pictures of this bag made for non-personal use and based on someone else’s pattern, I also want to share a bit on intellectual property and pattern rights and usage. Let me first just say that even though I used an Amy Butler pattern to create a bag for someone other than me, I made it as a personal gift for a friend and did not make a profit from it. Because Maryann’s husband asked me to create said bag, he wanted to pay me, but I couldn’t allow him to pay for anything but fabric and shipping. Anything more and it would have been a misuse of the pattern regulations as I understand them. Perhaps that I even accepted reimbursement for materials and shipping is out of line. If you can enlighten me, let me know.
I live in fear of doing something wrong. I’m a rule follower, always have been. I walk on the sidewalks and never on lawns. I refuse to ride a bike without a helmet or walk the dog without an abundance of waste bags. Buckling up is the first thing I do when I get in the car. Ultimately, I’m a very boring person. Ask my husband. I think he was kind of blown away last weekend when we spent a weekend in the woods and I briefly rode an ATV without a helmet while holding a hard cider in one hand and a chihuahua in the other. For a moment I think he saw the glimmer of me being a bit adventurous. It was the most scandalous thing I’ve ever done.
The above described fear of and adherence to rules comes from the same part of my brain that makes me think a lot about proper usage of other people’s patterns, tutorials and designs. Intellectual property rights have been a pretty consistent issue online lately as well, with some subjects getting more attention than others. (ETA: a few more instances here, here and here) While I’m certain most people aren’t malicious in their misuse, there seems to be continued questions surrounding intellectual property in all creative fields. I know it gets complicated and so some misunderstanding is inevitable. With so many people offering wonderful resources that each have different regulations associated with them, it can be trying to figure out proper use for all of the different patterns and tutorials one comes across, but taking the time to figure it out is something I highly recommend. And it does take time. I’m still trying to figure it all out.
Some people think that once you buy a pattern, you have the free reign to use it however you’d like. However, this is rarely the case (ETA: Lots of great voices have pitched in to help with this question. All patterns are different and it’s up to the purchaser to figure out what the rights are that accompany the pattern. Amy Butler has very restrictive rights and usage that accompany her patterns, but other designers are more lenient. When buying patterns, the rights and usage should be one of those things you check on first if you have plans to make something for profit.). When someone stops me and compliments me on my purse, which uses the same pattern as above, most often she follows with, “You should sell those!” I’m always quick to thank her for the compliment, and then let her know the bag is based on an Amy Butler pattern and so I can not profit from it. It makes for awkward conversations with strangers in passing, I suppose. However, I kind of feel like it’s my duty to make people aware of the fact the purse pattern is not mine to do with freely.
A lot of people still don’t understand the value in respecting intellectual property rights when my reasoning for not selling similar bags is explained. Sometimes in response to my comment of, “I can’t actually sell these bags because the pattern is not mine,” I’ll receive responses like, “Who’d know?” or, “Well, what if you just asked for a suggested “donation” instead?” And then the conversation kind of ends there because I’m not going to entangle a complete stranger with ultimately kind intentions in an impromptu discussion on how to properly respect other’s intellectual property. But I can engage you.
How do you make sure you are in line with pattern regulations? What is the line between being inspired by someone and stealing from their wonderful ideas? Do all the possible ways to infringe on someone’s intellectual property, even if you’ve never once seen their work, make you sweat like it makes me? I’m just curious to know your thoughts. I tend to let my fear of doing something wrong stop me from doing anything at all.