Trademark versus Copyright
First, you have to determine if your piece is trademarked as well as copyrighted. A book of cross stitch patterns of cats is copyrighted, but a book of cross stitch patterns of Garfield is copyrighted AND trademarked. A copyright generally applies to a piece of art (a book, song, or textile art pattern), whereas a trademark generally applies to a commercial brand or line of merchandise (a line of T-shirts featuring Mickey Mouse). Based on what I have seen regarding derivative works (art inspired by trademarked or copyrighted materials, including finished cross stitch pieces), if you sell something that features a trademarked character, you could be opening yourself to legal action. I have heard of people being contacted by lawyers for selling girls' dresses made of Disney-printed fabric, for example. I am a little fuzzier on these details because I choose not to stitch trademarked characters out of personal preferences, and I have heard conflicting statements concerning the legality of this topic. If you are considering selling finished items featuring trademarked characters, you may want to speak with an intellectual property lawyer first.
So, assuming you are stitching something non-trademarked, what limitations must you observe?
- No copying the pattern for re-distribution. This is probably obvious but bears mention. You are allowed to make one working copy to enlarge a detailed pattern or to mark up the pattern, but you cannot distribute the pattern to anyone else.
- If you stitch the piece and sell it, you must buy a new pattern for each piece you sell. Technically, copyright would prevent a crafter from selling a finished piece made from a copyrighted pattern, but practically, nobody is going to hunt you down for only listing one copy (ever) for sale. An exception to this is Dimensions (part of EKSuccess Brands), which grants crafters permission to produce limited (~50 pieces) copies of their projects for distribution over a limited geographic area, provided the crafters request permission through EKSuccess's Angel Policy prior to sale. I do stitch a lot of Dimensions products, but I have never stitched more than one copy from a single pattern, so I can't really say anything else about their Angel Policy. Another exception is Teresa Wentzler's list of free patterns, which she explicitly states can be stitched more than once, although the charts (and, I presume, multiple copies of the finished pieces) cannot be sold.
- You are also not allowed to take a copyrighted pattern, modify it, and pass it on as your own original work. The new pattern would then be considered a derivative work, but you are not granted permission to create this type of derivative work from a copyrighted cross stitch pattern (conversely, you ARE permitted to use the original pattern to create an identical finished piece).
Does anyone else have any experience with crafting and copyright?