Updated April 7, 2023.
Do you ever find yourself wondering if a design you love is under copyright? Is it OK to make a copy of that pattern for a friend? Is that canvas you saw on eBay that looks suspiciously like one you saw on a designer’s site is legal?
All these questions have to do with copyright. Copyright law was developed in the Seventeenth Century to allow writers to control and profit from the publication of their work.
Today copyright covers many other kinds of creative work, from performed music and movies, to photographs and digital publications.
It can be difficult to know what is and is not allowed under copyright law (this covers the US and many countries that are in the International Copyright Agreement). Happily, there is a great chart that summarizes nicely what is and is not allowed.
While this covers copyright, it does not cover licensing, another matter where artists, groups, or companies specifically allow another company to reproduce designs they own by paying a fee.
The best-known example of this is the logos of sports teams (including college teams). These are licensed by the Sports League or by the NCAA. To be allowed to use them in products you sell, you must have a license and pay a fee. That’s why when you see ads or sites with sports jerseys you will often see a little logo saying they are licensed.
It’s often wise to be sure that needlepoint patterns and canvases with well-known logos have gotten the correct license.