“Why Copyright Infringe Must You Not?” asks Baby Yoda: US & UK Copyright Laws.

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Baby Yoda is EVERYWHERE. I bet when Allison Hoffman released her Baby Yoda crochet pattern she didn’t expect it to go viral OR to have Disney presenting her with a Cease & Desist notice for Copyright Law violation. To make sure something like this doesn’t catch you out, here’s some of the important facts you should be aware of when selling finished items or patterns online.

*this article should be taken as guidance only and I am not legally qualified or acting on behalf of any company or legal entity. Please seek independent advice where necessary.

Please be aware this information may change following Brexit.

I will be referring to the Copyright, Design and Patents Act (1988) which can be found in full here.

This is a summary article only for UK and US Copyright Laws.

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What is Copyright?

Copyright is an automatic right and arises whenever an individual or company creates a work. To qualify, a work should be regarded as original, and exhibit a degree of labour, skill or judgement.

Copyright Law

Types of work protected include anything

  • Literary‘.  This would include your crochet pattern itself, commercial documents, leaflets, newsletters, blogs & articles etc.
  • Artistic‘. Photography, painting, sculptures, architecture, technical drawings/diagrams, maps, logos. This would cover your pattern charts, photos, illustrations, company logo etc.
  • Typographical‘. Arrangement of published editions magazines, periodicals, etc. So if you’re one of the lucky few to get published… you’re covered too!
  • Sound recording, film, video footage and broadcasts are also protected- which can include the audio in your video tutorials (you’re speaking part too)

‘Fair dealing’ is a term used to describe acts which are permitted to a certain degree without infringing the work, these acts are:

  • Private and research study purposes.
  • Performance, copies or lending for educational purposes.
  • Criticism and news reporting.
  • Incidental inclusion.
  • Copies and lending by librarians.
  • Caricature, parody or pastiche.
  • Acts for the purposes of royal commissions, statutory enquiries, judicial proceedings and parliamentary purposes.
  • Recording of broadcasts for the purposes of listening to or viewing at a more convenient time, this is known as time shifting.
  • Producing a back up copy for personal use of a computer program.

In the UK, Copyright law protects the unauthorised reproduction of literary and artistic works, but how copyright protects specific elements of these works, such as the characters, is less clear. In the United States characters are generally considered independently copyrightable so long as the character is ‘sufficiently delineated’.

Despite the fact that UK copyright law may not protect characters separately from the work in which they appear, those characters may enjoy protection through other forms of intellectual property law, such as trade mark law or passing off. This is particularly true when the character in question is represented by drawings or on film, as is the case with the Baby Yoda Crochet Pattern.

Copyright will apply whether there is a copyright notice or not.

The act of copying or adapting someone else’s work is a restricted act. Any adaptation will be legally regarded as a derived work; so if you simply adapt the work of others, it will still be their work, and they have every right to object you if publish such a work when they have not given you permission to do so. They are also entitled to reclaim any money you make from selling their work.

The only safe option is to create something that is not copied or adapted from the work of others, or seek the permission of the rights owner (you should expect to pay a fee and/or royalties for this).

There is nothing to stop you being inspired by the work of others, but when it comes to your own work, start with a blank sheet and do not try to copy what others have done.

Interpretation is related to the independent creation rather than the idea behind the creation. For example, your idea for a crochet pattern would not itself be protected, but the actual content of of the pattern you write would be. In other words, someone else is still entitled to write their own pattern around the same idea, provided they do not directly copy or adapt yours to do so. Names, titles, short phrases and colours are not generally considered unique or substantial enough to be covered, but a creation, such as a pattern, that combines these elements may be.

Even if you are not making money from item or pattern sales, any copying or publication without the consent of the copyright owner is an infringement, and you could face legal action.

Lets be honest, copying someone else’s work is just bad manners, regardless of whether its Copyrighted or not. Take inspiration, always, but nothing more.


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