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If you have a particular talent with arts and crafts , you may want to turn it into a business, either as a part-time enterprise or as a full-time endeavour.

Nolo Press book "The Craft Artist's Legal Guide"

Although every sector is unique in its own way, the basic principles of business best practice and legislation should be considered. If you are starting up, you will need to look into whether or not you are infringing someone else's intellectual property IP. You will also need to make steps to protect and monetise your own IP assets - see protecting your intellectual property. You will also need to make sure your taxes and more general requirements such as marketing, finance and business planning are in order. Some arts and crafts business can easily be run from home, selling goods by direct marketing or over the internet.

If this is viable for your business, read up on marketing and find out how to set up a small business website. That transaction is a legal contract. Generally speaking, the parties to a contract are free to impose conditions as part of their deal. Contracts often have unwritten conditions built in to them.


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For example, a condition of pretty much every sale is that payment must be made using a valid method no counterfeit money or stolen credit cards. Some contracts also contain lengthy provisions in written-out form. Remember the last time you bought a car? Loads of contractual provisions were spelled out in paragraph after paragraph of the sales contract. There are a couple of problems with this argument, however. Foremost is one of clarity and fairness. Most of the time in the crafting world, the purchaser is not told of the precondition before they actually buys the pattern.

Other legal arguments may come into play, further eroding the potential validity of this kind of restrictive language. One way to try to address this objection is for a designer to change the way they sell their patterns.

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Courts also may be reluctant to validate these provisions given public policy concerns: the long-standing hesitance to place burdens on the sale of goods and free commerce, hostility toward contracts of adhesion i. So, as we find all too often in the law, the answer is unclear. Sometimes the law is a cruel master, indeed. Important note: This article does not constitute legal advice and is offered for informational purposes only. If you have any questions about your individual situation, please obtain advice from a competent intellectual property attorney who is licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Carol J. Sulcoski is an attorney by day and a knitting author, designer and dyer by night. She lives outside Philadelphia with her three nearly grown-up children and a fluffy orange cat.

Small businesses like yours can save money by taking tax deductions. Figuring out what to deduct can be confusing, though! Click the button below to download it now for free. This was a very informative article which has clarified a whole lot for me as a crafter. For readers in the UK, this link will be of interest. The Intellectual Property Office has produced a simple and clear document that provides guidance on this issue for those operating under UK law:.

The First Steps to Starting an Art Business | Artwork Archive

This means that you may give as a gift, or yourself use, an item that you have made from a pattern, but if you sell an item you may be in breach of contract law. An important point that is too often ignored! Copyright varies tremendously from country to country.

Canada has laws similar to the UK, and pattern designers can limit the use of finished articles. I have had many emails and comments over the years—some nasty and rude—from people who refuse to acknowledge that copyright laws of another country could be different from their own. Why is this? It baffles me. So arrogant and presumptive. You are so right. Sorry people were like that to you. I have never minded giving permission to home sewers who want to make some extra money selling at local craft shows, bizarres, and boutiques.

They truly can never make enough items that could hurt my profit margins. After all, it is how I started and I will always pay this courtesy forward. However, the internet has created another avenue for manufacturers to test one item for sell, if you goes well, can put it into mass manufacturing — and that can hurt my profit margins.


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Most decent and respecting people find it acceptable and I get requests every day. It gives me the opportunity to give my parameters and most every one is on board — so wonderful! I do realize those that are not on board are not calling. But hopefully, my request slows things down in the greater scheme of things. Such is the world we live in. How does it hurt your profit margins?

The market for a quilt pattern or a knitting pattern is a completely different market than the one for a mass-manufactured quilt or knitted item. If the mass-manufactured item becomes popular, I can only see that increasing demand for the instructions to make it yourself, not the other way round. Besides which, almost always, the mass-manufactured techniques used will be very different from those given in patterns for hand-makers.

It would hurt her profit margins because a large scale manufacturer could make and sell her item for less than it might cost me in supplies, let alone the time to make it, because of economies of scale. Multiply me by a whole region or country.

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The DIY customer who wants to sew a dress has very different motivation. Thank you, Carol, for breaking down the different paths a copyright can and cannot take. Davies experience. The mass-market version of the sweater was knitted using a completely different construction technique from hers. There was no copyright infringement at all.

Thanks for this article, Carol! Contract law is the way I handle this for my pdf pattern sales. Before someone purchases my pattern, they must select a checkbox that agrees to my Terms of Service. And in my terms I grant the purchaser a limited license to sell items made from the pattern, as long as they: make the item s themselves, the items will not be mass-produced or produced as part of a large-scale commercial operation, and they properly attribute each item and online listing that it was made using my pattern.

If I were in the market to purchase a pattern to knit to sell finished objects from, I would be far less likely to buy from you. I would not attribute the pattern to you. I am in total agreement with what kerowynsmom wrote with one exception: in my 40 years of knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other needlework only twice have I ever sold my work but that was work done on commission. For me the issue comes down to a matter of respect.

The Craft Artist's Legal Guide: Protect Your Work, Save On Taxes, Maximize Profits

Why should you have that right? I am in agreement with you. I have no desire at all to design my own patterns. If a designer stipulates, before sale, that a pattern is only for personal use and gifting, fair enough. Some will let you sell finished objects locally but not compete with the designers sales of finished objects on Etsy or other internet sites. Perfectly reasonable to me. Thank you! Finally an article about copyright law from an actual attorney. Who woulda thunk it?

I think the analogous situation in the quilt-making area is traditional quilt patterns vs. So if a designer has provided templates to reproduce some artistic frog or landscape or other design that would be considered separate from the utilitarian aspect of a quilt, then I believe from what I read that the designer does have more control over reproductions than someone who just made a quilt from log cabins.

Just an added example for quilters. And thanks for also pointing out the distinction between copyright and contract law. And it would be really challenging to enforce a contract nobody can see before purchase. I think for the most part, people are betting that no one will challenge them on it, because lawsuits cost money. Thanks for citing the Baker v. Selden case as most of us only consider copyright when creating patterns and conditions of sale when we also need to understand patent and trademark. Australian copyright for craft patterns are more specific than US regulations and allow the designer much more say in how the patterns may or may not be used.

Enforcing that, however, still requires the same efforts as in the US. Thanks so much.