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Licensing Lingo

April 8, 2011

Yesterday I tackled the weighty issue of copyrighting patterns.  Today let’s discuss licensing.


We’ve all seen taglines in variation of this:

Tutorials and patterns are for personal use only.  If you are interested in using any of the patterns or tutorials for resale, please contact The Owner at to discuss licensing agreements.


Here’s the nitty gritty of licensing.

Under copyright law, a license is a written permission from the copyright holder granting the licensee privileges that are normally reserved to the copyright holder. So yes, licensing is a way to restrict use of the material.


The key in the above statement is the copyright holder is granting permission.  But it was discussed yesterday that patterns themselves can not be copyrighted, nor can the items produced from such patterns.  So there is no copyright holder and in turn, no license and no need to grant permission to the end-user.  Yet again, in my opinion, it becomes just an issue of ethics.

A quick check of copyright records shows no clothing pattern copyrights held by Simplicity, Butterick or McCalls.  Simplicity holds copyrights on some of their pattern envelopes, but not the patterns themselves.  Of the more popular designers, Amy Butler was the only one I found to have registered copyrights for some of her patterns.  Her copyright material was mainly for non-clothing items, technical drawings within the pattern or needlepoint designs.  The other designers had some fabrics copyrighted but nothing else.


Which makes a person wonder why we see the technical wording we do.

  • Why do designers state their items are copyrighted when in fact most aren’t?
  • Why do they state a requirement of licensing agreements when no copyright for the item exists?
  • Why do they indicate they have a legal right to restrict the end use product of their patterns when in reality they don’t?

Is it because they think they do?  Or is it because they think we don’t know otherwise?

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