Share and share alike

“Why aren’t we allowed to sell some projects we see on some websites where they post step-by-step… they say it’s only for our personal use, not for selling purposes?”

I received this question in a comment today, and it got me thinking.

I used to have a disclaimer like that here on WhatTheCraft. It’s hard to say why… I suppose part of me felt like I was putting this information out there for free, and so it seemed wrong for someone else to take “my ideas” and use them to make money. I think another part of me, being a handmade seller, felt like I might be “helping the competition” if I showed them how I did things.

Since I started selling my patterns, I have since removed the disclaimer. I make it fairly clear that people are welcome to sell what they make using my tutorials and even my sewing patterns. Again it’s for a lot of reasons. From the practical side, there’s absolutely no way for me to enforce that kind of rule. Even if I did want to troll through other people’s shops, there would be almost no way to prove they’d used one of my tutorials to make something. And even if I was sure (for example, if I knew they’d bought one of my patterns), the best I could do would be to ask them to stop. It’s a waste of time and unnecessary negative energy. I’d rather be making cool shit than worrying that someone might be trying to “steal” my ideas.

The second reason is that I try not to look at other handmade sellers as “competition,” no matter how similar our items might be. I prefer to see them as part of the same community I belong to. I wouldn’t know half of what I do today if it weren’t for all the amazing people in this community who were willing to share, so I figure I’m paying it forward by sharing alike.

How silly would it be for me to try to tell people they can’t learn to make a circle skirt from my tutorial and then sell them? I didn’t invent the circle skirt. It’s not proprietary information. If they didn’t learn it from me, they would have learned it somewhere else.

Removing that disclaimer was actually kind of freeing. I went back and forth when I put up my first pattern. Do I add a big threatening disclaimer like most other pattern companies? The kind of disclaimer, by the way, that I’d always thought was silly when it was someone else saying it.

I realized then that the main reason I felt irritated if I saw someone selling from one of my tutorials was because I told them not to! How dare they defy me? It occurred to me that if I just removed the disclaimer, I no longer had a reason to feel annoyed. Taking it a step further, if I told them outright that they could absolutely sell things made from my patterns, then I really had no right to get my panties in a twist. So that’s what I did, and my panties have been thoroughly untwisted ever since.

If I was going to attach any kind of disclaimer to any of my stuff now it would be this: I’m sharing this with you, and all that I ask is that someday you share something you’ve learned. Life is too short to be greedy over information.

14 thoughts on “Share and share alike

  1. I’m on board with you, I too draft my own patterns and would love to share them for free, but I don’t know how to work my scanner (in the process of learning).
    Will definitely follow your lead!!!

  2. Awesome….
    you didn’t miss a single detail in your “share and share alike” article.
    the world wide web….. is just that….WORLD WIDE…. and its just a matter of time before any idea or thought or pattern gets repeated, copied, duplicated….whatever, so may as well get used to it and go with the flow without the added stress.
    glad i found you

  3. I struggled with this issue too. After much research about pattern copyright laws it came down to written pattern instructions (even those by the big companies) are copyright protected, but you can not protect end use (people making stuff and selling the end use product.) Respect the pattern maker! Purchase the pattern and support creativity! Pattern writing is hard work and good pattern writers are far and few between. Love your stuff Lex! Stumbled upon your youtube channel when researching hemming polyester. Good job on your video … off to hem.

  4. Ahhh I love this article! and I love the comments… Eva’s comments are so true!.
    Love the positive energy!!!
    Namaste’ beautiful souls <3

  5. Great attitude. However, there was an interesting post on a sewing blog I follow because the blogger had posted, not just a free tutorial, but a free PATTERN. Someone else took her pattern and posted it for SALE on their own blog.

    That, I believe, is something you would have every reason to put a disclaimer about and to take action on. There’s a big difference between taking someones IDEA but doing the work yourself….and taking someone’s actual work and making pure profit off of it without doing any of the hard work yourself!

    1. Oh, I would be furious if I found someone selling something I offer for free. Totally not cool. And an absolute violation of intellectual property rights.

  6. I just found your site. Drawn by the personality I saw on YouTube, coming back because of spirit found. Thank you.

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