How the Baby Yoda Crochet Pattern is Making Us Talk About Copyright
If you are unfamiliar with copyright laws in the USA, I would start here. I am going to talk about the copyright issues surrounding the baby Yoda crochet pattern, and an understanding of the latest copyright policy is important.
Thanks so much to Jamy for providing the featured image for this article. I think her project turned out just as cute as the original!
Thanksgiving day, November 28th 2019, Allison Hoffman of Crafty is Cool released a Baby Yoda crochet pattern, called “The Child”. The pattern was initially released for $7US and sold on Ravelry and Etsy.
Just 5 days later, on December 2nd, the pattern (pictured below) was removed after Hoffman received a warning phone call from Disney, claiming trademark and copyright violations and threatening legal action.
Images from Crafty is Cool. All images used with permission.
In those few days the pattern was live, hundreds of people purchased and downloaded it. It was featured on Geekologie, Syfy, and many fiber arts blogs. Some people are saying that the pattern exploded in popularity because Disney has not released “baby Yoda” merchandise for the holiday season.
However, I think the real reason this exploded was because of Allison. She made something beautiful. Really beautiful and striking. Talent is what made this big.
Since December 2nd, Allison has also removed all images of the Baby Yoda crochet pattern from her social media pages and even the pattern listing on Ravelry.
Since the pattern was discontinued, there has been a scramble for people to get their hands on a copy of the pattern. People who purchased the pattern have been bombarded by others, sometimes complete strangers, asking for a copy. In my research I saw Reddit posts, Instagram comments and Facebook posts requesting the pattern, and even heard about someone (not the designer) selling it on eBay.
Naturally, all of this activity has led to a discussion on distribution and copyright. It seems there is a lot of confusion over what copyright really is and what it means for individuals as consumers.
The laws in the USA around copyright are very clear. You may only distribute copies of a pattern if the designer gives you permission.
Allison Hoffman as repeatedly told people on her social media pages that you should not share any patterns that you have purchased from her. All of her recently published patterns include a copyright statement.
Independent designers work very hard to produce patterns that we all enjoy. This is NOT free work! It costs designers, time and money to create a new design, not to mention the enormous amount of time that they spend learning skills outside of their craft in order to write the pattern, create websites, market their work, etc. Very often that cost is not recouped for a long time, if at all. When you share a pattern, or accept one from someone else, you are stealing from that designer who makes a living off of their work.
If it is gone, why is it wrong for a friend to send me a copy?
The short answer is, it’s not theirs to give you. Allison has not given customers the license to share the pattern.
The long answer: Just because it is discontinued now, doesn’t mean it will be gone forever. By sharing the pattern, you are preventing Allison Hoffman from generating revenue in the future. The revenue from her patterns allows her to continue making patterns to publish.
The dispute over her ability to sell the pattern does not negate her own copyrights over the pattern itself. She might not be able to distribute her pattern legally any more, but she still retains the right to the original pattern.
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Why the Baby Yoda Crochet Pattern was Removed
The root of the issue here is that Disney owns the image and likeness of “the child” or what everyone has been referring to as baby Yoda. The question is, is Allison’s work and pattern considered fair use? Is Allison’s work transformative enough to be something new?
According to the copyright.gov website fair use and transformative are defined as:
“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.
Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.”
In researching for this article, I wanted to answer this question for myself. I found a fantastic video from a creator I really respect, SeanWes. Rather than trying to explain it myself, I will let Sean give his very clear answer:
Another question that many people have: is why has Hoffman’s pattern been removed and not others? Which is an excellent question. The real answer is, they are in violation of copyright too. However, they are not big enough for Disney to bother with.
It is my understanding it is perfectly legal for her to design and create the original doll. The original one-off doll would be considered legal fan art, as long as it was not sold. Where things crossed over the line was the sale and distribution of the pattern.
Allison did the right thing by taking it down immediately. Her customers who are refusing to share the pattern are doing the right thing. And you can do the right thing by not asking for it if you were one of the unlucky ones who missed out.
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If you would like to read any of these discussions/statements for yourself regarding the baby Yoda crochet pattern please follow the links below:
- Original Instagram Post by Allison Hoffman
- Original Facebook Post by Allison Hoffman
- The Main Reddit Post about the baby Yoda crochet pattern
- Another leading Reddit Post
- The Baby Yoda gif debacle exposes the messy world of meme law via Wired
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some answers to questions I saw a lot of people asking.
I bought the pattern. Do I have to return it?
No. Allison Hoffman stopped all future sales as a precaution under the advisement of her lawyer. This was a good-faith act to stay in good standing with Disney until they can work through the legal issues. It does not prevent you from keeping and using the pattern you have already purchased
Is there somewhere I can download or purchase the baby yoda crochet pattern?
No. Allison has discontinued the pattern. If she is able to work out the legal issues, the pattern is likely to be posted here.
I have a copy of the pattern, but I did not pay for it. What should I do?
Delete it. It’s not yours. Even if you send Allison money or buy another one of her patterns, you did not by that pattern. And continuing to send her money under the guise of “donation” could only get her in more legal trouble.
I bought the pattern but can’t find it.
Allison posted an update on this topic on her Facebook account here.
I want to support Allison and her work. How do I do that?
I recommend going to her website. She has books and other patterns for sale. If you cannot support her financially at this time, social capital is huge. Follow her on social media, join her newsletter, share her website with a friend.
Someone is asking me for a copy of the pattern. What do I do?
Say no. Send them this article.
Have a question or a comment?
I want to hear it! Leave it below.
Note: All comments requesting a copy of the pattern will be removed.
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