This morning I received a message from a fellow Etsian, regarding the omiyage pouches I’d made from Kumiko Sudo’s book. She said that some time ago, after making her own omiyage pouches, she’d contacted Sudo’s publishers and discovered we are prohibited from using the instructions and patterns for commercial purposes. (Her message was to ask whether I’d found a way to obtain permission, not to call me out on the violation.)
I began making these pouches very soon after I learned to sew at all, and even before my shop was a reality. It frankly never occurred to me to check whether it was legal to sell them. But after receiving this morning’s message, I checked in the book, and sure enough, there is a tiny line in the publishing info that says “commercial use of this book or its contents is strictly prohibited.”
Now, I’m not sure exactly what happens to someone who sells items created with Sudo’s books. One article I found online suggests that these restrictions don’t hold up in court, unless it’s explicitly stated that the patterns themselves are copyrighted. It does seem a bit silly for all these craft designers to put out instructional books and then expect people not to profit from the ideas; Sudo’s book itself contains teaching lessons in the back, which suggests paid workshops rather than free public-school classes. And it’s very possible this commercial-use prohibition comes from the publishers rather than from Sudo herself.
Ultimately, though, what this boils down to for me isn’t whether selling the pouches is legal or illegal. I want to sell beautiful creations I can be proud of. As long as I’m unsure whether I can legally sell these, I won’t feel right about doing so. But even more important, as long as there’s any uncertainty whether the original designer, Kumiko Sudo, would approve of me using her work in this way, I won’t feel right selling them. It is very clear in her books (and I’ve read more than just Omiyage) how much love and dedication she puts into creating these pouches. Visualize this scenario: I’m standing behind my table at a craft show, cheerfully inviting passers-by to check out my work, when Kumiko Sudo walks by and sees my pouches. If she didn’t want her patterns used commercially, she would feel anger, frustration, annoyance, and probably lots of professional angst at my poor workmanship compared to hers! I would never want to be in that position — hers or mine, in that situation. Of course I don’t want to do anything illegal, but when it comes to this scenario, the legality has nothing to do with it; it’s all about the hurt and injustice I could be doing to another artist and her work.
And so, I’ve pulled the pouches from my shop and will no longer sell them at shows either. In a way it’s exciting not having them there anymore, because I was trying to find time to make some more, and now this frees me up to concentrate on developing more of my own projects (for sale) instead of following someone else’s. Now everything in my shop is my own design!