Selling Licensed Crochet Items

When I first started crocheting and checking out patterns, I saw so many cute characters made with crochet. I loved the idea of making my son one of his favorite TV show characters as a plushie, and I when I started selling at markets, I was so excited to try out some of the viral character-inspired patterns others were sharing. These patterns were everywhere, so I figured it was fine.

The truth is, while you can easily find patterns for a lot of licensed characters online, you probably don’t actually have permission to sell them. I know that it can be really confusing to navigate the details of copyright and usage rights, so I did some research to help you find what you need all in one place!

*Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is information I found online from other sources and am sharing for your help. I am in no way a legal copyright expert. I have just done some research and am hoping to share!

Selling Licensed Crochet Items

What are Usage Rights?

Usage rights are determined by the owner of the content in question. They describe how others can use their intellectual property with their permission. If you look at the bottom of most websites or documents, you can see copyright notifications indicating that the content is the property of the creator and shouldn’t be copied and sold.

When production companies design characters for their shows or movies, those characters also fall under copyright laws. Imitating that character or trying to profit off of that company’s creation is not allowed under copyright law. Even though you aren’t claiming to have created the character, you are using their work to imitate it, so their creation is being used. If you are not using their character the way they intended, you are in violation of copyright and usage rights.

This article from Mail Chimp is really informative about the ins and outs of usage rights.

How Do I Know What I Can Sell?

When you are trying to determine if you can sell a crocheted version of a licensed character, you need to determine the specific usage rights for that character. If the character is part of public domain, you are able to make and sell items inspired by it. If it is not public domain and there is active copyright on it, you should not make it to sell.

If you are extremely adamant about making and selling a crocheted version of a specific character, you could seek out permission from the original creator. For example, maybe a local author just released a children’s book about an adorable puppy and you are dying to make a crocheted version of that puppy to sell at your local fair where the author will be having a book signing. If you reach out the author and/or illustrator for explicit permission to make a stuffed toy based on their character and they provide you with permission, then you can go right on ahead and sell those items based on the terms you agreed to with the owner.

For companies like Disney and Pixar, reaching such an agreement is not as easy. You can reach out to Disney’s licensing department and request permission from them to use their characters for your purpose. You could also partner with Disney, however, that is a very tall endeavor unless you are a large, established business. For more information about specifics when it comes to copyright with Disney, check out this really helpful article from Bytes Care.

Selling Licensed Crochet Items

What Are Some Common Characters I Shouldn’t Sell?

A lot of characters that I see being made and sold as crocheted versions are the intellectual property of Disney. Some of these characters that are protected by Disney’s copyright are:

  • Mickey and Minnie Mouse
  • Donald Duck
  • Goofy
  • Pluto
  • Disney Princesses (including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Snow White, Tiana, Anna and Elsa, and more)
  • Marvel Superheroes (including Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, Black Panther, Groot, and more)
  • Characters from Disney-Pixar Movies (including characters from Toy Story, Cars, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and more)
  • Star Wars Characters (this not only includes the characters in the entire franchise, but also the ships, droids, and other creations from the books and movies)

What If I Just Sell My Items In Person?

Even if you are just selling your licensed items in-person at craft shows, it’s still not legal. Just because you likely won’t get caught selling in-person or marketing your item as if it was inspired by a character, doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Selling Licensed Crochet Items

What Characters Can I Sell?

There are some popular characters that do have public domain that you can make without worrying about copyright infringement. Most of these characters are on the older side and are public domain because their copyright ran out after quite some time.

Recently, Mickey Mouse from the Steamboat Willie production became public domain. That means if you depict Mickey Mouse like those old-school black and white videos, you won’t be infringing on Disney’s rights. However, other versions of Mickey Mouse, including the more modern and colorful versions are still not okay to sell.

Some other characters that are public domain include:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book from 1900, not the movie)
  • Paul Bunyon
  • Beowulf

For a longer list of characters and details about which version of those characters are public domain, check out this list by Comic Vine.

There are quite a few more characters that will be entering public domain over the next decade. Diverse Tech Geek put together a great list of 10+ popular characters that you will see entering the public domain over the next ten years.

But Other People Are Selling Licensed Items…

Yes, you’re right. You are going to see a lot of other people selling licensed items at their booths, on their websites, and on Etsy. Just like people get away with speeding when a cop doesn’t see them, businesses can get away with not following usage rights if they aren’t noticed by the company that owns those rights. It doesn’t mean it’s right – they just got away with it.

In the end, I hope your morals will help you realize that infringing on copyright and usage rights is not okay and that you shouldn’t do it, even if you don’t think you’ll get caught. Just like you want to be credited for your work, the companies and creators behind these characters also want to be credited for the work that they did.

Can I Make Licensed Items for Personal Use?

Yes – This is where it is acceptable to make Disney characters or other copyrighted characters. If you are not selling an item or using it for commercial use, you can create items based on a character that you can keep or gift to a friend in private. All of the items you see pictures of in this post are ones that I made and gifted to friends or family rather than selling.

What Should I Make Instead?

Just because you can’t make copyrighted items doesn’t mean you can’t make adorable items that will fly off the shelves! I have found tons of great-selling patterns that you can make and sell without infringing on the rights of other creators. All of these great patterns have been wonderful sellers for me and they include the rights to make and sell your finished products!

I hope you found this article helpful! If you have more questions about licensing, comment them below and I will do my best to help!

Be sure to follow along for more helpful tips and information about selling your crocheted items at markets!!

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