Do you like this dress pattern? I do. How lovely McCall's 3101 would look on a newly-slim young mother, returning to public life after months of confinement.
Think you can find the original pattern for sale? You can -- here. It's $95. And if you don't have a 32" bust, you're going to have to do some grading.
Now, to me, $95 seems high for a pattern (I've seen much, much higher), but the pattern is long out-of-print, (though I can almost guarantee not in the public domain). So the profit from the resale goes to the seller who owns it. I don't think anyone would have a problem with that, right? I mean, yes, the price is high, but this is a rare pattern. It's like buying a book from a rare book dealer.
The same pattern can also be had here. Not nearly as expensive as the original, but this is a digitally reproduced copy. Is this OK? On the one hand, there's a market for this pattern and this seller is filling it. This person has gone to the trouble of copying the original and making it available. But they don't hold the copyright. (I wonder if the fact that they're in the UK makes a difference.) So now it's like buying a copy of a book from a rare book dealer who has run off twenty-five photocopies.
A confession: while I have never bought a bootleg pattern, I have bought a few bootleg DVD's of obscure old movies that have never been released digitally and are unlikely ever to be. (Swing Shift Maisie anyone?) Someone usually copies these off TCM and sells them (pretty cheaply, I might add). You can find a lot of stuff like this on sites like ioffer.com.
Remember, too, that even if these were reissued, none of the artists involved would be compensated (they're all dead anyway), nor, in many cases, even the original studios. The market for movies like this is so narrow that these bootleggers are providing a service to obsessive Ann Sothern fans like me. There are not many of us.
But back to old patterns. Given that the designers of these dresses are likely long gone (and were on salary anyway, so presumably earned the same money regardless of the popularity of the design), and the current owners of the companies have often changed, is it wrong for someone to make available to a handful of sewers some of these rare patterns? (Again, you can buy original old patterns on eBay and Etsy every day of the week.) Many pattern companies reissue their vintage patterns, but they
do so only a few patterns at a time. It may never be profitable for
them to reproduce a large number due to the cost of printing,
marketing, photographing, styling, etc., vs. the size of the market.
I would argue that while you may or may not find it morally wrong, it's probably illegal.
I'm not a lawyer and I'm not a dress designer. No one wants to have their property stolen and they should have some legal protection. I use images I pick off the Internet all the time, and I don't always cite my sources. And I share a lot of original images too. That's how the Internet functions and that's OK with me but doesn't mean it's legal.
But back to patterns again. What do you think, readers? Are people who make available copies of rare patterns to those who wish to sew them stealing intellectual property or providing a public service? Or both? Would the legalities discourage you from purchasing a bootleg repro or do you think it's justifiable?
Post anonymously if you like, but tell us what you think!
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!