One of the most frequently asked questions on my Knitters Help Desk relates to regulations on Knitting Patterns - specifically
"Can I copy this old pattern ive found" and "Can I make the item ive knitted from this pattern and sell it"
These were questions I posed myself when I first set about knitting and my legal background helped with the research. I discovered that as relates to copyright the only time its regarded as safe to reprint and distribute the item is 30 years after it was LAST published - so if you find a nice pattern printed in the 70's and think great, I can print this off and sell it, think again, if the company who published it reprinted it in any form (as a stand alone pattern/part of a booklet or as a magazine insert) after that date then you could be in breach of copyright - ive noticed this a great deal on e bay with sellers who sell patterns which they claim to have been in in the public domain but the only way to be sure is to contact the original design company or publisher. With the real oldies dating back to the 30's and 40's then you're usually safe to assume they are no longer copyrighted (unless of course the design was bought by a pattern company and used in a vintage collection book etc.) Confusing I know!
The question of making an item to sell from a commercial knitting pattern is much simpler - you can't. Copyright also covers what is know as intelectual property ( that's the original design concept or idea) and whereas the pattern provides instructions for you to knit the item it is intended for personal use and not for selling - so you may make that lovely jumper, dolls outfit or tea cosy for yourself, or to give to a friend, but NOT to be sold commercially (and this rule also in fact covers making things from knitting patterns to sell at the Christmas Fair or Charity Shop- unless of course the pattern is out of copyright) - whether anyone would ever actually sue you for doing so is of course another matter, but in today's litigation culture who knows.....
The best way to ensure that you are legally complaint is to purchase patterns direct from the individual designer or publisher (and the pattern will state the year of copyright etc.) and request Permission to produce the items for sale - you can then make them and advertise them without fear of breaking the law or having your listings removed on sites like e bay for breaching their VERO policy. Some companies will require specific information about how many items you intend to make, where you intend to sell them etc. others will often refuse point blank- if the pattern does not state that the finished item can be commercially produced don't assume that it can - remember intellectual property is covered - but there is no reason not to ASK for permission - send an e mail to the publisher or visit their website etc. for older patterns you may need to research the company and their current address (not always easy as many get bought out by other companies and change name and address etc.)
Probably the simplest way around the second situation is to purchase patterns which are published with specific Permission to produce the finished items for resale (from the original designer or crafts person who came up with the idea in the first place). Often they are happy for you to produce their items as they sell their patterns to share their designs and love people to make them.
Hope you have found this of some help, if you have any specific questions relating to knitting visit my knitters help desk at ooak-designs.co.uk and post a question.