Unfortunately in the online craft community copyright infringement of patterns and designs is a widespread problem. Around the globe everyday illegal copying is going on. Copyscape is an interesting search engine for anyone wanting to find out if any of their work has been plagiarized. Enter a URL of a specific page on your site. Frankly it opened up a can of worms for me as I ran a few pages through the search engine and found a good few people out there have copied directions and images from my site and published the material as theirs I am in the process of writing to them and taking action.
I do not mind if people use material from site for non-commercial purposes as long as they credit me as the author along side my URL. I have even allowed designers and teachers, who are commercial enterprises to use material from my site because they have done the right thing and asked me and full credit was published. The sites that have infringed are commercial sites that have ripped off both text and images and no credit has been given. So I am annoyed to say the least.
I can easily prove that the material is mine as I can point to the Internet Archive to prove that the content was published by me at an earlier date than it was published on the offending site. The Internet Archive aims to preserve and make available digital documents for researchers, historians, and scholars. Since 1996 Alexa Internet has been crawling the web, which has resulted in a massive archive of sites that have been published online. Fortunately my site was archived early on but if you want them to archive your site you can simply ask them to. Also since these people also ripped off images of my work I still have the original work in other words the quilt or item that the image came from.
Copyscape has provided some good guidelines as to how to respond to copyright infringements. Probably the most useful advice being to inform search engines such as Google that under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act an infringement has taken place and you can have the offending site removed from their search results.
With the aim of educating people about copyright the Skinner Sisters have published a CD on the issue. On their site Craft Designs and Copyright Infringement on the Internet apart from promoting the CD, there is a brief introduction to the issue, why it is important, why infringements happen and why it effects you. I encourage people to read it as the issue effects both designers and consumers.
On the same topic I found this article about Copyright Myths which many people will find useful.
Anyway I am off to write some firm letters.