I have several designs published, and being a member of Ravelry, an online knit and crochet website, they can be accessed there, as well as on my website. Members of Ravelry have the option of posting pictures and notes about their various projects, which is great! One gets to see a LOT of neat things there! As well as modifications that some have made to the pattern that make it quite interesting to read.
Recently someone posted a project that was linked to one of my patterns on Ravelry, and I took a look at it from her project page, only to find that my pattern directions were listed, in their entirety, in the project notes she had. Surprise, surprise! Granted it was a free pattern, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still my copyrighted pattern listed as her notes!
I sent her a message asking to please remove my instructions from her project page, and she did so. I tried to be as tactful as I could be with the written word, so hopefully she wasn't too offended by it. But one never knows how something like that will be taken unless/until a blasting message comes back.
Now I said: "granted it's a free pattern". The word "free" seems to mean to quite a few people crafting (and other things, too) that it's ok to do what they want with it. Because it's "free". I admit that sometimes I still fall into that same trap. So it's good to be reminded every now and then that, hey, there very well may be a copyright attached to that "free" thing! Just as if one had to pay for whatever that "thing" may be.
So here's the reminder for all: just because the pattern is free doesn't mean it's yours to do what you want with it. Free patterns are covered under copyright of the author/owner, just as pay-for patterns are! So please don't fall into the "so what, it's free" trap!