How to tell if a chart is an illegal copy or breach of copyright
1. Scans from magazines are almost always a no-no. It is safest to assume the worst. You can usually see if it's a scan from a magazine by the typeface, quality of type, page numbers, columns and adverts alongside patterns.
2. Any chart posted on a commercial photo gallery site, particularly Russian galleries is almost always a no-no. The photographs on these sites often point to files uploaded to file sharing/cloud sites. Russian websites end in .ru
3. Websites where you earn "points" to enable you to download designs. These aren't always illegal copies but there is an infamous Chinese site like this that is full of illegal copies
4. Charts posted to forums, facebook pages & blogs. Most free designs are available from shop websites & designers' own sites and it should be possible to post a link. Some designers use blogs but you should be able to tell if it is their site by the other content. French designers tend to use blogs a lot and there are some gorgeous genuine freebies on those sites.
5. Any site that has a large quantity of computer generated charts from photographs and artwork that doesn't mention the photographer or artist. A lot of these sites harvest images from the internet with no thought to who owns the image. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is "free". Even if there is no charge for the pattern produced it is still breach of copyright.
6. Charts with no copyright notice as this has been cropped from them by the person sharing.
7. Any cartoon or film character or trademarked logo. This includes but isn't limited to: Hello Kitty, Spiderman, Smurfs, Disney, Coca-Cola, football teams, Snoopy, Betty Boop... You will never find legitimate free designs as designers need to pay a license fee to the copyright/license holder
8. A special note on Pinterest - this has become the new medium of choice for illegal charts but you will find many gorgeous genuine freebies from up and coming designers.
9. Publications & patterns from 1923 and earlier are in the public domain and can be scanned & shared.
Whilst these aren't hard and fast rules - they will weed out many of the illegal patterns