What you said isn't wrong, but it is misleading in what it leaves out. US Code Title 17 Subsection 102
defines the scope of copyright as
(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8 ) architectural works.
And the definitions section
“Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works” include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, including architectural plans. Such works shall include works of artistic craftsmanship insofar as their form but not their mechanical or utilitarian aspects are concerned; the design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.18
While you can't just go ahead and copy a pattern and redistribute it, "useful articles" cannot be copyrighted. Copyrights are designed to protect creativity, not utility. Imagine what would happen if someone could own the pattern of a shirt. Nobody else could ever make or sell a shirt? There are only so many ways to make a bodice, or a sleeve, etc.
If someone comes up with a new, improved way of making shirts, they could patent
that method, but that's a separate process from a copyright. If you look back through old patents on Google's patent search, you can find lots of old patents for new (at the time) corset designs. Of course, in order to patent something, you have to prove that nobody else has done it before. At this point, so far as a clothing pattern, that's nearly impossible. What methods of covering a body with fabric haven't already been done? I recently saw something about someone developing a method of "growing" clothing, I'm sure that could be patented. But there isn't much left so far as entirely new patterns for improvements on traditional sewn clothing.
A copyright is also specific in the rights that it does and does not grant. Someone cannot add limitations to what someone else can do that are not covered under copyright law. (They can do the reverse-- reserve some rights but state that they don't mind if someone uses it for some particular purpose that wouldn't normally be allowed. But that's less a matter of law than it is what the author simply wouldn't prosecute. And of course there are creative commons licenses, but I'm not completely sure where those fall legally.) Copyright law does make limitations on the rights that a creator can claim. A statement by that creator to the contrary doesn't change the law. (A contract could, but simply making the statement does not qualify as a contract. If I go to Joann and buy a pattern, nobody makes me sign a contract specifying how I'll use that pattern. And whatever anybody may claim, tacking a statement onto the copyright statement does not constitute a contract.)
You used the example of tutorials taken down because someone "abused the creators rules." If the creator's rule was "you can't copy this entire tutorial and republish or sell it" then yes, you're right that there was a copyright violation. However, if the creator's rule is "you can't sell anything made using these directions," there was no violation, because someone cannot impose that restriction.US Code Title 17 subsection 102 (b)
is quite clear that
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
A copyright is for the work itself, not for the ideas contained in that work.
I'm not sure why your patent lawyer friend didn't explain to you the difference between patent law and copyright law. Most people do shove intellectual property laws under one umbrella, but there are totally different provisions for copyright, trademark, and patent laws; they protect different things, and have different purposes.
If you create something that falls under the scope of copyright law, nobody else can copy
that work, unless they use it in a manner consistent with fair use, as outlined in US Code Title 17 Subsection 107
Something is copyrighted at the time that it is "fixed in a tangible medium," but it is that work itself that is copyrighted, not any ideas contained within it. If someone writes a tutorial, their words and images are copyrighted. The process described, however, is not, because ideas do not fall under the scope of copyright law.
Same with a painting. Your painting is copyrighted, somebody else can't just copy it. But if you painted a picture of a tree on a hill, that doesn't mean that nobody else can ever paint a picture of a tree on a hill.