Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why copying patterns just ain't cool...

DISCLAIMER: The opinions below may be strongly worded but are only meant to educate and don't make any assumptions about the behavior of anyone reading this post! If you are a pattern copier, please read this with an open mind and give it some thought.

There has been some discussion lately on the ever-exciting Knit Design list about copyright violation and copying of patterns. As a fledgling designer, this discussion was extremely interesting to me. What brought it about was a designer who got a letter in the mail from a woman who had purchased a pattern of hers at a LYS. There was a sample in the store, and the pattern had sold out except for the store copy. The LYS employee told her that she'd make her a photocopy for $1.

First off, this is very illegal. The LYS can get in big trouble for doing this if the right person finds out and decides to call them on it. Second of all, it's very unethical. I never really thought much about this until I became a designer as well as a consumer. I am a big fan of a bargain, but each pattern that gets photocopied for a friend takes money out of the designer's pocket. It's similar to the whole royalties thing w/ Napster and all the music sharing on the internet, except knit designers are as a rule very poorly paid. Nobody is getting rich off those patterns (not that all musicians get rich off their work, but that's a different discussion)! The same goes for .pdf files that you buy from a pattern site on the internet. E-mailing that pattern to a friend is just like photocopying a paper pattern, and it hurts the designer each time it's done.

Also, please don't demand that your LYS photocopy something for you. There are several LYS owners on the Knit Design list who also design, and they tell horror stories of customers getting really angry because they refuse to photocopy a design out of a book or a pattern leaflet. For some reason, people think patterns should be free, but a knitwear design is just like any other printed material. I doubt that anyone would think it unreasonable if Home Depot refused to photocopy pages out of a How-To book they were selling. Or Barnes & Noble refused to photocopy a magazine article because a customer decided they didn't want to buy the entire magazine. There are plenty of free patterns out there, whether they are distributed by yarn companies on the inside of ball bands, or on the internet. If you don't want to pay for patterns, find a free one. But don't have the attitude that all patterns should be free!

Something that bugged me a little bit was the other day when I was talking about self-publishing on the internet and how it's more expensive but can make more money. I got several comments about how publishing on the internet shouldn't have nearly as much cost because I'm not sending out paper copies. I know you guys meant the comments in the best possible way, but unfortunately it's not that simple. In reality, the cost of putting the pattern on paper and mailing it out is pretty trivial in the whole scheme of things. Here are the major expenses involved in self-publishing knitting patterns. I won't get into the value of the designer's time.

Often when you design for a magazine, the yarn is provided (but not always). When self-publishing, you need to buy your own yarn. You generally have to buy several balls of yarn for swatching before you come up with the right yarn and color for your pattern. Then you need to buy the yarn to produce the sample garment itself. If you're working with a test knitter, which is important when self-publishing because you want your patterns to be as error-free as possible, you also need to buy yarn for them and pay them for their time. In addition to yarn, you need needles in all the different sizes and lengths for swatching and finding which needle size works best for the yarn and stitch pattern.

In addition to the knitting supplies, you also need stuff to create a nice-looking pattern, including publishing software like Adobe Illustrator and Acrobat. You have the cost of registering a domain name and hosting for your website, the cost of accepting credit cards/PayPal on your website, the cost of using Payloadz for downloading of the .pdf files to the customer, the cost of a good digital camera and photo editing software like Photoshop. You will also need to hire a technical editor to review the pattern and perform a final check for errors. Not to mention the normal office supplies that are needed for running any small business.

Once you've got the pattern made, you need to get people to buy it. For selling on the web, you need to advertise on websites like Knitty and pay to get good placement on the search engines. If you're selling paper copies to yarn stores, you'll want to pay for a booth at trade shows like TNNA or pay a distributor to market your patterns to the yarn stores for you. You'll also try to do print advertising in the big knitting magazines, if you can afford it.

I'm sure there are other costs that I'm not thinking of, but these are the main ones that I'm weighing when trying to decide how I want to direct my business. I know that most people who violate copyright aren't trying to be malicious, so I don't want anyone to feel bad if they've done this because they weren't thinking about all this stuff! I'm just hoping that I can shed some light on an issue that has been a hot topic amongst designers lately. I will end this post (after the sock updates) with a great article on copyright violation on the internet written by crochet designer Kim Guzman. I didn't think much about all of this until just recently, and I wanted to share with all of you because it's so important.

Ultimately, if designers can't make any money designing, they won't do it. There will be some exceptions, of course, but quality and innovation will suffer. If you're not interested in knitting anything but a basic drop-shoulder sweater or a scarf, maybe this won't bother you. But all of you fans of indie designers like Jenna (designer of the ever-popular Rogue who, by the way, has an EXCELLENT section on copyright on her site), Bonne Marie Burns and Stephanie (aka Glampyre) will be very sad if patterns like theirs go away because the designer just can't afford to make them anymore.

I'm thinking of ways to start a little blog campaign against copyright infringement (kind of like the one against stealing bandwidth - after all, they're very much along the same lines). Anyone have any great ideas for a button?

Okay, I'm off my soapbox! Time for some sock updates!

A new knit-alonger, Jennie, knit up some Jaywalkers for someone very lucky. She joined too late to get her January credit, but go give her some socky love anyway!

Sheri finished some January brownie-point socks in a lovely shade of Bernat blue.

Tina finished her first pair of socks ever! Welcome to the wonderful world of socking!

And I have some errata to report... The rockin' cable socks that I attributed yesterday to Erica are actually Erin's. Sorry 'bout that! I blame Owen for keeping me up all night every night.

That is all the socking for today. Keep those sock updates coming! Five more days to get that J!

Here is the copyright article, reprinted here with permission:

Copyright.....the Truth on Sharing Patterns
by Kim Guzman

If you're on the internet long enough, you'll find this topic come up quite often. Unfortunately, the discussion gets very heated at times and causes great rifts between online friends. As a designer in the needlework industry, I have only recently become seriously involved in copyright discussions.

It breaks my heart to see this issue cause such controversy. The internet has simply made our network of friends larger....*much* larger. Therefore, the illegal copying and free distribution of copyrighted patterns has become much more widespread and has made a significant impact on the needlework industry...more so than could ever have been done before.

I, of all people, understand the desire to help and the crafter's heart is, above all else, a very giving one. Just take a look at our homes and you'll see that almost everything we make is given to others. So, the issue of never sharing our patterns goes "against the grain."

When patterns are copied in such volumes as I've seen even as recently as this morning when I viewed hundreds of patterns passed between some illegal email groups, the publishers are hit hard by lowered sales. Naturally, these lowered sales are going to affect people. According to an article I read recently, Pegusus (a needlework company) is losing $200K in sales a year!

It may mean that the designers are paid less. It may mean that the publisher will have to buy less designs. Or worse, it could mean that the designers can no longer afford to design crochet patterns for a living. This, of course, hurts everyone...not just the publisher and the designer, but it hurts the crafters as well. It even hurts those crafters who've been sharing the patterns so frequently, as ironic as that seems.

How many crafting magazines have you seen fold in the last couple of years? The fact that it's more and more difficult to find the magazines in stores could also be directly related to copyright piracy. So, it could be, that you have already been affected by the illegal activities of many internet groups, without even knowing it.
Everyone has to make a choice...even when you're driving down the road and you decide to go just six miles over the speed limit. There's always the chance you can get caught by the authorities, right? There's no way around it once you're caught. You can't say that "there was no one around" or "the law needs to be changed." It's the same with copyright laws. We may not always like the laws around us, but they're still there and they have a purpose.

I know how difficult it is to say "no" when someone asks for a copy of a pattern. If you have a friend who asks for a pattern, offer alternatives, or locate sources for her. Even those free leaflets you find at your local yarn shop are copyright protected! Why not offer the address of the publisher/manufacturer so she can obtain a free pattern for herself?

What if the pattern is discontinued? That makes it more difficult, of course. Remember that copyright protection lasts for over 70 years. Also remember that there are many legal ways to obtain those discontinued patterns. My favorite is eBay. Another thing to remember is that although a book may be discontinued, those patterns may be recycled into other books by the publisher and could be readily available in another form.

You may think that copying and sending only one...or only a few...patterns isn't going to hurt anyone. What happens to that pattern once you've sent it to someone? What if that "someone" is a member of an email group, and quickly distributes it to her 200 or more online friends. What if that "someone" turns out to be someone hired to help stop copyright pirates? Yes, it's true. That perfectly nice crafter named* could actually be someone doing investigation for the publisher, either with or without the publisher's knowledge!

The only way to stop copyright piracy is through education of the public. If you see something that looks like it's copyright piracy, don't hesitate to notify the publisher. It is only through this contact that it can be stopped, as, most domains will only accept notification of copyright infringement when it comes directly from the copyright owner.

If you have any questions about copyright, I encourage you to visit the following sites:

Please be safe out there on the internet. I certainly don't want any of you to get into trouble!

Please know that I am not an attorney. This article is written purely as my own point-of-view and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions regarding intellectual property laws, please consult an attorney and/or one of the links provided above.

*This is a fictitious name, meant only for emphasis and similarity to an actual email address is purely coincidence.


Blogger candsmom said...

Hey Chrissy, I'm really sorry for my comment last time about self-publishing. I really didn't mean to offend you and I hope I didn't upset you. I'm just ignorant and stupid about all this designing stuff and all the costs involved and didn't mean to imply that it would be an "easy route" or anything like that. I just thought it might be a way to be in charge of the process. Again, I'm sorry. :-( Thanks for the sock updates and take care! :-)

8:24 PM  
Anonymous mk said...

Great post! btw, I've just discovered that does downloads as well as print, which provides the self-publisher with the option of offering both to the consumer.

And don't forget, a good tech editor needs to get paid too! ;)

10:46 PM  
Blogger mamma said...

Wow, that is a lot to think about. What about borrowing knitting books from the library and knitting out of them (something I've done)? Doesn't that fall into the designer doesn't get paid for this category? Gonna have to re-think my library card.

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Amen, sister ;o)

I help organize a local knitting group and I had a lady leave the group because I got upset with her when she went to Barnes & Noble, sat down with the 'Last Minute Knitted Gifts' book and proceeded to copy down the patterns she liked into a notebook. She *really* didn't like it when I told her that I had been to Purls, met the owner who wrote the book and liked her alot so the fact that she was stealing from this author upset me even further. I've made it a point to discuss this issue with our group and I've made it clear that I don't agree with the 'I'll photocopy it for you' mindset.

Okay now I'm pissed off all over again and want to find that woman and burn her freakin' notebook.

5:57 AM  
Blogger fig said...

Thank you for that. It can't be said enough--knitting pattern authors/designers deserve to be paid. Any light shed on all the work that goes into each pattern (even the seemingly simple ones) is vital. There is a very good article in the Winter Vogue about the facts of copyright laws that was written by a lawyer/husband of a knitter. Bravo, Knittinmom! Preach on!

7:10 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Nicely written! This topic is even more important these days. With our current technology, it is very easy and quick to violate copyright.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous mk said...

Another really good reference is The Girl from Auntie blog; she has posts covering knitting-specific copyright issues (including library books).
(there's more; click on "select a topic" in the "in this section" sidebar.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Great post, Chrissy. I've tried to educate my knitting group about copyright and all that, but I don't think it's done much good. After my rants, I think they just do it when I'm not around. I'm with you though, sista. If you make a button, I'll slap it on my blog!

8:01 AM  

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