Friday, November 26, 2010

Copyright violations and resistant women...

...and today I had another jolting encounter with yet another woman who doesn't REALLLLY believe that pattern writers have copyright.   Or so I gather.   I will describe this briefly because it really annoys me.  A couple of weeks ago, a woman came into the studio and was rifling through "the stash," which is what I call the discounted yarn supply in the middle room.   I asked her how I could help, and she explained that she had bought my pattern for a slouchy beret (one of the patterns in our own line of patterns) and now wanted to get a number of different kinds of yarn so she could make a whole lot of them for sale.   I said, Well, you know, that design is under copyright, and you can't make copies for commercial purposes -- have a look at the back of the leaflet, and so on and so forth.  She said that all of this was news to her and looked annoyed.   But she bought a small supply of yarn and disappeared.   Today, she reappeared with yarn and the pattern and prouldy explained that she had made a lot of the hats for sale.   At that point, I hardly knew what to say, so I simply said, Why would you do that?  And she said, quite remarkably, that nobody else paid attention to this copyright thing, so why should she?   And she was smiling!!!!!!    I'd like advice from others as to how to deal with this persistent problem.  There may be no answer, so long as women continue to think that copyright applies to everything except things that fall within 'women's sphere,' where everything is supposed to be shared (otherwise we're selfish), and where women continue to starve to death -- Remember that women continue to make 60 cents for every dollar that men earn for the very same work.   Selfish indeed.     svb


  1. Hi Sandra-

    First of all, I feel your pain. Many people think they can sell items made from a pattern that belongs to a company or designer as their own. My patterns are part of my company which is trademarked and each pattern has a copyright. You're probably already doing this, but it may help to expand the language to include that your document may not be altered, reproduced and distributed in any way and that items made with the pattern may not be sold. It might make the message clearer. Of course, a letter or phone call from your lawyer can help too, but who wants to have to go there! I've seen more and more violations on the internet happening to designers and charity orgs that have their own patterns. If a pattern is free, it's especially difficult to explain to people that it is not their property to use for commercial use, unless otherwise noted.

    I hope that when in doubt, they will contact the designer for clarification or permission. We work so hard and we'll have to, unfortunately, be tougher on those who violate the copyright laws. The music industry has aggressively pursued copyright violations for years.

    As women, and designers, we definitely need to support and respect each other. Many times these situations can be handled politely and I hope this women stops harrassing you. If not, definitely send a formal letter from your lawyer.

    Hope you feel better soon.
    Solidarity sister!
    Marg (your sis in the knitting life)

  2. Great to hear from you. I wouldn't call it harrassment -- she's just oblivious, and a little bit annoyed with ME for having made an issue out of it. On my pattern leaflets, we have quite a long section with all the disclaimers you name and some it's not that it's not there, only that it's just plain received as an annoyance. We are dealing, I think, with that age-old culture of women helping women, which can be a very good thing, but which cannot extend to the marketplace. There are SO many horror stories out there about all of this. And I just don't know what will resolve it except perhaps the coming of a new generation with a proper appreciation of the value of their labor. Sigh. svb

  3. Here is one possible solution (although it is a compromise and doesn't really solve it): grant her limited permission to use the pattern and insist that her labels credit you as designer. In other words, she is going to do it anyway (as she has made clear); this way you educate her a bit more and at least get credit. I also have seen very many things of mine copied for sale. There doesn't seem to be a way to stop it without a lot of effort, money and bad feelings, but every bit of education we do does help.

  4. I agree with you, but how do you prove that what you make/made is not copied from someone else? I mean a scarf, for instance, can be innocently made by myself just making up the pattern, but there could be another scarf pattern in a book just like mine that I know nothing about. I didn't infringe on anyone's work.
    I also paint and the same issues apply with that.

  5. Well, we don't have a copyright on basic ideas -- the cardigan, e.g., or the idea of a painted tree in the center of a canvas. We DO, however, have copyright on the exact ways the ingredients are put together and on particular variations on, say, tree in center of canvas or cardigan. It's an inexact science. There always have been innocent examples. When I write books in history, for instance, there is a huge difference between losing your job at another university for DELIBERATELY copying someone else's work (which can be proved because so very much of the work, or the structure of the argument, is exact) and doing it inadvertantly. You have to prove malice, and it's hard to do -- for exactly the reason you give (we don't want to rule out the possibility that someone has done it innocently). svb