Thursday, February 23, 2012

Copyright: Anything is Fair Game? No.

I am being annoyed at the moment and would like friends to weigh in.  Copyright really matters.  I have given lectures about copyright infringement at fiber festival booths ("Why are you selling a copy of those Morehouse animal scarves???") and elsewhere.  I have alienated customers at the studio because I refuse to knock off a pattern from someone's copyrighted design.  But -- there is something really outrageous about a person taking an age-old design, something passed from mother to daughter, etc., and altering a row in it and claiming copyright.  Once upon a time, all of us of a certain age made slippers.  They were all alike, and they were mostly made from two strands of worsted-weight wool (then, it was Red Heart wool or Spinnerin or maybe Brunswick, which was better quality than the cheap acrylic now sold at the big box stores...and Brunswick even had matching fabric, so I likely wouldn't have made slippers out of it).  Anyway:  you cast on maybe 30 stitches, worked a three-part foot with slip-stitch dividers between the sections, then switched to ribbing to the end, pulled the end stitches together, sewed it all up and, voila, a slipper.  Well.  My wonderful Judy Champagne offered to teach one of our new "Hit'N Run" mini-courses and make these we Google for them and find Aunt Maggie's slippers -- under copyright????   What the person did was to move the ribbed section about three rows further along.  Nothing else changed.  It is my understanding that a design has to be substantially your own -- this is NOT substantially different from any of the thousands of pairs of slippers knitted by millions of people in the 1940s into the 1960s.  So I call it a false copyright claim, and I am prepared to use it in my class without attribution.  I wonder if people really think that you can just say you have "adapted" an old design and slap copyright onto it after having done something this minor to it?  Really infuriating.     svb  


  1. Kudos to you Sandra for your ' copyright' blog. It has long been a sore spot for me. I had a yarn store in Michigan for many years and now do the fiber show circut along with a web store. As I design some patterns, from scratch, writing down each row as I do it, I get very annoyed with the knitters who take the pattern and change a rib or such and call it their own, or worse yet, make the pattern and sell the items. I have seen many patterns at shows that are duplicates of older ones, without giving the original credit. I have a stash of antique patterns. Also, the shop owners, who will call a pattern theirs and sell copies, yes, photocopies. In the last 30 years, I have reviewed copywrites, and while the rules are changing a little, the basic principle is still there - if you get the idea from someone else, it is an infringement. There is a myth that if you change it 10% it is yours!
    There is alot of hard work in designing, graphing, writing patterns, and that also includes test knitting. Lets give the designers their dues!

  2. I agree -- wish I knew who you were!!! svb

  3. Elsie.
    One day I will visit you!