Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Cold Hard Facts: Copyright Violation

I get emails sometimes saying something along the lines of: "Did you know that 'such and such' Yahoo Group is sharing your 'Angel of Love' pattern? Is it okay for them to do that?" The answer is, of course, no, it is not. And now and then, I learn about someone who has scanned one or more of my patterns and posted them online.
I immediately write to the person and ask them to stop distributing my patterns. Fortunately, so far, everyone has taken the patterns down, or agreed to stop distributing them. If they did not, I would write to the forum where the patterns were posted: Blogger, Yahoo Groups, Flickr, etc. All of these sites have rules against using them for illegal activity, and distributing copyrighted materials is illegal. They will shut down the group or delete the offending blog or page once the copyright owner proves they are sharing documents illegally. Facebook also has such a rule; now and then pages show up on which entire pattern books have been scanned in. One even had a notice saying  "No copyright violation intended," as if that made it okay. But as soon as they are reported, Facebook will shut them down.
 All of my patterns are protected by copyright laws. So are practically every other self-publishing designer's, and certainly all patterns produced by the big publishing houses are. It doesn't matter if a book is out of print. Every pattern published since 1978 is protected by copyright law for 70 years after the authors death. Since I plan to live for quite a while yet, that means that none of my designs will  be in the public domain until somewhere around 2130. And even then, I hope that some of my descendants will renew the copyright on them (I plan to  set it up so that they will have the right to do so after my passing.)
The Internet has made sharing patterns easier than ever; there are literally thousands of free patterns which are available legally. I offer free patterns, too, and encourage everyone to enjoy them. (But even my free patterns are copyrighted; if you would like to share one of them, please share the link, so that your friends can download their own copy.)
 But we self-publishing designers have our place, too. Is it fair that we not be paid for our work? As my friend, designer Kathryn White, put it, "There are a lot of really good crocheters out there, but only a handful of designers that can truly create something new and exciting. Don't people understand they need to support us, not trash us? They have no concept of the amount of work that goes in to creating and writing up a pattern for one of these designs."
So the next time someone asks, "Will you share the pattern?" I hope you will think twice.
I, and all other designers, will be grateful to you.
NOTE: I just want to add that it is perfectly legal to sell your used pattern books. The problem comes when people make copies of them and try to sell the copies. In the case of pdf's, the problem comes when people post them online or make them available to others.
UPDATE: I have been asked if it is okay to sell finished items made from copyrighted patterns. It is my understanding that the copyright protects only the actual pattern itself, and  that it is perfectly legal to sell  finished items made from any pattern. I consider it a complement when someone makes an item from one of my patterns to sell, and I have several good customers who do so on Etsy and Ebay. But some designers  seem to have a problem with this issue, so I think it would be courteous to ask a designer (especially a self-publishing designer) if they allow finished items made from their patterns to be sold. They may not have the legal right to stop you, but  I would respect their wishes if they did not want you to. In my opinion, they are only hurting themselves by restricting what their customers do with their finished items, as there are many other designers out there who have no problem with it.  


Sheltie Times said...

There are people who do not understand that it is OK to share a link to a free pattern, but not republish the pattern, picture, or any other work they find on the Internet and there are those that do know and do it anyways.

For those that do not know most of them I find are cooperative about removing my writing or my pictures that they have taken. For those that know they are stealing, they require more effort and it is frustrating. I have written about this topic on a couple of my blogs because it is important for people to realize it is THEFT, not just taking something that is free and sharing it with others.

CrochetBlogger said...

Great post about an important topic. I think that this happens to all types of artists / creators. I know that I've had many of my online articles reprinted in full without permission and often without even crediting me. And I know lots of photographers whose work gets stolen like this. I'm sure many people do it unintentionally so it's good to spread the word about what an artist's rights are.

Deborah Misfit said...

It is so hard for everyone to agree on copyright laws - I wish they were more clear so that using the word vintage is understood. For example vintage patterns could include patterns from the 70's but the copyright is still in force - and some people don't get that and are selling the patterns!

Anonymous said...

I understand that sharing copyrighted material is wrong and that a designer is loosing money by this. Now, here is my question about sharing a copyrighted pattern. Say I bought a pattern or book or whatever. I made the pattern or read the book and no longer wanted it and then sold it to someone else who wanted that object. Is that wrong? Part of me says yes and part says no after reading your article. I just want to clarify things for myself because I have some old patterns here and books that I want to get rid of by selling them. Some of them, I have made the piece from and some I haven't. But, I also don't want to get myself into any kind of trouble trying to clear a little space in my house and making a few bucks at the same time. Thanks!

Ann said...

Yes, and unfortunately many of the companies that published the patterns from the 70's are out of business, so there is no one to enforce the copyright.

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

Anonymous, it is perfectly fine and legal to sell the original printed copies of patterns. The problem comes when people make copies of patterns and sell the copies, or in the case of pdf patterns, send them out or post them online.
So you can sell your old pattern legaly, with no worries!

Unknown said...

ok..so I show picture of my crochet work and tell where I got the pattern and NOT share the pattern.. Is that ok?? because I do just that.

Ann said...

Yes, that is fine, Fran. It is only redistributing (or what is often called 'sharing') patterns that is illegal. Copyright protects the actual pattern; the written instructions, photos, graphs, etc. What you make from a pattern is yours to do what you want to with. I know some designers say people are not allowed to sell items made from their patterns, but I do not agree with that idea. And I had better stop at this point, I am not a lawyer and do not want to sound like I am giving legal advice. All of this information is just my understanding of the copyright laws.

Sheltie Times said...

Fran, showing your work using your own pictures and linking back to where you got it promotes the designer's work and can result in future sales for the designer. I do this on my blog. I don't sell my work so as someone else said I won't get into the question of selling work you make from other's patterns. I have read several debates and I don't know where the law falls.

The issue arises when people use the designer's photographs or they go to someone's blog and take their pictures without permission and use them to discuss the pattern. That is not OK. Publishing the pattern online even for free, selling copies of it is also not OK.

The resale market is legit as long as it is the original item. It is no different than going into a used book store and buying a used book. You purchased the item and you own it. You are entitled to sell it. What you are not entitled to do is make copies and sell or distribute the copies. This is what costs designers.

Ann said...

Great information, Bailey! Thanks for sharing it.
Copyright violation is a huge problem among designers. I have heard a few very well know designer say they are thinking of giving it up, which would be a terrible shame, and loss to all crocheters. If designers can't make a living doing what they love and do so well, there will not be new and exciting designs. Very few professionals are willing or able to put in the many hours it takes to develope a design, without being compensated for it.

Nima said...

Thank you for sharing this information. and i always respect and obey this. Now i have a doubt, too many people ask me to make doilies for them when they see my finished doilies. Is it fine if we make and sell doilies from the pattern book i own especially the Leisure art books..i'm crazy working on so many designers patterns. I just want to know if it is fine to sell doiles made out of these pattern books. Thank you