Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Copyright Scold 

I try not to be a scold about intellectual property issues. If asked, I tell!! And we still have a growing problem in the needlework and crafting industries with folks infringing on our rights as a designer.

Thankfully (for me) some of the worst thieves steal plastic canvas designs by scanning them and handing out thousands (yes, thousands)of copies in internet groups. Next worst affected seem to be crochet designs and knitting designs. Folks who do classic embroidery seem to understand the issues of rights of designers better than some stitchers.

I was pleased to see Sharon B posting a couple of good links today. Included were a gateway page to Australian resources and an online article from Needlepoint Now (the US ANG publication)by Mary Ann Jones and Matt Booth .

Now sometimes people infringe because of ignorance, but I have found this is seldom the case. We usually infringe because we want to save a few dollars. Needlework designers are usually very small businesses. We are often women-owned businesses. We depend on income from our businesses to support single-parent families, to augment retirement income or to pay the electric bill, the rent, the mortgage, the medical bills. You get the picture. BUT, if buyers of our designs take it upon themselves to copy our charts or books and pass out the charts or instructions we are deprived of that income and it is hard or impossible for us to continue in business.

These days we spend a lot of time we would rather spend designing chasing down infringers. We are not so generous in handing out complimentary designs and seldom post downloadable designs online. Have you noticed this? Have you noticed designers taking up other work? Are there less new and interesting designs out there? Are needlework magazines going out of business?

I'm not blaming all the woes of the needlework industry on infringers, but they certainly are a substantial part of the mix.

What can just one individual stitcher do to reverse this trend? They can refrain from infringement themselves. They can discourage their friends from infringing (it is a dirty nasty habit). They can lobby their legislative representatives to implement legislation protecting designers and to enforce current laws and regulations concerning needlework copyright. They can educate members of their guilds and stitching groups.

A few years ago, a group of dedicated volunteers did a survey of just one online group and compiled statistics about their "pattern sharing" (infringement). It was only a few months' worth of theft and only one group out of hundreds that exist online. The problem has only grown since that time.

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