What the h– does Copyright cover?

It amazes me that in the designing lists, and on Ravelry forums, I am seeing this crop up. Not the question of copyright and what it covers, but situations where someone has had their copyright violated and they are being blatantly taken advantage of.

Copyrights are a bundle of rights, that the creator of a work at this time has from the very beginning. First North American Serial Rights, for example, would be what an author sells to a magazine the first time an article is printed in a magazine. Although now-a-days, with the internet and all, publishers usually make a grab for more rights than that. The right to anthologize or have the item in a digital collection, the right to distribute something digitally, etc.

All of these rights have value. As the activity that the right is related to provides profit or potential profit to someone.

For those of us out there that purchase a knitting pattern, maybe have a blog or knitting group, how does this impact us?

Well, first off let’s look at what we get when we purchase a pattern. Yes, the physical pattern is ours to do with as we wish. We can make a photocopy to work from so our original stays pristine. What we don’t have the right to do is make copies and give them to our knitting buddies. As hard as that might be and it doesn’t seem right that we cannot share with them. That sharing, magnified beyond our little group, can and has put designers out of business. When we make a copy and give it to a friend, we are in fact distributing the pattern. That is part of the copyright also, the right to distribute the pattern. What has actually happened, however innocent, is that the designer has had that distribution taken away from them and the loss of that income.

Does this apply to free patterns too? You betcha it does. Just because it is free doesn’t mean it isn’t copyright protected. You may distribute it only if it states you may do so.

What about the photography? Can I scan the photography and use that? In a word, no. Does it happen without anything bad happening? Yes, because publishers want people to buy their publications. In all actuality, that photograph that was scanned from a book or magazine is also copyright protected. It is good form to get permission to do so. Even if you are an avid blogger who posts lots of pictures, and you asked them if you could post scans of pictures on your blog as long as you don’t post the patterns and they gave you a blanket yes.

What about out of print books that are still in copyright? Those are copyright protected too. Sorry, those cannot be scanned, reproduced, and distributed by anyone but the copyright holder. Inter-library loan, or purchase of used books. That is the legal and ethical way.

I have to question why we as a group of people are so greedy that we cannot wait a little to get an item in an ethical and legal manner. We want something so badly that we don’t care if we don’t have the right to distribute something. The hard facts are if it isn’t ours to distribute, than it isn’t our choice to make on whether it is distributed or not. We cannot look at it as our innate right to have it, because it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how fabulous the design is, or how much of a shame it would be for it not to be shared with humanity. If we do not hold the copyright, we have taken that choice away from the person who does have the right to make that choice.

How do I know the pattern I am getting on ebay or etsy hasn’t been lifted from someone else? I don’t know the answer to that one. I was reading on Ravelry some issues related to copyright violations on etsy and ebay. The best thing I can tell you is to do everything you can to be an ethical and conscientous consumer. Let the buyer beware. Be conscious of whether something passes the snif test. You are not going to see a professional looking spread that is poorly scanned. Why? If someone has the money to pay for a graphic designer and layout that is professional, they are going to have a file that has a professional quality look to it as well. That is the kind of thing that we need to be more aware of.

If you purchase directly from the designer, well that is a much more certain thing. You know, if I ever do go the pdf route, I am going to post on my blog where authorized sources are.

We depend on you to let us know when you see things out there on the web. I don’t know how many times I have read about designers being contacted by someone familiar with their work.

There are a lot of people, even in our cozy corner, who want to make money without doing any work themselves and think nothing of copying the photography and pattern and selling it as their own.

For those who bring that to the attention of designers who are affected, you are heroes.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


3 Responses to “What the h– does Copyright cover?”

  1. Connie Says:

    Interesting food for thought, Jolene. As I am readying my first self published patterns, these things have been on my mind as well. Part of me just wants to continue publishing with established publications so I don’t have to deal personally with the heartache and headache of having a design I put so much work into copied and distributed without my permission. So this first self published design is an experiment for me. I hope it works out.

  2. jolenetreace Says:

    Indeed. I would like to encourage you in any way I can, as I think you are a talented designer. Not everyone has problems but when they crop up, it is a difficult thing to go through. Unfortunately, some designers forget that there really are people who don’t understand copyright laws besides those that just don’t care and will do what they want to do regardless of the impact to others.

    Cheers, JoLene

  3. PleannaHiehasy Says:

    It’s amazing

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