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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... life ... art

The very nicest pirates
June 10th, 2009

I’ve been quiet for a while — I’ve been visiting family, having friends to stay, preparing to protest my property taxes, working on getting a new roof, worrying about a sick cat.  Oh yes, and tracking down pirated patterns.

Here’s the funny thing:  I have found most stitchers to be the nicest, friendliest, most helpful, and most honest people around.  So why don’t they understand that copying patterns and “sharing” them is wrong?  I’m not thinking so much of the people who post all over the place that they will share with complete strangers, or the people who sell scans of patterns on eBay.  Those people know at some level that what they’re doing is wrong and have rationialized it — they’re helping designers by giving them free advertising, or the designers charge too much so they deserve it, or whatever.  I’m thinking of the people who would never dream of doing something like that but WILL give a friend a copy of a pattern they’ve bought (and then the friend gives another friend a copy…).   I recently found one group where people chip in, buy several patterns (all different) and then they each get a copy of each pattern.   And they admonish their members not to go sharing with people who don’t share their values, whatever those are.  Would they go into a needlework store and while one person pays for a pattern, all the rest stuff a pattern into their bags and sneak out?  Of course not.  That would be stealing, and it would be wrong.  What I can’t figure out is what difference they see in what they’re doing.

I realize that people don’t understand copyrights and copyright law.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:  books, magazines, cross stitch patterns, music, movies, and basically anything else that comes printed on paper, on a CD, on a DVD, or that you can download, is copyrighted.  That means it’s dishonest as well as illegal to make even one copy, no matter how broke your buddy is, how urgently they need it, how over-priced you think it is, or how little harm it seems to be doing.

You CAN sell or give away a pattern you don’t want provided that you do it in a way that doesn’t increase the number of copies in circulation.  If your copy is clean because you can keep your place without marking the pattern, or because you never used it, go for it.  If you have a clean original because you photocopied it and marked up the copy, then you can’t give away or sell the original.  It’s that simple.  When you scan a pattern and upload it to the internet, you have effectively made an infinite number of copies.

The sad thing is that this hurts more people than just the designer (and some designers have had so much trouble with piracy that they’ve given up designing).  All the time I spend reporting copyright violations to web sites that enforce copyright (though they aren’t proactive about it) is time I can’t spend designing or adding tips and techniques to the web site.  And sadly, some web sites won’t do anything about copyright infringements, which leads to a great deal of angst and stomach acid.  I wish I could rise above it, but it’s hard.

I get requests all the time to sell patterns in electronic format.  No waiting for the mail!  No postage costs!  Well, this is the main reason I don’t and will not ever do that.  If someone is going to pirate a pattern, they’ll at least have to make the effort to scan it.

“Pirate” seems like such a harsh word for people who, really, are very nice and well-intentioned.  But what else would you call them?  Thieves?

Kind of a downer, I know.  I myself am very discouraged.

5 Responses to “The very nicest pirates”
  1. From Lani
    13 years, 9 months ago

    I can understand your frustration! I cannot imagine why anyone would assume they could just “obtain” a copy of a pattern from someone else to stitch. I wonder if people think “well, I’m making a working copy for myself, I could just run another . . .” Morality/legality aside, cross stitching is one of the most inexpensive hobbies you can have (unless, like me, you feel the need to have several lifetimes worth of projects kitted and ready to go at a moment’s notice, but that’s another issue!!), and most patterns are extremely reasonable, particularly when you consider how long it will take to finish. I do think that perhaps with websites like yours that provide a stitcher with direct access to the designer, people will begin to realize the designer is after all a “real person” who has put a lot of work, energy and love into their product. P.S. – I hope your cat is better, the roof is intact, and the taxes are reduced (Texas property taxes – gotta love them)!

  2. From Gail O.
    13 years, 9 months ago

    A clear and utterly reasonable plea for fairness to the “author” of any creative work, including patterns. I do appreciate those designers who specify on the pattern that one copy may be made for marking purposes (or, as I sometimes do, to enlarge the pattern), but then it has to be destroyed. SQ is so conscientious about this, even offering the larger-print option (which I will order next time, although I have two of your gorgeous patterns lined up, and not enough time…). I’m so glad I discovered this site when I was searching for “Meeting on the Turret Stairs” for years and years. It’s one of the best designed and easiest to navigate.

  3. From Lucy
    13 years, 9 months ago

    Of course you are right. And Lani has an excellent point about this being one of the most reasonably priced creative hobbies available. But…I do find it amusing that so many designs include an admonition that they must not be reproduced in ANY way. Of course we’re going to copy the chart (in fabric and thread) – that’s why we bought it!

  4. From Karen (rifestitch)
    13 years, 9 months ago

    Well, you have probably seen the rant I left in the forum about this very subject not too long ago. I don’t understand it, either, I really don’t. I wish there was a way to combat this problem, other than the tedious running across it, reporting it to X number of people, and hoping those people who did it finally see the light, as opposed to going and opening up another group/account/site to continue what they just got told they cannot do. Good luck to you, and everyone who has been violated by copyright infringement….

  5. From Gloria Jean
    13 years, 9 months ago

    The key issue here is copying, right? I want to be very careful and considerate. At my quilting group, the teacher said it is not ok even to share patterns. That is, no copying at all. Just I buy one, and when I am done with it, give it to you for your use. I myself don’t see any difference between that and lending someone a book or a movie. My teacher says I am wrong. What is your take?

    Well, in a perfect world, I suppose each person who wanted to read a book would buy their own copy. I’m sure authors wish that would happen! But then do you outlaw libraries?

    Honestly, I can’t say that it’s different. Some designers feel very strongly that if you buy their pattern you may not give, lend, or sell it to anyone else — even if you’ve never used it. My view is that they can’t legislate that — especially for an unused item. They certainly can’t enforce it, whether the pattern was used or not. I think your teacher perhaps is trying to raise people’s consciousness about the issue of sharing. But basically, the law says you can’t make a copy. It doesn’t say that you can’t dispose of an item that you own as you see fit.

    It would be great if everyone were so conscientious and thinking about whether they are doing the right thing or not, but as usual only the honest people are concerned. The real problem is with the people who, through the internet, are effectively making thousands of copies and giving them away.

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