Monday, June 05, 2006

No good deed goes unpunished

You have heard me before wax rhapsodic about the beauty of the Internet. Where else would you find such a treasure trove of free information on such a range of topics? And knitters, in particular, seem to be both plugged in to the 'net, and willing to share their hard-earned information with others. You can find all sorts of instructional sites, tips and tricks, and of course, a bonanza of free patterns.

Ah! The free patterns.

If you've been following any of my blog posts on copyright, you may recall reading that someone who creates a pattern owns the copyright on it, even if it's posted on the internet. You write it, you own it. A pattern may appear on Knitty or Magknits or Knancy Knitter's blog, just a few clicks away from your search engine, and you may print it out for free, and make your own version of the garment for free, but that doesn't mean that the creator of the pattern has given away her copyright rights or her copyright protection. And more to the point, it doesn't mean YOU can freely distribute or sell that pattern, in any form, without the permission of the copyright holder, i.e., the designer. It may be free for the taking (for your own personal knitting use), but it ain't free for the reselling.

Jenna, of the excellent Girl from Auntie website (it's more than just a blog), learned of a seller on Ebay who is selling -- for a pretty nominal sum -- "ebooks." Ebooks is a fancy name for PDF files. I've got nothing against PDF files; in fact, I think they are the wave of the future where knitting patterns are concerned. But I've got a lot against someone who sells ebooks full of stolen knitting patterns.

Yes, that's right, I used the word "stolen." Dictionary.com defines "steal" as "to take (the property of another) without right or permission." That's exactly what happened to Jenna, and many other knitting and crochet designers. Patterns which they designed and posted on the internet were downloaded and turned into PDF files, with the copyright notices conveniently deleted, and in some cases, alterations made (a Crystal Palace pattern was changed to require a generic type of yarn rather than their specific yarn). The patterns are being bundled and sold as ebooks, so that the designers -- who did not authorize or license their patterns to be used in this way -- aren't receiving any of the money made from the sale of these ebooks. That is theft of intellectual property.

You can read on Jenna's website the correspondence between her and the ebay seller. He claimed to have some kind of "resell rights," meaning, I think, that he bought the ebook content from others and since he bought it, he owns it. What a load of crap. You can't sell something you don't own. Consider this: If I walk over to your house, stand in front of it and pretend it's mine, and then accept $100,000 from the next passer-by for your house, can the passer-by claim that he owns your house now? He paid money for it, didn't he?

Of course not. And this ebay seller shouldn't hide behind his stupidity or his (alleged) ignorance of copyright law or probably more to the point, his intentional disregard of copyright law.

The knitting community benefits tremendously from the wealth of free patterns and other information that knitters load onto the web, most often for free, out of the goodness of their hearts. Let's not abuse their kindness by failing to respect copyright law.

11 comments:

Liz said...

I assume you and others have seen this: http://pages.ebay.com/help/tp/vero-rights-owner.html -- it may make sense to stop trying to talk sense to the thief, and instead get him/her delisted from eBay (I know it won't solve things forever, but it's a step, right?)

j. said...

I {heart} you.

Stacey said...

Hopefully someone has reported this guy! How annoying and disrespectful! (not to mention illegal!)

Barb B. said...

Unbelievable what some people have the brass balls to do. Stealing is stealing whether it's your car or your knitting pattern. Thanks for the heads up on this, it's something to watch for when I check out knitting books for sale on e-bay.
I have two other issues with the use of free patterns. There are the people who whine that the free pattern should be clearer, be in 16 sizes etc. What do you want the designer to do for nothing? And the people who search the net for free patterns, then find a pattern from a designer they like, and are furious that they have to pay for this one.
Thanks for a great post.
Barb B.

Carol said...

Yes, after my first pattern was published in knitty, someone wanted help with it: they wanted to change the gauge, and go bottom up instead of top down, and use straight needles instead of knitting in the round, and maybe change the size, too, and omit some of the color changes. Shockingly, I did not volunteer to rewrite the pattern making all those changes to it. 'Cuz I'm such a bee-atch, I guess. ;)

Joe said...

Thanks for bringing this more widespread attention. Jenna's (as usual) thorough review of this thief's work is infuriating.

All I want to know is what the hell is wrong with my patterns that he didn't steal them?

brewerburns said...

Amen.

ivyleaves said...

EBay is famous for deleting auctions at the request of a copyright holder, so this specific instance should be easy to remedy. However, it is disheartening how many people justify theft, and not just online. I have a friend who posted free patterns that were being sold in a shop for cash, with the copyright and use notices not even deleted. When contacted the offending party still claimed it was OK, but supposedly stopped. Amazing.

Coco Schapparelli von Furstenburg III said...

Thanks for keeping vigilant on this topic and letting us know what is still going on. Your house analagy was right on target.

Marilyn said...

Why am I not surprised that someone is culling all the free patterns and then publishing them, thinking that "free" means no copyright?

In fact, I had that happen to me on about.com a couple of years ago. Barbara Breiter published my "Leaves of Grass" sock pattern that was a 1997 KnitList Christmas gift but clearly stated that it was for KnitListers only and any other publication of the pattern needed my permission. I had to write Barbara and tell her that she had to take the pattern down. She did. If she had asked permission, I would have said yes. She didn't ask.

Jenna, as always, is on top of these issues. Thanks for writing about this. You legal beagle, you.

Jennifer said...

I never had a fear of flying......until I talked to you!

Good luck Carol! I'm sure you girls will be fine!