Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Copyright. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Copyright is such a tricky issue for indi designers. When you find a breach, it is even harder to know what to do about it, if anything. Recently I found that a woman in a different part of the UK is knitting and then selling, in her shop, some of my designs.

She isn’t selling the patterns (as far as I know) and they are from one of my books, now out of print. So really she is selling her labour and materials. And my design. When a book goes out of print, the copyright reverts after a period of time, to the originator.  So the hand-knit design part of this book has now reverted to me. If I wanted to sell my designs knitted up, I’d knit them and sell them (highly unlikely!) or license someone to knit them, sell them and pay me for that. It would be nice to be asked.

It is infuriating to stumble across breaches like this. She isn’t even changing the names of the pieces.  But what to do?  If I insist, maybe she will desist.  In the course of such an action, I may also damage my own reputation as a ‘nice’ person, because after all, I’d be coming over all strong arm to another indi maker, right?  And what have I lost by her doing this? If someone is willing to buy a ready knitted item, chances are they can’t knit so even if I am selling the patterns – which I am, arguably they wouldn’t buy it anyway.  But they might.  They might buy it, buy the wool and pay her to knit it.  As ever for me, this is not about the money but the principle.

And, if she ignored me, what then? Would I really take it further? Given the wafer-thin margins in knitting, that’s unlikely isn’t it?

When I started working in this field, there was no Ravelry.  Yes my child, such a time existed.  How we managed to organise our stash, or even cast on, I don’t know but we did. With the advent of Rav and other places, the availability of free patterns – often untested, not checked etc – has further blurred the lines of copyright.  There is now, I think, sometimes an assumption that everything just might be free.  For example, I know that a lot of people generously share their patterns with others, with absolutely no idea that it’s basically taking the fee – usually just a few quid or dollars – from the original designer.  Recently a lovely lady sent me a pattern that I admired.  And I was very touched.  But it meant that I had to privately go to this designer’s website and buy it anyway, as otherwise, I couldn’t have knitted the thing at all. I do use free patterns now and then. I have recently decided to knit a jumper (it has been cast on, knit to the yoke – and frogged but I might knit it yet…) and I used a free design.  Largely because I could not find the exact yarn used and techniques in a bought pattern.  If I can find a suitable pattern now (I need to change to a 4 ply design now, having already bought yarn that says DK and boasts a DK tension but is obviously not DK when knitted by me!), I will buy it as I reckon a bought design will have had more scrutiny.

I would also add that knitting my designs and giving them away as gifts is an activity I fully endorse in fact I actively promote it! And knitting things for an event for charity – also fine but as they are being sold, I should be asked and sometimes I am. I always say yes anyway.

What will I do about this woman?  She’s just trying to make a living, like me. At least they look reasonably well knitted. But aside from keeping the original names of my designs, there is (as far as I can see from her shop) no ‘credit’ to me, not even a nod in the direction of the book.  I think what has happened is that ages ago, she bought the book; and now she knits and sells things from it.  So she may think, if she thinks of it at all, that by buying it once, she has the ‘right’ to do this.