Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bright Spot

As you know if you've read this for awhile, I moderate and/or own (there is a distinction which is not my own) several Yahoo groups. Most are knitting-related.

There are a LOT of knitting patterns out there. Some are free, in the public domain. Most are not. They are instead copyrighted works, the product of some creator's hard work and often, at least part of what puts food on their table. As you might expect, there are a lot of people who work to subvert that, sharing patterns illegally, even going so far as to sell reproductions of work still under copyright law on sites like eBay, which is just too large an organization to catch them all.

Sometimes, I understand people's frustration. There are patterns by designers whose names are legendary that simply are not currently available in print. Strenuous efforts to get them re-released, or the copyright re-assigned for publication are often fruitless. Buying originals is often far too expensive for the average one is more average than I! But there is no pattern out there so marvelous that breaking the law to obtain it is okay.

As you also might expect, as someone who earns a living under copyright law, I'm pretty stringent about protecting the rights of others. I am not a lawyer, but I'm also not an idiot, whatever you may have heard. I've read the copyright law and it's mostly common sense. If you didn't create it, it's not yours to sell or otherwise disseminate. Pretty simple, one would think. But at least three or four times a year, mostly on one particular list, I have to rein in someone from feeling they are above the law. Oh, I know they don't think of it that way, but it's what it boils down to.

The most recent was someone wanting help with translating a stitch legend. She chose to try to do it by posting a photo of the legend on the list. That's reproducing a copyrighted work, and I didn't permit the photo to go through. Another list member got on her high-horse, stating that was not a copyright violation, because you cannot copyright an idea or process. True. But this isn't an idea or process, it's a portion of a printed pattern. She countered that she was a designer (I've never seen anything by her) and that she had studied copyright law for a year. Feeling a bit snippy - I know you're astonished - I reminded her that that that didn't make a copyright lawyer of her, and that as long as I was moderating the list, I would err on the side of caution and designers. I added that the conversation was over, and to her credit, she stopped. Most of them don't!

Now, I have to say this gets old. But today, someone who is extremely well-known in the area of lace design in the U.S. wrote to me. She is one of several prominent designers on this list. Since I haven't asked her permission, I won't use her name, but this is what she wrote:

"Hi Diana, Thank you for taking care of the laceknitters list so well.
Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate it. Cheers! "
To quote Ruth Gordon when she won the Academy Award, "I can't tell you how encouraging a thing like this is." It reminds me again of something I try to practice, and sometimes fail...if you have a pleasant thought or compliment you're thinking about someone, voice it! You never know when that small word of encouragement will be the best thing that happens to them all day.
It sure made mine!

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