If you SEE Something….


I guess it comes as no surprise that the issue of “Copyright” is VERY important to us…and to any designer.

It’s so important to us that we’ve devoted entire posts to this issue in the past, like this one about “When is it OK to Make a Copy“, and we even listed the potential of copyright violations as one of the major reasons that we still do not offer our patterns as pdf downloads.  But here’s the deal… as much as I like to kid myself and say that our customers would never copy our patterns with a view toward “sharing” them with their sewing buddies, the truth is, this type of behavior is more common than ever.

Take for example what happened on a recent Friday afternoon. The work week was winding down and long about 5pm I decided to take one more look at the social media sites and then make my way upstairs to rustle up something for dinner. When I got to my FaceBook page, I noticed that someone (who shall remain nameless, to protect the guilty), had uploaded a picture of a beautiful Boho Baguette she had made and I was thinking that maybe she’d like to enter her bag in our monthly contest when I noticed what she had written in reply to one of the comments under her bag and I heard myself saying…. REALLY????

“Are you KIDDING me???”

It seems that someone posted this question upon seeing her pretty Boho Baguette… “Do you have a pattern for it?’.  To which “our girl” replied….

“Yes, I bought the pattern from the same place as the last bag I made. It was much easier than the other one. I might make another. If I can find a photo copier I’ll get it copied for you?”

I just couldn’t believe my eyes!

Now I didn’t know whether these gals knew each other outside of FaceBook or not. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that “our girl” felt SO comfortable with offering to make copies of our pattern for someone else to enjoy free of charge, that she thought nothing of brazenly making this offer right under my nose.

What did I do?

Well, I defended my copyright immediately and directly which is not only my right, but my obligation. A copyright isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if you’re not willing to defend it. And to “our girls” credit, she apologized immediately, and edited her comment which I appreciated, but think about it this way… Just imagine for a second… what if the Boho Baguette had been a downloaded epattern, instead of hard-copy pattern? In this case, ‘our girl” wouldn’t have had to hunt for a suitable photo copier, all it would have taken was a simple click of a mouse for her to have “shared” our epattern illegally with everyone in her address book!  And once something is shared digitally, it’s near impossible to get it back! That’s truly a terrifying thought!

So… what’s the answer?

Most folks tend to think of copyright infringement (otherwise known as piracy) as a modern day issue, but that’s just not true. This old ad for copyright and patent preparation services from 1906 is proof that its been going on a LOT longer than that. And if you think the only ones affected by piracy are the copyright holders, think again! Copyright infringement, just like any other form of theft, generally results in price increases for the rest of us. For some reason, folks tend to think of piracy as a victimless crime, but I’m here to tell you we ALL pay when copyrights are infringed upon.

So my suggestion is  that we “borrow” a phrase from Homeland Security and start applying it to the piracy issues that have become so commonplace in the publishing industry, whether its music, film, books, patterns or anything else! (unless they’ve copyrighted this phrase, & to my knowledge… they haven’t.)  😉

If you SEE something, SAY something!

By my way of looking at it, we should be using positive peer pressure to educate our friends and relatives. For example-

  • If we see someone in our guild offer to copy & share her pattern with the entire group after show & tell, we should stand up and remind the group to check the back of that pattern. If there’s a copyright notice, then that action is not only forbidden, but against the law. Look at it this way, if that same individual stood up in front of the group and offered to share a load of zippers she had lifted from the local JoAnn’s, would THAT we OK? This situation is absolutely no different. Stealing is stealing.
  • Likewise, if we see someone make an offer such as on one of the many social media sites, we should confront that individual the same way. We should educate them first, giving them the opportunity to retract the offer. But if this methodology doesn’t work them we should shame them… yep that’s right, and then report them to the appropriate source.

I fully understand that MOST people engaging in this type of behavior don’t have a full understanding of the issue, but ignorance is not an excuse, especially if we do nothing to correct that. If you saw someone walking out of your local quilt store with several bolts of fabric they didn’t pay for, would you stand there?… or would you at least SAY something to the owner? And when “our girl” posted this offer on my FaceBook page the other day I can’t help but wonder why she wasn’t challenged by at least one of our 80,000+ readers, or at the very least why no one at least let me know this piracy offer was out there. I recognize that most of you may have been working or otherwise occupied, but I’m willing to bet there were many who DID in fact see it, and did nothing. They froze… or they waited to see if I would do something about it myself. But what we all need to acknowledge, is that when we do nothing, we give tacit approval to this behavior. We do not get the option of looking the other way.

In conclusion… I’ve had several exchanges with “our girl” by now and I know she is genuinely remorseful. I truly believe she made the offer without thinking and I really doubt she’ll ever do something like this again. She told me that the person who commented on her bag was in fact her cousin, who was undergoing a rigorous round of chemotherapy. All she really wanted to do was make her smile. And you know what— I can fully identify with her sentiment, but I do think “our girl” now understands that you just can’t give away something that belongs to someone else, can you?

So… now it’s YOUR turn!

I’ll get off the soapbox now and let YOU have a turn. I am EXTREMELY interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject and look forward to a lively exchange. Please feel free to leave your comments, ideas, suggestions and respectful retorts in the space provided below. I’m looking forward to reading and considering them!

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