Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Copyright craziness



I belong to several online groups of art quilters and pattern desginers who have been struggling with copyright issues. Most people just don't understand copyright law (and there is a LOT that is complex about it.) But this part is simple. If you photocopy a copyrighted quilt pattern (one that says “copyright” on it, or has the copyright symbol, the little circle with the c inside it), you are violating American copyright law. You are breaking the law. You are stealing someone else’s work. I know a lot of quilters who share patterns; after they've made the item, they give the pattern to someone else. (This is not illegal, but it is unethical, in my opinion, because it deprives the designer of any income.) Or they make photocopies of a pattern and give it to a friend. (This is illegal under copyright law.) Most of them are not bad people. They just don't think about what they are doing.

Most pattern designers don’t make much money. They are like the rest of us: just trying to pay their mortgages, pay their kids' dentist bills, and heat their homes. After making color copies, photocopies and/or paying a printer to print … and then calculating in the time for collating, stuffing and putting the patterns in polybags, the profit margin is not big. Believe me. And then … if you sell your patterns to a quilt shop directly, you get about half the retail price. If you sell your patterns to a distributor, they usually want an additional 30% knocked off the wholesale price.

I'm not outraged, I'm not angry. I don't think I can control the world, and I don't think the problem will ever go away. I just think that the quilting industry needs to educate consumers about copyright. With that goal, I'm going to start including this orange copyright logo on all my patterns. If you are a pattern designer, and would like to use this logo, contact me and I'll send you a copy. Or pull it off my blog and use it. It is NOT copyrighted. If we all start talking about the issues, maybe people will understand it better and start doing the right thing.