In the World of Crochet
Every pattern begins with an idea created by a designer that evolves into a product that she/he owns. Patterns in magazines, books and on yarn company websites are usually purchased by a bona fide business and the copyright is transferred to that company. There are also hundreds of thousands of patterns available for purchase or offered for free directly by a designer. Regardless of who owns the rights, the pattern is not to be reproduced for sale or distribution by someone other than the owner. Doing so is copyright infringement, theft or piracy. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence that ranges from virtual “shoplifting” of a single pattern and posting it on a craft website under someone’s name other than the designer, to entire books stolen and sold illegally. In every case, not only has a designer been disrespected and hurt financially, the effects reach far and invade the business of pattern design. I spoke with well-published crochet designers who have been affected by this insidious and ethical problem. They all strive to earn a living from their design work; for some, revenue from fiber arts is their sole source of income so any loss of earnings is detrimental. Bonnie Barker, known for her Celtic cable designs, self-publishes her work, sells to magazine and yarn companies, and has had books produced by major publishers. She’s had two books and more than 40 patterns stolen. Lorene Eppolite knows she’s had at least 50 patterns taken illegally. Mary Beth Temple said someone stole a knit pattern and sold 103 copies. Their loss of income ranges from the unknown to enough money to help with a child’s college tuition. Dora Ohrenstein took the issue a big leap further, saying that theft of her patterns doesn’t only hurt her, it damages the publisher of her stolen books. The production of books and magazines involves pattern testers, various editors and proofreaders, layout artists, photographers and models. Publishers are taking a gamble on the craft book. If it’s stolen, it deprives income to the designer and the publisher, which, later on, “could make publishers leery of investing in crochet books of any sort, and therefore does widespread damage” to the craft industry, according to Dora. Pirated patterns have been found on Etsy, blogs, eBay UK, websites in the U.S., China, Russia, Brazil, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. There is little, if any, monetary recourse for the designer. So, what does a designer do? When theft is discovered on a site such as Etsy, sometimes a written request to the offender along with filing a claim with the site administrator will result in the removal of the pattern. Bonnie turned to the publisher of her stolen book so the legal department could intervene on her behalf. Hiring an intellectual property lawyer is expensive and rarely an option affordable to a designer. The publisher was able to shut down the website but no money was recovered. Mary Beth notified her publisher as well when her books were found on Russian and Chinese sites. The legal department may have filed a DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) takedown notice, but according to Dayna McMullen, founder of Crafters Against Pattern Piracy and Copyright Infringement, this is basically a cease and desist order that identifies the copyright holder (publisher or designer) and where the violation is taking place on a website. She says most websites take these very seriously and will immediately remove the material that violates copyright law. Dayna, a nondesigning crocheter and reseller of vintage craft magazines, books and kits, started an anti-piracy Facebook group, Crafters Against Pattern Piracy and Copyright Infringement, in 2018, to educate designers and pattern users about copyright law after many crocheters contacted her to discuss violations they found online. The group is open to crafters of any kind. It posts links to articles that explain how to recognize a pirated pattern site and will guide designers or publishers with filing takedown forms when the need arises. Despite her group’s efforts, violations will continue, she says, “until our copyright laws have more teeth for the crafter, make it less expensive for crafters to register their work with the Copyright office …We need the support of our lawmakers to protect the creative work of our designers so they will be free to create rather than spending their valuable time looking for and dealing with pattern pirates.” Sadly, as Lorene said, “it is virtually impossible to get foreign sites to take down patterns …This is a part of doing business. Unfortunately.” Help our designers keep their work where it belongs. If you see a pirated pattern, report it to the owner, publisher or McMullen’s Facebook page.