Copyright Clarifications

Oh, boy. Isn't it great that writing a blog is so easy? So easy, and occasionally in such a vacuum that a post can end up not at all communicating your intent.

In a stunning absence of clarity and utilizing my full force of ambiguity, it seems I didn't make my point well in my last post. Rather than argue against comments that are entirely appropriate given the terrible job I did of presenting my opinion (except for one or two, that are irrelevant), I'm just going to post again and do my best not to muck it up.

I think that copyright laws are necessary and important, both for creators and for society. Copyright laws enable creators to protect their works so they can make a living off them, and they also allow those works eventually to enter into the public domain so that society at large can utilize them for further creation. What I find ridiculous is the length of time creators currently get to hold monopoly rights to their works.

I think copyright violations are wrong. I do not think the way to make change is to flout the law; I think the way to make change is to work within it. It is not okay to copy a crochet pattern without permission and distribute it to your friends, and it's not okay to copy a crochet pattern and distribute it to several thousand members of a Yahoo! group. What is the case, however, is that it's often prohibitively expensive and time consuming for independent copyright holders (which many crochet designers and writers are) to litigate against alleged infringers. Fair? Not really, but it is the case.

It absolutely sucks for a designer to have their pattern copied and distributed illegally. It's a violation of the law. Certainly the answer to that problem is not to go write another pattern. But if the answer is also not to litigate since it's prohibitively expensive, what is the answer? To each her own, I say. But I don't think it's a productive use of time to complain to colleagues about it ad nauseum. Ideally, it would be a good idea to put that energy toward educating the public about the importance of respecting copyright. But I've engaged pattern sharers, as have many crochet professionals, and to a great extent they're neither educated about the laws nor interested in following them. There is an astonishing factor of entitlement that pattern sharers exhibit: they believe it's their right to take any patterns they like for free and share them with thousands of strangers. Education efforts will certainly help many consumers understand the law, but they won't eradicate infringement entirely.

When I mention that crochet professionals might use their time and money more effectively for their bottom line by innovating, I'm not referring to making up new patterns: I'm referring to innovating in the way they do business. Since music was brought up as an analogy, I'll go with it. Although it's tempting to think that illegally downloading music for free is okay since music labels and rock stars are so rich to begin with, it's wrong. But that doesn't change the fact that music sharing and downloading became ubiquitous. The recording industry had two choices: litigate or innovate. An enormous amount of time and money was spent going after teenagers and grandparents. Yes, those people had broken the law. But what did the industry gain by filing such suits? A few thousand dollars in fines and lots of bad PR? That's my take. Illegal music file sharing is still going on, which leads me to believe the suits didn't work to end it. However, now look at businesses like iTunes. They made paid music downloading a massively successful business. They took consumer behaviour, however illegal it was, and created a business model to take advantage of it. That's what I mean when I mention innovation in business. I'm not saying there's one answer that all crochet professionals need to scramble to find. But I do think that given the fact that illegal copying and distributing won't be stopped, it might be a productive and profitable use of time and resources.

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