Law of mass conservation:
“Dans la nature rien ne se crée, rien ne se perd,
In nature nothing is created, nothing is lost,
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier
There’s a play with this quote (in Brazil, at least) that states that in TV nothing is created, everything is copied. The same principle can be (and is) applied to the fashion universe. It’s a quote I’ve had to remind myself of many times since I started publishing patterns.
I know of at least two designers who started their careers by “reinventing” patterns of mine. A few months ago I saw a book with a stitch pattern that came straight from one of my designs (to be honest, I wouldn’t call it a stitch pattern, but this not the point of this entry).
This introduction is to make it clear that I know all too well what it means to have your creations -errrrrrr- re-created. I made the decision to not go looking for this, because the alternative isn’t healthy.
Enter the Chinese website:
Last year, thanks to a thread on Ravelry, I became aware of a website/online community that was breaching copyright left and right. Against my better judgment, I went there to check it out and sure enough there were patterns of mine available there.
I had mixed feelings about the whole thing – the website is really confusing to navigate, there’s no visible way to contact the people responsible for it… I felt sorry for some of the stuff I saw there and more so for the people who use the website. From what I understand there’s a currency thingy going on there: meaning people would have to pay money for the patterns available. I felt like those people were being duped. At least as far as my patterns are concerned, since the ones I found were free.
Based on the fact that people were paying for stuff they could get elsewhere for free, I decided to investigate the website a little further.
Well, it turns out the website is hosted in China, which pretty much translates into “Good luck getting the website’s host to take any action”.
I Pmed the person who posted the link to the Chinese website, told her what I’d found and explained why it would be very hard to get the patterns pulled. This was the last I dwelt into it. Well, until the beginning of this week.
Outrageous indignation :
At the beginning of this week (yet) another designer found out about the (by now infamous) Chinese website. Much gnashing of teeth happened, a few pearls were clutched, some great (NOT!) ideas shared. I even saw a hilarious threat (aka: flounce).
People contacted Google, Google Ads, Adsense, random companies…you name it. Some even shared info on how to contact consulates and suggested contacting the Chinese government.
Most of the suggestions led to dead ends (and probably a lot of people on the other end of the missives scratching their heads). The “best” they achieved was that Google doesn’t show their patterns on Google searches anymore.
And I died laughing. From here on this is being written by zombie-me. Zombie-me is also responsible for all the clichés that will follow.
Be careful what you wish for:
If you add up all of the many, many threads and posts from designers wringing their hands and wondering why their patterns aren’t selling/how to sell more/ variations of the theme, you’ll find out those people spend a huge amount of time thinking, posting and tweaking in pursuit of the perfect SEO, all social media, blogs etc.. Some of them even go as far as making questionable posts on Ravelry, trying to plug their work.
In an amazing and unexpected (to me) turn of events, those people who work so hard to get recognition shot themselves on the foot by
asking demanding Google excluded them from searches.
Well done, dimwits! You just lost a venue that you were working so hard to get.
You can’t have it both ways:
As I mentioned on my previous section, those people are chasing after fame and fortune (ROFLMAO), they want their patterns to go viral, to become a well-known (read: lots of sales) designer.
Here’s the thing, though. The more your designs become desirable, the more visible your creations become, the more people will try to copy your work.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at ANY fashion show (pin or add links to your favorites, if your memory is as bad as mine) and then check out what the more affordable brands come up with for the same season. Yep. A boatload of “inspired by” and a handful of plain copycat designs.
Pick your choice: you can either remain somewhat invisible (and not be able to design as a full-time job) or you can become one of the industry’s big names (and see your patterns/emulations of your patterns) all over the internet.
When everything else fails…
Spam Ravelry and make sure to earburn Casey.
I’ve seen at least four different threads created to discuss this copyright infringement. I didn’t even do a search, those were in fora I usually check anyway.
The brilliant (NOT!) idea of having Casey code something that would plaster a watermark over any sold pattern was brought to the table. This watermark would have a text that read something along the lines of “Sold on Ravelry. Bought by firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Enter the nope octopus. There’s no way I’d let the privacy of my buyers be violated that way. I do not want to deal with angry (and reasonably so) buyers who can’t see my pattern clearly because there’s a huge, awful watermark all over it. I won’t send a message that basically says: “I got your money, but I don’t trust you. So I’ll make it very difficult for you to knit this, but not so difficult for you to take it off and breach my copyright.”.
The people who will have problems with a watermark are the people who don’t have the skills to erase it, and those people are less likely to make a pattern available without authorization.
Then, there’s the problem of the size of my charts – they are big, and the new designs I’m working on right now have even bigger ones. I could make them smaller to accommodate for the stupid watermark and in the process alienate those who, like me, lack a good eyesight; or I can say no to the idea – which is what I did.
I alienate enough people already by not offering written instructions. I’m not going to prevent more people from working from my patterns by making them impossible to follow (Heck! I wouldn’t be able to follow them myself!).
Casey has offered a great suggestion: not happy? Take your business elsewhere. Other venues do offer what you want. It won’t stop piracy from happening, though, and it will come back to bite you.