Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why cant copyright theft be stopped?

(btw, if this sounds familiar to people, I wrote most of this post in a message that I posted on Crochetville in response to Kim Guzman's post about how one of her pattern leaflets was stolen by a Pattern Piggy a few weeks ago. The Pattern Piggy purchased the pattern from Kim, and then proceeded to email the pattern to all her friends. Now the pattern has probably been posted to a website for anyone who wants to right-click to save it to their computer can do so. I edited this message a bit to post here on my blog)


I am on a Yahoo Group that is trying to fight the Pattern Piggies from stealing from designers.

I am so disgusted that there are people out there who think nothing of uploading someone's hard work to give away to their 500 closest friends for free. It's just as bad as shoplifting.

It's just as disgusting how they try to justify their stealing. They say "I'm on a fixed income and cant afford to buy them" (well, then just how are you paying for your internet access and printing supplies?) or, they post a quote from real copyright law, yet they've distorted the meaning of that particular law to make it appear as if they're just doing it for "educational purposes".

The one that gets me, I saw on eBay the other day. A seller had on one of her auctions (for cross stitch patterns) this saying: "It is not my intention to infringe on any copyright laws - all images used are obtained from the public domain. If you see an image which I have used and can prove copyright ownership, please let me know and the image will be removed immediately!"

Just what "public domain" did she get these images from? She had Thomas Kinkaide pictures, images of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Disney characters, The Simpsons...ect...

When did these copyrighted and trademarked images get put into the "public domain"?? (the internet is NOT the "public domain".)

I emailed the seller and asked where she got the pictures. She told me she copied them off of free websites, and then she claimed that the internet is public domain, and she didnt think she was doing anything wrong.

I told her she was, and that just in case she wasnt aware, she could end up having legal monetary judgements filed against her for each instance of theft. Last I heard, you can be fined up to $150,000 per theft!

Not surprisingly, this morning when I checked, she had removed ALL her auctions and is no longer a registered member of eBay.

But, I'm sure she'll be back in a couple of days with a new name, selling more cross stitch patterns with images that she stole from the original creators and least when she cancelled her eBay account she lost all of her eBay feedback.

And sadly, there are dozens if not hundreds of eBay sellers doing the exact same thing that woman was. People are using computer programs to generate patterns for several different needlecrafts using copyrighted and trademarked material they've stolen from the original creators.

I've monitored groups and websites that are known to be Pattern Piggy friendly... I just checked one group yesterday and was just floored by the amount of scanned copyrighted material I saw on it. (I'm not mentioning the name of the site here because I dont want to encourage anyone to go there and steal)

When I last checked that site, dozens of Pattern Piggies had been scared into removing the copyrighted material from the photo pages. I hadnt checked it for about a month until yesterday. Not only were most of the illegal scans back, they'd added a bazillion more to it.

There has to be some way to stop this...too bad a lot of people consider copyright theft a victimless crime. It's not. It cost the designers, the publishers, and all the people who are involved in the publication process money.

Imagine this. A hypothetical pattern book costs $5. A person buys the book, takes it home. Scans it, and posts it to a website for 10 of her friends to "share".

(EDIT: btw, if I screwed up on the math, tell me. I think it's right, but I have a sinking suspicion I screwed up the math in the second example, and that screws up the math for the rest of the point I'm trying to make. I'm just not sure if it's screwed up...I really really suck at math...I flunked algebra 3 times in high school. Hopefully my aunt, a teacher, will see this and help me correct the math if it's wrong)

5 scanned pattern books x 10 friends = $50. That's 10 sales the designer lost out on.

Now imagine that each of those 10 friends gives the link to 10 of their friends.

5 books x 10 friends x 10 more friends = $500.

At that point the costs to the designer and the publisher starts rising exponentially.

5 books x 10 friends x 10 more friends x 10 more friends = $5,000

This means that designers lose money, and since no one is buying their work because they'd rather steal it instead, they lose their jobs. A job that I am positive most designers love to do. The publishers cut back on their publishing, the employees of the publisher lose their jobs.

Eventually it will get to a point where it will become extremely difficult to find a crochet or knitting magazine in the stores.

The Pattern Piggies either dont realize the damage their doing, or they just dont care. I imagine it's the latter.


Deneen said...

You are right on this. Occasionally, I do sell patterns and I often wonder how I would ever know if anyone has done this to mine. Ebay is one example of this happening on the daily basis, but I don't sit and troll through to see what is on there.

I did list a few of my own patterns on eBay and someone was nice enough to email me as the seller and question if they were mine or someone else's, etc. I wasn't insulted, it just showed people took the copyrights seriously and just wanted to let me know they were watching me. I repleid and told her I had written them and then linked her to my free patterns, available on line, and she wrote back and told me she just wanted me to be aware of people stealing other people's patterns and then posting them online, etc. I thanked her and although, at first I didn't understand what she was getting too, I did by the end. Thanks for people like you who pay attention to what is going on online, on ebay and on message boards.

Shari said...

I agree, Erin. What's going to happen is those of us who do buy patterns online are going to be suspects along with everyone else that bought the patterns that are being stolen. I hate that, but I don't blame the designers at all. How else are they going to track down the criminals. And that's what has to be done. A few of these patterns piggies need to pay a fine a few times. This is the only thing they will understand.

I joined the group on Yahoo that fights against copyright thieves, and I think you should name the groups and pass their names around the good forums. Maybe if a lot of us who believe in buying our patterns rather than stealing them, would bring pressure on these groups, some of them would close down.

I think though, that until Yahoo, e bay, Delphi and other places that sponser groups like this, start cracking down on this, it will just go on and on.

There really needs to be something more we can do about these 'scum of the earth' people who think they can steal patterns and images and pass them around.

Kim Guzman said...

Thank you, Erin. I do appreciate your spreading the word about this incredibly harmful subject.

And, about your recent epiphany. I had one myself! Back when I was teaching myself Tunisian, I still wasn't getting it. Yes, there was a time when I didn't know Tunisian despite the four books I've since published with Annie's Attic. LOL I decided I wanted to teach myself to knit. So, I learned to knit and purl. And, that was all it took! I then found myself doing Tunisian and creating new stitches and designing with it. Woo hoo! :-)

ErinLindsey said...

Kim, you're welcome. I figured that since I have a couple of people reading my blog occasionally, I could use my blog for good instead of evil by mentioning that copyright theft is bad. :)

Shari, what you said about the people who buy the patterns instead of stealing them becoming suspects is so true. About a month or so ago, someone on the forum had posted a message asking WHERE she could find a pineapple shawl pattern. She didnt ask for anyone to send her one, she just wanted to know where she could find one, be it a free online pattern, or something from a book she'd have to purchase.

I gave her the links to an online pattern, and several links to where she could PURCHASE a pattern.

Imagine my surprise when the designer for one of the patterns posted onto the forum a message that basically accused ME and the other girl of conspiring to commit copyright theft!

I'm fairly outspoken on about how bad copyright theft is. I figured that designer must not be a regular reader of the forum, and cut her a little slack (not much tho). But I was still mightily offended that anyone would accuse me of copyright theft by merely providing a link to the original designers website where the pattern could be PURCHASED.

But, it does go to show that the designers are starting to get tired of the theft and seriously pissed off to the point that they will take preemptive strikes against copyright theft. I dont blame that designer much taking the preemptive strike she took against me.

At least she's trying to defend her work. I may think she was a bitch the way she went about it, and because of that I wont be buying any of her patterns ever. But if I do come across any of her patterns on a Pattern Piggy website, I will be emailing her immediately to tell her about the theft.