All of us know of the ripple effect
when a pebble is thrown into water. Few of us probably think
this has anything to do with the simple act of accepting a
gratuitous copy of a copyrighted needlework pattern.
All of us know that we need April
showers to grow May flowers. Few of us probably think this truism
has anything to do with whether or not a needlework designer
thrives or withers away.
All of us are familiar with the
trickle down effect. Few of us probably consider the ramifications
of this concept in the needlework industry.
Yet, important changes are occurring in the ways business
is conducted today - in the needlework industry as well as nearly
every other area. It is indisputable that the Internet has had
far reaching positive effects on all of our lives. However, a
practice that, at first blush, seems purely innocent and altruistic
in intention, is having devastating consequences in the lives
and livelihoods of the professionals in our industry.
Many stitchers are familiar with the Napster issue involving
piracy of music on the web, but may not be aware of an issue
of much greater significance to them as dedicated needleworkers
- Pattern Piracy on the Internet. According to an August 1, 2000
article in the L.A . Times, "Is a Stitch Online a Crime?"
a number of pattern publishers and designers claim that their
patterns are being swapped on the Internet for free. While those
involved in this practice say that it's just "friendly sharing",
what are the deeper implications?
We've spoken to designers, manufacturers, large and small
publishers, distributors, sales reps, teachers and shop owners
and the verdict is unanimous that this is a potentially disastrous
situation. The domino effect created by loss of sales at the
beginning of the supply chain affects everyone and it is ultimately
the consumer who will suffer the most.
Currently involved in the controversy are a huge number of
charted designs for cross stitch and plastic canvas. The L.A.
Times article states "...sewing enthusiasts have discovered
[they] can steal copyrighted material over the Internet, thanks
to anonymous file-sharing techniques." PatternPiggiesUnite!
a digital clubhouse on eGroups, a free Web-based service that
allows individuals to create e-mail groups and electronic bulletin
boards to share files, was launched in late 1999. Although it's
originator, Carla Conry, insists that those involved are only
sharing these designs with friends, the site quickly attracted
hundreds of stitchers anxious to download bootlegged patterns
Initial reaction to this practice might be: "So what?
Needlework is a hobby and people who stitch are mostly older
women. Needlework shops are businesses run by older women who
either don't need the revenues for their livelihood or merely
are looking for something to do with the extra time on their
hands." Nothing could be further from the truth. Jim Hedgepath
of Needlecraft Showcase recently conducted a survey in the Needlecraft
Showcase Newsletter, which has substantial readership. 75% of
the stitchers who responded were under 55 years of age. Survey
results also clearly indicated that designers and shop owners
tend to be well below retirement age and many do rely on the
income from their businesses to support themselves and their
Following are some typical responses we received to our
questions on the subject:
Sharon Wainwright, President of the International Needleart
Retailers Guild (INRG), a leading trade association, notes, "Without
the designers, we might as well close our doors." The INRG,
which represents 595 members in nine countries, is collecting
monies that are being put towards a growing legal fund, named
the INRG Legal Defense Fund.
Designer Jennifer Aiken-Smith of Dragon Dreams and member
of the STP (Stop the Pirates) Committee: In an article entitled,
"Needlepoint Pirates Pillage on the Internet," published
on the montrealgazette.com site on Aug. 8, 2000, Jennifer states,
"People say, 'I'm just sharing it.' But they're not sharing
the original physical leaflets. And that's where they're breaking
the copyright." She continues, "If you buy a book,
you can sell it at a yard sale, you can give it to a friend,
you can give it to your church for their rummage sale, but you
can't scan it into the Internet and start distributing it for
free." Although there are only a small percentage of people
who are doing this right now, Jennifer knows of one woman who
scanned 3,000 patterns and then shared them with several hundred
people. "The biggest threat for me is the mental philosophy
that this is OK to do," she says. "We want to educate
the public so that they don't think that this is what is normal
or this is what they're entitled to, because there won't be a
cross-stitch industry." Jennifer explains further, "I
think we WILL need to use it [the Legal Defense Fund) to go after
some of the more persistent ladies behind some of the worst violations."
The committee is in the process of putting together a design
book to raise funds. Entitled, A Celebration of Stitching,
it will be published by Krause. Jennifer continues, "I came
up with this idea in Charlotte when larger companies stood up
to offer to write cheques for the fund. I thought, 'What can
I as a small designer do?'" Since Jennifer originated the
idea, all agreed that she should coordinate the project. In retrospect
Jennifer muses, "It might have been easier to just write
a chequebut I feel this will create a thing of beauty, which
will be treasured for years to come." Each designer is contributing
a 30 x 30 stitch work, designed exclusively for the book. Those
on the committee are donating their time and energy for the cause.
Designer Janice Love of Love 'n Stitches: A teacher who was
using one of Janice's designs for a class called her for some
information. Through her, Janice discovered that someone else
had, without permission, scanned all the figures for her designs
and used them as her own. Janice says, "I have a husband
who supports me and don't have to depend on my needlework for
a living. But if this keeps on, I'll quit. It's just not worth
it. Unfortunately other designers do depend on their designs
for their livelihood and they won't be able to afford to keep
designing." Janice is considering hiring a good copyright
lawyer who is familiar with needlework, to protect her rights.
Designer Emie Bishop of Cross 'N Patch Needlework Designs:
"I've had a MAJOR and demonstrable copyright infringement.
The Australian magazine Embroidery and Cross Stitch published
my design "Emie and Mariann's Teaching Sampler" from
my book Embellishments (Ginnie Award winner). It was brought
to my attention by a fan in Australiayou can imagine my pain.
It is now called "Heart's Content Sampler" and the
introduction reads: 'INSPIRED BY EMIE BISHOP'S DESIGNS, THIS
SAMPLER IS THE RESULT OF ADRIANA VAN BRUCHEM'S INTERPRETATION
OF HER WORK' It wasn't just 'inspired by,' it is a line-for-line
copy of my design! Adriana added THREE rows of her own. Any designer
knows that adding three ROWS doesn't make it hers. The LABOR
of working out the details of the design are all mine - no changes
in color, dimensions, etc. They also stole my artwork for the
stitches. They 'lifted' them right out of the book. I have contacted
a copyright lawyer. There have been faxes and letters back and
forth. Right now the ball is 'in their court.' They have suggested
a 'commercial settlement.' They claim innocence and feel 'indemnified'
from litigation by their contract with Adriana Van Bruchem. They
state further that if we take them to court, Adriana will file
for bankruptcy. My feelings have ranged from feeling violated
- just as any victim would - to anger and wanting them arrested
and thrown in jail! I have to agree with my husband who has always
said that my designs are 'my children.' They were conceived in
my imagination, they were incubated and given life through the
process that I go through getting them ready for publication.
I feel that someone has stolen one of my children! I don't believe
in throwing good money after bad. And I don't believe in wasting
my emotional calories on anything negative. As a creative person,
I love looking forward and spending my energy on the future.
And I am left wondering why I should publish anything else. If
anyone can do this and get away with it, then I am wasting my
time, energy and money."
Publisher Jim Hedgepath of Pegasus Originals: Already since
1997, sales at Pegasus have shown a drop of 40% as a result of
the pattern piracy trend. Jim has personally been extremely instrumental
in bringing this problem to media attention. He has been interviewed
on this issue for articles in the L.A. Times, Time Magazine and
on the radio. The definitive action that larger corporations,
such as Time Warner and Disney, have taken with infringement
on their copyrights has helped to validate the efforts of smaller
businesses. Jim states, "It gives us a platform to speak
from so that the media and the public take our concerns seriously."
Jim Hedgepath adds, "I want...to show that this practice
is not only illegal and hurts designers and stores, but it hurts
Designer Lois Caron of The Caron Collection: "Free samples
-- patterns, cosmetics, food or other merchandise -- are a marketing
tool to entice the consumer to try something new and encourage
them to patronize their local retailer. We provide free patterns
on our website and free patterns to shops with every order for
just this reason, as do many other designers. This is not a blanket
invitation to help oneself to the entire production of a company
or individual, however. Most of us will quickly be out of business
if a large portion of our revenues is denied us because of free
circulation of our designs."
Manufacturer: DMC is a huge company, which is very generous
about providing free patterns to support their threads. DMC Senior
Public Relations Manager, Jill Siroty states, "Obviously,
we're 100% behind the designers, even though, not being a pattern
publisher, we are not directly affected. But it is clearly an
issue for the industry as a whole, because what affects the designers,
affects the entire industry indirectly in some way and could
be much more of a problem for all in the future. It's good that
a lot of attention is being brought to bear because this will
help the industry and also educate the consumer, whom it will
affect in the long-run."
Distributor: Hoffman Distributing Company carries patterns
from a very large group of designers, both large and small. President
Lane Hoffman says, "From a wholesale distributing standpoint,
this copying trend hurts designers across the board. Several
designers have already decided not to continue designing. The
consumer should realize that each time they don't purchase a
design, it hurts both the designer and the shop. This issue impacts
on the publishing business and retailers. When someone is distributing
charts for free, shops don't need to order from us. A vast majority
of the shops that we sell to are retail storefronts and they
need every sale they can get. The shops and the designers need
to be supported by the consumers. The designers need to see an
incentive, whether financial or otherwise, to keep designing.
Many consumers are unaware of the implications of taking a free
chart. People don't really understand copyright law and therefore
consumers think it's an innocent thing to copy and give their
friends designs, but they need to think about it more carefully
if they want to ensure the availability of designs for the future.
Education of the public is where the emphasis needs to be. This
will be the most effective tool to counteract the dilemma. We
need to let them know its illegal but also to show them the long-term
effects. I'm glad the industry is working together to resolve
this issue and strengthen our industry. People who enjoy stitching
should do all they can do to support their needlework supplier,
therefore their favorite designers."
Distributor: Wichelt Imports, owner Joyce Wichelt: "We
have not encountered this situation, but we certainly back the
designers and all the efforts that Jim Hedgepath and others have
done on this concern. I applaud them for all that they have done!"
Gay Bowles of Gay Bowles Sales Inc: "Basically, this
situation puts a lot of designers out of workIt stifles creativity
in needlework and needlework cannot continue to grow and prosper
and may disappear. It is extremely unfortunate that artists and
designers have no protectionPeople who are doing the copying
are only hurting themselves in the long run."
Sales Representative Gary Fielding: "People that turn
around and pirate patterns are stealing someone else's artistic
output, reflecting their own selfishness. But if the artists
don't make money from their designs, they cannot continue designing,
so ultimately it is the consumer who loses out."
Just Cross Stitch Magazine, Lorna Reeves, editor: "The
magazine has not taken an official position as of yet because
we have not been hit directly with Internet Piracy. Our only
exposure to the problem has been at the Charlotte show and through
discussions with designers, whom we support wholeheartedly. Of
course there are instances of people scanning or copying some
charts from back issues, which is inevitable. I do know of several
people in the industry who have been severely affected. In order
to protect ourselves, we do ask designers to sign a copyright
release, which states that for any design printed in the magazine,
the designer is the sole creator of that material."
needlepoint now magazine - Assistant Editor, Maria
De Simone: "As publishers of a magazine we must be very
sensitive to copyright violations. We actively protect the magazine
copyrights. It is important that people understand that designers
and teachers make their living producing and selling unique designs.
And of course, the very survival of a magazine assumes active
understanding and observance of our copyright laws."
Teacher, Marion Scoular: This piracy situation is not new to
Marion. She had first-hand experience with it about 10 years
ago when she was on a teaching assignment and stayed at a student's
home. During the night, her hostess photocopied all of Marion's
instructions and then self-published a book using them. Marion
subsequently spent about $3000 in legal fees trying to protect
her copyright, at which point her lawyer told her that unless
she was willing to invest $10,000 to $15,000 more, there was
not much else she could do but request the person using her instructions
unlawfully, to cease and desist. But Marion is quick to stress
that what is at stake is not only the financial repercussions,
"It takes an emotional toll as well, since the situation
was deeply disturbing. As a small designer, I rely on my income
from teaching and designing for my livelihood and such plagiarizing
puts that in jeopardy. This is becoming much too prevalent and
something has got to be done about it, to expose the people who
are doing it. At the very least, we must compel them to seek
permission when using someone else's designs and to tribute the
designer for their work." Marion can cite several other
designers who have been affected and have had their work plagiarized.
She adds, "The Internet technology available today is definitely
exacerbating the problem."
Shop owner Diane Pittman of Yankee Cross Stitch: "Theft
of intellectual property has always been a big problem in the
needlework industry. Our industry is very small compared to others
- most of our designers are small talented and creative individuals
who are not making a big profit on their ideas and designs. If
stitchers do not support them by purchasing their ideas they
cannot afford to invest their time and money into producing their
designs. I will give you an egregious example of thoughtless
theft: Several years ago a local designer named Myra Sevigy was
a coastguard wife stationed in the Newcastle base in NH. She
had devoted 100's of hours charting the different submarine insignias
to cross stitch or needlepoint, as well as the dolphin insignia
and some clever military wife charts. Someone bought her $2 dollar
chart and published it in the base newsletter. She struggled
on for several more years before she gave up. Her company was
called Nautical Notions. I see people with no shame bring in
Xerox copies of charts. Sometimes I comment on it and sometimes
I save my breath. Part of my pleasure stitching is in the journey
- working from a lovely clear pattern with a nice full-color
photo with yummy colors on fine fabric and seeing it come to
life. Starting with a stolen chart would never be a great start
to a pleasurable tactile experience like stitching for me. I
think that most true stitchers feel the same way that I and my
staff feel at Yankee Cross Stitch."
Shop owner Maria De Simone of Fireside Stitchery: "As
a shop owner, one of my best defenses against pattern piracy
(and other copyright violations), is to have an informed staff
and informed customers. I have taken the time to discuss the
piracy issues with all my employees. I want them to be armed
with polite, but firm ways to discourage any type of copyright
violations, should they come across them. We also look for opportunities
to share information about copyrights with our customers and
with needlework students. The more they understand, the less
likely they will be to inadvertently violate a copyright."
Shop owners James (Bud) Henry and Marcel (Marc) Bloch of Hook
'n Needle: "For years we have fought the copying process
that was started by shops in order to sell yarn. Almost daily
we get a request, 'If I purchase the yarn, you will copy the
pattern for me, won't you?' Of course our response for over 30
years has been, 'Absolutely Not. The pattern is copyrighted and
not only that, we would be taking food from the mouth of the
person who created it.' For instance, we do not take a pattern
back from a customer since the Xerox days when some shops would
allow customers to purchase the pattern, copy it, and return
it for cash or credit. The policy of copying charts and patterns
was established by shops, that for some bloody reason, wanted
to make a few shekels from selling the yarn. It is unfortunate,
but the salespeople went along with the practice. I assume that
they were looking for the commission on the yarn. It's about
time that there was a great halt put to this practice. The designer
should make his or her royalty as well as the publisher for their
efforts. I think it is highway robbery and there is no other
term for it. To share a pattern is not like sharing a product.
The pattern has to be purchased once, whereas food or material
things have to be purchased for every sharing. To be benevolent,
it must cost one something, or else one has not given. Until
you educate the shops, and I guess the people using the Internet
now, you will never stop what we have always considered STEALING."
Feedback from those who are doing the swapping: Shawna Dooley
was part of a 300+ person underground Net community of pattern
swappers that has since shut down. Carla Conry, who ran the group,
called PatternPiggiesUnite! shut it down after an article in
which she was featured came out. Dooley says that since then,
she has been harassed by E-mail from furious cross-stitchers
who denounce her pattern-swapping ways. "Everybody is just
running scared," Dooley says. She now searches the Net "looking
for my friends," and adds, "They're vanishing."
Dooley insists what the group was doing was harmless. They shared
cross-stitch, crochet, knitting and bead-working patterns - "you
name it, it was on there," she says. But if she saw a pattern
she liked, she would save it, but then buy it. She thinks that's
what most people did, because the quality of patterns printed
out from home computers is so poor. "I can't see how they're
losing money," Dooley insists.
But Jim Hedgepath disagrees. He explains that with the quality
of the new scanners on the market, the pattern instructions printed
off a home computer can look exactly like store-bought originals.
"They spend a lot of time teaching each other better scanning
techniques," he says. "It only takes a few seconds
to scan and give it to the Internet, and then there can be thousands
of copies out there." As for the excuse of swapping cross-stitchers
who say they can't find the designs they want in their local
stories, Hedgepath replies: "Well, they're killing off the
(designers) that are left by doing this."
As the dispute rages on, stitchers on both sides of the pattern
piracy issue are tuned in to how the Napster case unfolds, as
the outcome will undoubtedly have an impact on cases involving
the needlework industry. Time Magazine recently researched
the Internet piracy issue as it relates to needlework, music
and other industries. Their feature entitled, "A Crisis
of Content" by Adam Cohen, ran in the magazine's October
2, 2000 issue, which can be accessed on the web at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articles/0,3266,55700,00.html
For members of the industry who want to get involved, check out
the special website set up by the STP committee at http://www.stitching.com/copyright If you wish to donate to the legal fund set up at the INRG
show in Charlotte, contributions can be mailed to:
Needlework Markets, Inc, P.O. Box 533, Pine Mountain, GA 31811.
Consumers can get further information by logging onto http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/ or http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html
The Caron Collection would like to extend
sincere thanks to all the members of the needlework community
who took the time to share their reactions with us. Special appreciation
goes to all those in the industry who are actively engaged in
finding ways to counteract the Pattern Piracy problem.
Bibliography and Credits:
L.A.Times, Tuesday, August 1, 2000, Home Edition, Section:
Part A - "Is a Stitch Online a Crime?" by Times Staff
Writer, P.J. Huffstutter
Time Magazine, October 2, 2000 - "A Crisis of
Content" by Adam Cohen
montrealgazette.com, Tuesday, August 8, 2000 "Needlepoint
Pirates Pillage on the Net" by Kelly Cryderman, Southam
Needlecraft Showcase Newsletter and Shop Talk