Posted in Knitting
November 12, 2006

I am not a violent person…

…but two incidents at Handmade Arcade this weekend almost changed that.

1. What about my merchandise says “write something on me and then walk away without paying”? I — as politely as I could, given the circumstances — said: “Excuse me, were you planning on paying for that?” The woman came back, asked the price, I told her and she dumped it on the table / walked away. So now it needs to be repackaged. Lovely.

2. Corporate spies really, really need to not get anywhere near me. This older man, who clearly didn’t fit the typical attendee profile, was walking from table to table with a camera around his neck. He had the lens cap off, the camera was on (a super high-end digital). He stood directly in front of my stuff, looking off into space (not at me, not at the table), with one hand on the camera. Then he surreptitiously snapped shots of my merchandise and wandered off.

Shocked, I ask the vendors next to me if they saw what happened. [They did]. We stood there open-mouthed for a few minutes and then I got really, really angry. I grabbed my own camera, stormed off around the corner, walked up to him (waited for him to turn around), then snapped a shot of his face, with flash. I walked back to my table and we kept watching him. I also kept shooting photos of what he was doing. So if you walked past my table and I was standing on my chair, that’s why.

Dear crafty friends, if you see a white-haired man in a blue jacket snapping shots at your show, please let me know. What he was doing was decidedly not cool. It’s considered incredibly impolite to take photos of products like that without asking — this is why major crafty trade shows like TNNA ban cameras on the show floor — and it’s how the shadier businesses steal ideas.

I realize that there’s not much you can do to keep other companies from ripping you off. And last month, after ultra-popular website BoingBoing wrote about fabric copyrights and intellectual property (see here, here, here, and here), there was quite a bit of discussion online about what is and isn’t ok.

Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching is very specific about what you can do with her patterns, and very kind to indie designers who abide by the rules set through her angel program. Why? Read this and this. See why she’s set the restrictions she has? She doesn’t want her intellectual property being used on sweatshop goods whose quality she cannot control. After a little detective work, she discovered that the company in question originally bought a sample pattern directly from her, then used it to mass-produce items in India. Wrong. Just wrong.

Merely writing about this has got me fuming again.

I love it when people make things from my books and send me photos, or make their own little changes for the better. I don’t know a designer who doesn’t! But I hate it when sketchy companies try to make a buck off of our work without involving us at all. Listen: when I sell out, I want to choose the time, place and price. I don’t want anyone else doing that for me. So I’ll say it now — if you see blatant copyright violations, please report them! (The knitting designer mailing lists are, unfortunately, frequently filled with reports of single or grouped patterns being sold on eBay, etc). And if it’s one of my designs, I’ll make sure it’s worth your while!

This public service announcement has been brought to you by a very annoyed knitgrrl.

p.s. it wasn’t all doom and gloom…give me a day or two and I’ll post some photos, including my new neckwarmer of much fabulousness from Natasha.

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  • pippi

    that is just scummy!

    Reply to pippi
  • The Purloined Letter

    Wow. I’m sending this link to your post off to my copyright attorney friend who told me this story last night as we talked about parenting:

    5yo dd and her friend went to the ren. faire with him and both fell in love with little $3 beaded purses. Father (my friend) agreed to purchase them each a purse. Both wanted medium purple bags, but there was only one. Father asked the seller if he had any others, but he did not. Knowing that buying one would be a terrible parenting decision, he told the girls they could choose a different color or they could keep looking for a special gift elsewhere. The friend said, “Well, if we can’t buy them, maybe we can take a picture of it so we can remember how beautiful it was!” Without asking, Father snapped a picture. As he was thinking what a brilliant parent his daughter’s friend had, he was suddenly accosted by a wrathful seller. He was FURIOUS–and my friend was baffled.

    While I think in this case the seller was a bit blind to the actual scenario going on in front of him, I now understand where he might have been coming from!

    Reply to The Purloined Letter
  • Annie

    Hey, found you thru re:knit and wanted to comment. All I really have to say is right on… in fact I wish you had outed him right here on the blog… Put up a picture. I’m a former English teacher and I used to hammer at the idea of intellectualy property, and how you can use someone else’s. It’s totally fine. You just have to remember three things. Attribution. Attribution. Attribution. I work at a LYS and every day I have little old ladies asking me, “Could you please xerox this one pattern out of the book, I don’t want the whole thing…” Yeesh.

    Reply to Annie
  • Mary Lou

    Grrr – I would love to know where this guy came from. I used to work for a non profit that help women entrepreneurs. We stopped many from bringing designs to buyers at a particular department store, because the buyer would show little interest, then a knock off version would show up in the store.

    Reply to Mary Lou
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