Monday, February 27, 2006

Prepare to be gobsmacked (or another customer horror story)

What if you were working at a yarn shop and a customer used her cell phone to take a photograph of a pattern, so she wouldn't have to buy the whole book? A reader sent me links to the photographer -- actually, the photographer's mother, as I believe the deed was done by her teenaged daughter -- and another blogger who called her out on it. The photographer's response? Well, she was out of money and ree-e-eally wanted the pattern, and since she wasn't "profiting" from using the pattern (according to her own peculiar definition of "profit," which apparently doesn't encompass the notion that she saved thirty bucks by not buying the book, thereby profiting to the tune of -- yep -- thirty bucks), she isn't violating copyright. In my humble opinion, she's dead wrong on that (which is why if you want a valid interpretation of U.S. copyright law, you shouldn't ask a sixteen-year-old who never went to law school and "dislikes unnecessary research"). Stealing is stealing. Last time I checked, it didn't matter if the thief really really wanted the item, or already spent all her money on something else: if you take something without paying for it, and without the consent of the owner, you're stealing.

The photographer and her mama apparently live in the Pacific Northwest, so if you own a yarn shop in that corner of the U.S., you might want to keep your eye out for any sixteen-year-olds whipping out cell phones while browsing at patterns in your shop.

Anybody who tries that at Rosie's on my watch? I'll rip 'em a new one.

And then I'll call the cops.


Thanks to reader J., for the tip and the links.

30 comments:

Kat said...

I am astounded by their ignorance and arrogance. Do you think Sterling Publishing woudl appreciate her flouting of copyright law?

Christina said...

I love that Meganne blantantly wrote in Rachelsent's comments that she will continue to take photographs of patterns because according to her, she didn't commit theft. Thanks, Meg.

Jane said...

Holy crap, I've never heard of such a thing. There is no justification for this sort of behavior at all. I guess if the 16-year old wants a pair of pants and can't afford them because she spent all her money on a shirt, it's ok for her to take them. Same logic. Gobsmacked, indeed!

thomasina said...

Gobsmacked is right. And if she doesn't like research, she really needs to get it right the first time. I'm not a lawyer, but Chapter 13 is "Protection of Original Designs" - as I understand it, this is the portion of copyright than means a knitter can't profit by selling items knit from a copyrighted pattern. Giving away, yes - profit, no. (And since *everything* is copyrighted, this means no selling items knit from "free" internet patterns, either.)

It clearly doesn't fall under fair use. It fails the fourth consideration in Chapter 1, Section 107: (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. If everyone just photographed every pattern their little hearts desired, there would be no market for buying the book.

Some yarn shop owners do contribute to the problem, by photocopying patterns with yarn purchase. Doubly wrong, since they are profiting from the design, and the designer et. al is not. Plus it contributes to this general sense of entitlement.

The blogger in question has now posted a pattern from Nicky Epstein's Knitting On the Edge book. Petty, petty.

Natalie said...

Wow. That's a mighty impressive display of entitlement. People never cease to amaze me.

Also armwarmers? How freaking hard is it to make up your own damn pattern for them? Tubes with maybe a hole for the thumb if they go up that far! Not hard!

Rebekkah said...

Wow. So how long before the daughter starts stealing lipsticks from Walmart, 'cause a big box retailer is never going to notice the loss of a few dollars? I mean, her mom already condones theft, so it's not all that big of a step.

I'd say that I hope the daughter grows up to be a writer or designer, so she learns the lesson of why it's not okay to steal, even if it's "just" intellectual property. But given that desperation from a pattern prompts her to steal one, and not try to use her brain to design one on her own (or freakin' Google for a free one), I highly doubt that will ever happen.

mean designer said...

At first glance you'd think these folks have no concious.

But the fact that the mom (mamakitty) deleted each and every comment which called her on her terrible behaviour (she WROTE the pattern down while her daughter photographed it) speaks volumes about their chutzpah and disregard of common courtesy.

In her original post on it, which she's deleted - at that point she said, "Good girl, I raised her right!")

Now she's trying to paint anyone who's upset by her actions as self-righteous prigs.

From comments on her blog you can tell that she lives in Olympia, WA. The fact that they were approached by one of the workers in the yarn shop (who asked them to stop - when the clerk turned her back the daughter took the photo) means that someone in one of the Olympia yarn shops KNOWS who these folks are.

Originally Mamakitty had posted the cell phone image and the title of the post was, "Yarn Snobs Suck" - yeah, those mean snobs who insist that folks pay for patterns instead of photographing them.

I'd like to take a photo of THEM with a cell phone and post it in all the Olympia yarn shops with the warning, "Copyright Thieves Not Allowed"

As blown away as I am by the action - I'm even MORE disturbed by the sense of entitlement both mother and daughter have shown. I can imagine a 16 year old reacting this way when caught in the act - but BRAGGING about it? My 5 year old knows better...

Carol said...

Yes, from the time my kids were babies, if we opened a little bitty sack of goldfish crackers or a box of animal crackers in the store, I always saved the box and made a point of showing it to them at the checkout and saying, "We don't steal." I don't mention that to pat myself on the back; I am surprised that not everyone does that.

I've found that people love to deflect criticism of themselves -- even very valid criticism -- by trying to turn it against the speaker. So it doesn't surprise me that she's trying to turn it into a "I'm being picked on - you people need to get a life" thing.

What is equally astounding to me is the number of supportive, sycophantic (or perhaps I mean "psychophantic") comments on the blog, along the lines of "You go girl!" I guess even Atilla the Hun would have a fan club if he blogged.

charknits said...

Yes, my comments (and other's) regarding the illegality of Mamakitty's (and her daughter's) actions were deleted. Only her ignorant sychophants comments remain.

Today she has a photo of a page from Nicky E's book. She also includes a link to a Google excerpt of the same book, claiming that this give her cover. What she neglects to point out is that the Google image is stamped "Copyrighted Material" and is clearly marked with a permission from Sterling and a link to Sterling's site.

I went to Xanga's Terms of Service, and as I expected, uploading of protected material (including material covered by Copyright) is prohibited. I copied that prohibition in a comment, but am not hopeful that it will survive long on Mamakitty's site.

Corrina said...

Wow. Way to encourage your kids to steal.

j. said...

No, the sixteen-year-old went to law school.

The Google School of Law.

Valerie said...

The nerve and stubborn ignorance of some people astounds me. These kinds of issues almost make me want to go into intellectual property issues. I'm sure most of us have, at one time or another, committed copyright violations, but to do so with such chutzpah is unbelievable. And for them to defend their obviously illegal actions so passionately is also unbelievable.

Beyond the theft issues, she's also teaching her daughter poor financial skills. A knitting project is more than just the yarn cost. If you pay $40 for yarn and can't afford the $30 pattern book, you can't make the project. Period.

deety said...

What great lessons to pass down to your children. Thanks for pointing this out.

Lisa S said...

This kind of stuff is running rampant in our society, from lying on resume's to cheating on term papers. It is no surprise that this would be condoned by this mother, who does not know how to be honorable. I am so glad that you brought this to the surface and hope that these thieves are shown for what they are. As someone else said, today it is photgraphing a pattern and tomorrow it could be about being arrested for shoplifting or putting a finger in chili. Yuck.

Mindy said...

Wow. Yup, gobsmacked. Really too shocked to think of anything to add.

Sherry W said...

I didn't grow up with a lot of money and this really irks me. If you didn't have the cash, you saved up or found an alternative brand, looked at the thrift store, etc.

This girl's Mom could have taken her to the public library and tried to find the book to check out. Or they could have purchased a less expensive yarn. Or she could have taught her child how to save money instead of instand gratification.

Maria said...

I've seen better financial days myself (and hope to see them again). Though I would like to buy all of my knitting books at my LYS, it doesn't make fiscal sense for me to pay $30 for a book I can likely get for $20 elsewhere. So I buy from Amazon, KnitPicks or Overstock. However, I don't think it's fair to use and abuse my LYS books and then go online to buy. It might be legal, but it's not very nice. I feel bad enough about not buying most of my books there as it is, as they are a great shop with a great selection. When better days return, that is my plan.

In the meantime, I check knitting books out of the library and peruse them at my leisure. If there are patterns in there, yes, even one, I add them to my wish list and buy them when I can afford them. If no one is offering a discount, I gladly and thankfully purchase it from my LYS.

What blows me away is that I have checked out several books that actually had pages ripped out. Having discovered that a knitter was capable of that, I now (sadly) believe knitters (just like the rest of the population) are capable of anything and of rationalizing it as well.

Never mind legality, what about simple consideration for others?! Really, that costs nothing.

Whitney said...

Stealing is stealing -- whether you physically take the pattern or photograph it from a book. Over the years I have sold my crafts at local shows and farmers markets. It ceases to amaze me of the ballzie people out there, that stand back and "draw" your design on a piece of paper or just outright photograph it -- to go home and "make it" themselves. The least they could do is buy a "pattern" from you and then go home and try to recreate it.

Zardra said...

What's sad is this whole thing could have been avoided if they just got the book from their local library. But, then, considering their attitudes, I highly doubt either one has a library card.

Cheryl said...

I hear that in Japan they are using the cell phone cameras at funerals to take pictures of the dead ones....

I think they should be thrown out of the store.....

Marg B said...

Mean designer - there are plenty of photos of Mamakitty and her daughter on Mamakitty's website. Follow her example and logic - lift away.

While I would never ever expect a shop owner to photocopy a copyrited pattern, I've experienced the opposite problem. A certain Australian LYS owner has a free pattern on her website for a very basic garter shawl (there are probably thousands of versions of cast on 70 stitches on 9mm needles and knit 48 rows on the internet - yes this is how simple it is) yet she charged me $1 for a half-page copy of it after I had bought $50 worth of wool at the store. It has completely put me off going back to her store, even though she has lovely yarn, because I felt so ripped off (even though it was only $1).

Jay said...

Wow. How brazen.

Just note that some copying is allowed under copyright law, and infringing on copyright is usually a civil offense, not a criminal one. Oh, I guess under the DMCA it's a criminal one.

Wikipedia's article on Copyright Infringement is pretty good.

Not to excuse her knitting-store-hating behavior. Just to add a plea to remember "fair use."

Carol said...

I think the Stanford site is much better: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/index.html

Also The Girl from Auntie: http://www.girlfromauntie.com/copyright/

and Jen Tocker's FAQ (which is a few years old, so I don't know how out of date it is)
http://www.geocities.com/jbtocker/copyright/index.html,

Jay, I would not want to make a blanket statement like "some photocopying is permitted." There are a lot of myths about copyright, including the myth that if a book is out of print, or no longer commericially available, you can copy at will; or that a little bit doesn't matter. There are also a lot of grey areas that haven't been definitively decided by the case law. But any time you are copying to circumvent the author from being compensated for the material, i.e., to avoid purchasing the item, you're in trouble. Don't kid yourself.

Anonymous said...

I've checked out knitting books (and recipe books) with torn-out pages too. This was before the copyright law in Sweden was changed, so at the time it was legal to copy even a whole book for your own non-commercial use. And the library has a coin-operated photocopier. Amazing.
/Monika

Carrie said...

Well, I just told both xanga and Nicky Epstein's email address about mamakitty, so we'll see if anything comes of it.

vatergrrl said...

Well, sonofa -- No, wait, daughterofa! It's now permissible, even honorable, to commit an act of theft? What galls me most is Mamakitty's smug, self-aggrandizing permissiveness, the "Look at what cute thing my daughter just did! Isn't she fantastic? Do it again, honey!" pride she evinces in her comments to Xanga. It chills the blood, and heats it to boiling in the same instant.

Jay said...

Wow... blatant. You gotta admire that (shortly after you deck the person doing it).
I was afraid to even ask the lady at my local yarn show if I could use my phone to take a picture of a ball of yarn that I wanted to get Mark's opinion on before I bought it to make him a scarf (the end of that story? She said yes, and I clicked away. And Mark said No...).

Lucia said...

Apparently it would not occur to these people to create their own patterns -- because if it did they would sooner or later consider selling them, and would see the error of their ways.

On the question of whether it's OK to see something in a book or a finished item for sale and go home and copy it from memory -- I think that's a gray area. People adapt each other's ideas all the time, and if you got two copyright lawyers in a room together you'd probably get six opinions on whether a given adaptation was similar enough to the original to be copyright infringement.

I would almost never copy anything exactly, or if I wanted to I would buy the pattern. There are only so many ways to knit a hat (for example), though, and "how to knit a simple watch cap" would at some point be considered a method and therefore not copyrightable.

rebecca said...

I work in a bookstore, and people often ask if we will copy a page for them. The owner just says, "We don't have a copy machine" but I admit that I say, "I'm sorry, that would be illegal." If they didn't know that, I give a quick explanation of the law. Many people realize that they are asking me to break the law (and of course my own ethical code as well), but say "Well, I just wanted the one page..."
Sadly enough, I think that one result of this will be that some people will think, "Oooh! I never thought of doing that!" and do it.

rachelsent/DreamWoven said...

hi i'm rachel (rachelsent)... just found your post about all this (because the footprints kept leading back to your blog). i am still amazed at the audacity of the two of them...

anyway.... have enjoyed reading all ya'll's comments.

rachel
dreamwoven.com
http://xanga.com/rachelsent