If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a ‘story’ that I posted yesterday where I asked if some of you would link through to an Instagram feed that had posted an image and link to a version of my Mystical Lanterns design that was in breach of my copyright because the linked web site showed a free crochet chart for the design. Thank you so much if you were one of the many people who followed the link and commented on the post. I reported the post to Instagram and it was deleted along with my story!
It is rare that I take the time to report Instagram posts, but sadly it is not rare for me to come across incidences where my designs are copied. I have reported many examples of infringement to YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook and we receive lots of messages from you guys telling us about things you have come across that appear to be a bit naughty in regard to copyright. It is wonderful to know that so many of you have ‘got my back’ and that the majority of crocheters want to protect designers like myself.
Traditionally yarn companies employed designers to come up with crochet patterns in order to sell yarn, but over the last couple of decades more and more independent designers like me, who don’t have the financial support of yarn companies, have come to the forefront of design. This is a brilliant situation that has so many positives for us all as crafters, but it also means that designers are left pretty much unprotected in cases of copyright breach.
I hope you will understand that I am not telling you any of this in order to make you feel sorry for me. I actually think that many of these copycat designs feed sales of my patterns, as crocheters tend to want to try and find the source of a design. My Persian Tiles pattern, for example, is the most copied, with Youtube videos in many languages cropping up all the time and images with charts shared within Facebook groups constantly, but it also continues to be our biggest selling pattern by far, so it has to be that a certain level of copying is actually beneficial to us.
The problem is that once an image or video of a design is shared with the accompanying word ‘free’ it instantly becomes ‘free’ on every single subsequent share. The more shares this ‘free’ design gets, the more likely it is that the design will be seen as public property and therefore will get shared in all its new incarnations as ‘free’, despite the fact that the original pattern was not!
On places like Pinterest and Youtube it is the ease and speed at which things get shared that is our biggest challenge when reporting a copyright infringement. On Pinterest we have to report every single instance where an offending image has been posted and not just the source. On YouTube we have to attempt to prove that my written pattern relates to what is being shown in the video, regardless of yarn shades or language, something that is pretty much impossible.
This morning, for example, I have been sent a link to a YouTube Channel that has over 900,000 subscribers. A video that shows the whole process for making the 3 motifs that make up my Persian Tiles design from start to finish has had nearly 14,000 views since it was posted yesterday. The video is in Spanish and at no point does it show my paper pattern, so when YouTube look at that video they are unlikely to see or understand the link between my written pattern and the video. Out of all the Persian Tiles videos on YouTube (of which there are probably hundreds if you are prepared to search) we have only ever managed to get one removed!
Yes! Just one!
I have reported this newest YouTube video and have left a message in the comments section on the offending channel. I have also sent a message via Instagram in the hope that the maker of the video will see the problem and be kind enough to remove it. In the majority of cases this is the common process we go through when attempting to get things removed – in a nutshell we have to appeal to other people’s sense of decency in the hope that they will amend their error.
In the majority of cases, when we have contacted people, they are completely unaware that they have done anything to infringe a copyright statement. Most people are apologetic and are quick to rectify their mistake. Take the yarn company Mary Maxim for example:
A few years ago, I was alerted to a design that was very similar to Mystical Lanterns. The only real difference was that the design had used a variegated yarn and had been renamed as ‘Tear Drop Blanket’. When I approached the company in regard to this they were mortified and without hesitation they offered to pay me a % for every single yarn kit they had sold using that design. This initial problem actually ended up creating a great relationship between myself and the company and I am very proud of my association with them on subsequent projects.
What really gets to me though, is experiences like the one I had on Instagram last night where no apology and no effort to rectify the mistake was made. It is like when Dolce & Gabbana used my Frida’s Flowers patterns to create a crochet skirt that featured in their Spring Summer collection in 2019 and like the lady who insisted that Mystical Lanterns was in fact designed by her mother in the 1970s!
Every example of copyright infringement gives me a little jolt of panic. Crochet designing is my livelihood, not just my hobby, and all of my designs are like my babies. They are incredibly personal to me and they represent a lot of work. Whilst I have to be assertive in protecting my designs, it is really important that I do not get consumed by this. I have to be careful not to invest too much time, effort, with all the accompanying stress, in trying to put things right, especially as there is often no positive outcome.
I once saw a comment on social media that said (in relation to the D&G copyright infringement):
‘I don’t know why everyone is getting so upset about it. It is only crochet after all!’
At the time I was really cross about this statement, but actually, when I find myself getting upset or militant about yet another copycat design or unauthorised share of an image or chart, I remind myself of it and try to take a step back from my personal involvement in what has happened. It is kind of a self-preservation thing (think Love Actually)! So if you spot copycat designs, videos or images you can help me out by sending us a link via email or via our social media channels. If you feel brave enough, it is really helpful to us if you leave a message on the site where you have found the problem – as a general rule the more comments you all make, the more likely it is that people will remove stuff.
Although it cannot be said to be true of everyone (that means you Dolce and Gabbana) I like to believe that on the whole people are honest and that many of them are so totally consumed by their need to spread the joy of the craft of crochet, that they don’t always do the best research before diving in! In all instances we need to try to be kind and keep in mind that it is only crochet after all!
Have good day!
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