Copyright is a big issue in the crafting community (and if you don’t think it is then you should). For designers it is the main way that they can protect the intellectual property contained in their written patterns and in the images that they use to promote their work (whether these are provided free or for a fee, copyright applies regardless of a price).
As a resident of the UK all of my work (the words of the patterns and the images of them, my webpages, etc) are covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (you can see a copy here: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-about.htm). This grants the copyright holder rights noted in the Act within the UK such as (under section 16(1)):
the exclusive right to do the following acts in the United Kingdom
(a) to copy the work (see section 17);
(b) to issue copies of the work to the public (see section 18);
(ba) to rent or lend the work to the public (see section 18A);
(c) to perform, show or play the work in public (see section 19);
(d) to communicate the work to the public (see section 20);
(e) to make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation (see section 21);
and those acts are referred to in this Part as the “acts restricted by the copyright”.
As the UK is a contracting party of the Berne Convention I am also covered in other countries up to the limit of their law. So for example in the US I get the following cover under Title 17 (available here http://www.copyright.gov/title17/) section 106:
the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Yay for the law, it protects my intellectual property and the income I generate from it. Of course there are exceptions to these exclusive rights, but they are pretty limited such as the making of temporary copies (s.28A CDPA 1988) or for the purposes of private study (s.29(1c) CPDA 1988) or for research purposes for non-commercial use (s.29(1) CDPA 1988).
For anyone in the UK you can find a list of the permitted exceptions to copyright protection in plain English rather than legalese at the Intellectual Property Office website http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-other/c-exception.htm
For those in the US the US Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov) has a guide to the basics of copyright in this handy dandy pdf http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
I am the copyright holder of a number of knitting patterns (free and paid) as well as thousands of images hosted on my own websites as well as on third party sites such as Flickr, ravelry, Etsy, Twitter, Facebook, etc., as well as the author of numerous blog posts, tweets and the like. I have the rights granted to me by UK law (under CDPA 1988) and worldwide under the Berne Convention over all of these copyrighted items unless I explicitly grant them to a third party. This means that I, as the copyright holder, get to choose where copies of my photographs (for example) are posted. If I don’t want them on Pinterest (and I don’t) then I can add a code to my websites disallowing pinning (and I have). If I find copyright violations on a website I can apply to have that content removed (and I do), often under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act since a lot of websites are based in the US where this legislation applies.
Many publishers have also added “Pin It” buttons to their site, making it easier to identify content that is okay to add to Pinterest.
When a website I use recently added Pin It buttons (as well as links to share on Twitter and Facebook) to certain pages on which my copyrighted photos were displayed I was naturally concerned – I don’t want my images on Pinterest and only gave a limited license for use of these images on that specific website. With no opt out available for the button I was forced to remove all of my images and re-upload them via Flickr (who have an option to turn off the ability to share images). When the Pin It button on that page is now hit, none of my pictures are available for sharing, my copyright is protected. The Twitter link does not include an image, just a link to the page and the Facebook link gives the option to use no image and only includes a very small thumbnail which I am not concerned about as it is in line with Google’s image use.
Small business owners need to be savvy as to how they use social media. I recently capitulated and set up a Facebook page for Doggrell Designs as it was just too big an audience to be missing out on (like it here if you want: Doggrell Designs). But they also need to remember to check the terms of the sites they are using and make sure they agree to them before they participate, and keep an eye out for any changes to those terms as time goes by. Social media is a tool to be used by the business, but you need to keep control (and laws such as CDPA 1988 allow you to).
I’m personally choosing to move more parts of my business back to my own website where I can maintain maximum control. My free knitting patterns are now only available from my website, and I will shortly be adding some Google ads to that page to help generate a little revenue to pay for the running of the site. I am also looking into ways of delivering my paid-for electronic patterns direct from my website too.
It’s not just as a copyright holder that I am affected by copyright laws, though. As a commission knitter they are part of my day-to-day work. As the Intellectual Property Office notes, in the UK knitting patterns can be covered by more than just the copyright on the words. They can also be covered by design rights and the IPO recommends checking before selling knitted items made from patterns if you are in the UK (see the IPO’s faqs on other people’s copyrighted works). This is why the only finished objects I sell are made from my own designs (I’ll be posting some cowls up to Etsy soon). People who undertake me on a commission basis are paying for my services as a knitter rather than for the finished object, which is why my prices are calculated on a time spent basis and vary depending on the complexity of the work.