I'm sorry to have taken so long between blog posts. Several disturbing things happened last week, and I've debated for days whether to write about them or not. Well, here goes...
A German designer telephoned me last week to report that some of my products had been scanned and uploaded to a particular website which is notorious for what its members call "sharing" of designs. This particular site has over 25,000 members and continues to grow. Although they claim that what they do is "sharing", the site provides coaching for its member contributors to hide their identities. (Why would you need to hide your identity unless you know what you are doing is illegal?) In addition to the postings of my retail products, there is also a request on this site offering a reward, a bounty if you will, for a copy of one of my teaching pieces! Egad!
If I understand the system correctly, whenever a member downloads a chart, the person who uploaded the chart is paid a reward in credits called Gold Coins that can be used to download something else. Yes, that's right! People are using these credits like currency to facilitate the distribution of illegally copied intellectual property. Downloading a copy of a product requires the user to spend Gold Coins, and if one doesn't have enough loot from piracy to complete the transaction, Gold Coins can buy purchased from the host for a dollar apiece. It looks like typical designs are around ten Gold Coins each. Now, not only am I denied income by illegal copying and sharing, the host of this piracy site is making money through the illegal acts of the members. I know you are shaking your head in disbelief. I know I was when I first learned about this. Even sadder is that there are other websites involved in distributing pirated intellectual property.
Within a few hours of the phone call from Germany, I learned that Kirstin, editor of the on-line magazine The Gift of Stitching, has decided to quit publishing. Kirstin's sales have been steadily declining due to the combined effects of the economy and on-line piracy. Ironically, postings on the piracy site about this closure say, "That is sad, such a beautiful magazine", "I wonder why", and "What a shame".
As a designer, I am very frustrated to see my work freely "shared", and I am outraged that other people are making money by illegally distributing my work. I find it very hard to get inspired to design under these circumstances.
The number of "needlework pirates" is huge and growing. Needlework design is mostly a cottage industry, and any one designer has little or no chance to change anything. Yet the entire industry will collapse if the designers disappear: there will be no new designs, and this will harm retailers, thread and linen producers, distributors, shippers, packaging suppliers...and stitchers...and even pirates. I'm sure that most of you agree that this so-called "sharing" is totally unacceptable! Perhaps the most ironic insult to our industry is that the homepage of the piracy website mentioned previously has a copyright statement!
I wonder what we as a needlework community can do to stop this before it is too late! I'd love to hear your suggestions, please!!
Here are some other articles on the subject that you might find interesting:
Thank you to all of you who support the needlework business by buying your charts legally. Please help the needlework industry to survive and thrive by becoming actively intolerant of intellectual property piracy. Also, thank you for hearing me out with my frustration over what has become such a rampant and growing problem.