Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thoughts on Pattern "Sharing"

Have you ever worked a pattern and had a friend want to borrow it?  Did you loan it to them?  Have you ever borrowed a written pattern?

Have you ever asked your LYS to photocopy a pattern from a book for you?  Did they do it?

Have you ever distributed a pattern to a group of people?  Did they pay the author for the pattern?

Who does it really hurt to copy a pattern for a friend?

It hurts me.  Please try to understand.  I'm thrilled that folks like my work enough to want to use it, don't get me wrong. But how many people would work without pay? And do good work without pay? And be patient while they were stolen from? Even when it's "just a pattern"? This is how I feed my kids...

Many designers, myself included, have a variety of both free and for-purchase patterns out there in the world.  We get paid very little for patterns published in magazines ($50 -$200 is standard) and get no royalties.  We make our money in very small chunks at a time.

Why do we publish free patterns?  Because we are knitters, and we know that budget is often a big consideration.  And if you try a free pattern of ours and like it, you're more likely to buy one from us later.  What keeps the lights on is the patterns we are paid for.  How do you decide when it goes from sharing to stealing?  You might be surprised at the answer.

Patterns in books and magazines are not supposed to be photocopied and shared or distributed based on copyright laws.  What if you photocopy the pattern for yourself so there's a more portable copy?  No problem if you are the owner of the book.  Legal sharing of the pattern with another person means loaning out your book or magazine.  Or it means directing them to the bookstore or LYS.  Ask if your local library has the book.  Any giving away or selling the pattern without consent of the author is stealing.

It sounds a little severe, doesn't it?  Consider this.  Most patterns available online or as print singles cost between 2-6 US dollars.  Imagine your rent or mortgage payment.  How many patterns would you have to sell to make that work? 

Don't misunderstand me.  I love my work.  I went into this knowing that it doesn't come with a guaranteed salary and a 401k.  It's just that for some reason, everyone wants beautiful patterns that are perfectly written, and don't want to pay for the time and expertise it takes to make that happen.

It takes me, on average, 10-40 hours to make a pattern that is charted, written, photographed, technically correct, and uploaded.  At maximum speed, I'm turning out about 8 patterns per month, and that's rare.  I teach 1-8 classes per month.  I usually get 1/2 the class fee, and have to cover my own travel, lodging, and food expenses.

I'm told that I shouldn't worry, because "everybody else" is paying for my patterns.  Just a reminder: you and your friends are "everybody else" to everybody else.


ddeangelo said...

Although I am not yet a designer (aspiring for sure), I do teach knitting classes and am very aware & conscoius of the rights of the designer. Recently, I emailed a designer if I could use her free pattern for a class - she graciously agreed. I often create my own.

I have not asked a shop owner to copy a pattern for me. I was, however, charged for a free pattern even after buying the hand-dyed merino wool for it at the shop! Shocking...

I suppose you have to expect a bit of "sharing" but I don't think it's right - patterns are very reasonably priced and designers deserved to be paid for their efforts. PLUS there are loads of free patterns on the internet. If you can afford the yarn, you can afford the pattern!

watja said...

I never gave that much thought yet, and yes, I shared patterns in the past (not often but that's obviously not the point...)

If I had to pay my everythings from selling patterns, it would hurt me as much as it does to you. And yes, it takes a lot of time to make a pattern even if I make something new just for me or my kid... so no more sharing of payed patterns from my side!

With love,