Sticks, Strings & Other Things

Friday, January 27, 2006

Well. I've had quite a day! After the discussion and questions regarding copyright laws we had at Knitting Group the other night I've been on and offline since the wee hours researching knitting and copyright laws. I have compiled a bunch of info here and I hope it helps answer any questions.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER NOTICE THING: I AM NOT A LAWYER! (Well, duh!) I will NOT come and bail you out of jail for copyright violations and "Jo said so" will NOT be a sufficient defense to get you off in court. I'm just a dedicated researcher who is trying to apply some basic common sense to a really thorny area of legal mumbo-jumbo.

This information is gathered from a number of sources including government websites, attorneys who deal with copyright law, knitting books and magazines, professional designers and professional knitters. I have carefully sifted through mountains of (often conflicting) information, dug up things I had tucked away on my own harddrive and tried to make it as simple as I can.

For those who weren't in attendance at Knitting Group the other night here's a simple and quick overview of what we were discussing. It basically breaks down to four questions:

1. Can you knit an item from a copyrighted pattern in a book/pamphlet/calendar/online source or wherever and sell it without infringing on the copyright? This refers to items designed by anyone other than yourself.

2. Can you knit an item from a copyrighted pattern from the same source(s) as above and donate it to a non-profit organization for them to sell without infringing on the copyright?

3. Can you take a copyrighted pattern from the same source(s) as above and alter it a certain as yet undetermined percentage, call it "yours" and then knit and sell the item without infringing on the copyright?

4. What exactly can be or is protected by copyright? The entire pattern, a technique, a stitch pattern, how the pattern is written or the items made from using the pattern?

OK. Here goes. In order:

Q1. Can you knit an item from a copyrighted pattern in a book/pamphlet/calendar/online source or wherever and sell it without having infringed on the copyright? This refers to items designed by anyone other than yourself.

A1. Probably not. The phrase "all rights reserved" and/or that funky lil copyright symbol on a pattern are powerful, don't mess with either one. The copyright protects the copyright holder from ANYONE "unduly" profiting from their work without their permission. "All rights reserved" means exactly that, ALL rights including the rights to the item itself. Generally the funky lil copyright symbol means just the pattern as it is written but we can't be sure so we shouldn't risk it, IMHO. You can apply to the copyright holder for permission and depending on the designer some may grant it for a fee. It's doubtful but you never know. So, to knit an item that someone else designed and then sell that item for profit without their permission is most likely a violation of the copyright. If a pattern doesn't say you MAY knit it to sell or use it anyway you want to the law will generally stand firmly on the side of the copyright holder in the greatest majority of cases. One would assume that if you wanted to knit it and sell it at a loss it would be OK but I wouldn't recommend this either. >g<

Q2. Can you knit an item from a copyrighted pattern from the same source(s) as above and donate it to a non-profit organization for them to sell without infringing on the copyright?

A2. Maybe. This area is far more gray. Basically, the law says that noone can "profit unduly" from another's work if that work is protected by copyright. For the sake of discussion...If YOU buy the materials and YOU knit the item and donate it YOU have not profited so YOU might be in the clear. I say "might" because we can't be sure how the court would decide this. You might also be liable however, if you KNOW the item will be sold or if you take a tax deduction for donated goods on your income taxes. The non-profit organization that sells the item COULD BE in violation IF it is determined that they profited "unduly". That is where it gets really murky because who is going to determine how to define "unduly"? The argument could be made that the sale fee that the non-profit sets on a donated hand-knit item will probably not cover the cost of materials (that they didn't even purchase anyway) and the knitter's time wouldn't even be factored in because, after all, that was donated so the "profit" probably wouldn't be considered "undue" BUT, we just can't be sure so again, it is best to contact the holder of the copyright for permission even in cases of non-profit.

Q3. Can you take a copyrighted pattern from the same source(s) as above and alter it a certain (as yet undetermined) percentage, call it "yours" and then knit and sell the item without having infringed on the copyright?

A3. No. This falls under "derivative works" and is another protection built into copyrights that protects copyright holders' original material. There are many suppositions around that state that if you change something "x" % it no longer can be considered derivative but apparently this just leads to more murk because again, who is going to agree on how to define "x". You CAN take a pattern, three patterns or seventeen patterns for that matter, and use them as a jumping off place and develop your own pattern. Ideas can not be copyrighted. Taking an idea and developing your own way to do it isn't an infringment. As long as you really are working on developing a new pattern for an old item, you're ok.

For example: "SuzieQ"* gave me a pattern for the fingerless mitten things (seen below in a previous blog). She knew I was exploring making fingerless mittens and gloves and thoughtfully brought me a pattern she had used in the past. I took that pattern and knit one up as I had three or four or seven other similar patterns. I didn't like any of them for many reasons...most were too short on the wrist (so I made that part longer), some were too tight or too loose in the wrist and hand (so I added or subtracted stitches in both places), I didn't like the ribbing patterns (so I went with a rib I prefer), the thumb gussets weren't long enough on any of them, some didn't even have thumb gussets (so I made long thumb gussets on mine), the tops of the hands weren't sturdy enough for long term wear (so I made a longer rib on top in the rib pattern I prefer) and finally, I chose my own needles and yarn types and gave them my own touch color-wise by adding black bands at the top and bottom. People who are familiar with my knitting over the long term know that adding black is a "signature" of mine. I'm crazy about the way it makes colors POP and how it helps items that will get a lot of wear and/or use stay cleaner longer. THEN I wrote a pattern to take all of these changes into account using my own notes as reminders for what I'd changed, how many stitches I'd used, increases and decreases and the needles and yarn I used. This is development. So, have I infringed on a copyright? *I* don't think so but I suppose a court could possibly see it differently. Do I think I'm in any danger of being sued? No... but if I am I expect every single one of you to come to court with me. :)

Q4. What exactly can be or is protected by copyright? The entire pattern, a technique, a stitch pattern, how the pattern is written or the items made from using the pattern?

A4. The entire pattern as it is written AND MOST LIKELY the item(s) made using the pattern are protected by copyright. The knitting techniques and the stitch patterns are not copyrighted UNLESS it can be proven that they are brand new techniques and/or stitch patterns. Just putting together technique A with stitch patterns B & C do NOT make them new however if you put technique A with pattern stitches B & C AND develop a pattern from them your pattern can be copyrighted if IT is new. Knitting has been around since forever minus a decade and there are probably not any new techniques or stitch patterns out there however the law does allow for the possibility so if you think you've invented one, do your research and if you're still convinced you've invented something new you can publish it and copyright it. Good luck. ;P

Now, that said...there are lots of patterns out there for basic knitted items such as socks, scarves, washcloths and even basic plain sweaters. So let's say for sake of argument that you knit a bunch of washcloths out of your head using the basic and universal YO increase and k2TOG decrease. You knit them 'til they look big enough to you and you go off and sell them to all the moms at the soccer game or wherever. Let's say that you stopped your increasing when there were 52 stitches and started your decreases. Is someone who has a copyrighted pattern that uses the same basic techniques for increasing and decreasing and stops increasing at 52 stitches to begin the decreasing going to send Lawyer Jones to sue you? >shrug< Maybe. Will they have a case? Again, maybe. YOU will have to prove that you did not infringe on their copyright possibly by proving you don't have their pattern, never saw their pattern and indeed, never knew their pattern exsisted among other factors. Let's also say that you wrote down YOUR pattern and you produce it to prove it's yours. Should your pattern oddly enough, have the exact same phrasing and style of pattern writing as theirs (yes, Virginia, there ARE styles of pattern writing) ...they may win their case. Even if your pattern is written completely differently from their pattern you could lose your case because the end product is identical. Most likely NOT with washcloths or other "basic" items but you see my point, right? It depends on the judge, it depends on how good your lawyer is with copyright law, it could depend on if the judge's granny used to knit washcloths *just like* yours/theirs...who knows what it could depend on? Only the judge. If you can prove development, you may win. But then again, you may not. Sound silly? Welcome to US Copyright Law 101...we never said it would make sense, it just is what it is and like all US Law is open to interpretation by the fine judges on the benches.


In a nutshell...don't knit from patterns and sell the items knitted without permission from the copyright holder unless you *like* living on the edge and would be happy to potentially challenge the law. C'mon...sing it with me...~~o"...I fought the law and the law won..."o~~.

Don't knit from patterns and donate items to be sold even to non-profit organizations without permission from the copyright holder. Most copyright holders can be found online and it's a simple thing to get an address and write a nice asking-for-permission letter for non-profit situations.

(If you are affiliated with a non-profit and are on a commitee which might be offered hand knit items to sell don't sell the items without permission from the copyright holder OR without talking to an attorney who is well versed in copyright law first. That's just my recommendation cuz again I AM NOT A LAWYER, I'm just trying to use common sense in relation to the info I have gathered and the advice I have been given.)

Don't take copyright protected patterns and divide them by 12, multiply that number by .0036547676 to the 4th power then subtract the square root of an oak tree and call it the "correct" percentage to determine you aren't infringing on a copyright.

My advice? Learn all you can about basic knitting, how and why techniques work, play with stitch patterns, experiment with yarn and needles and color, color, color and start to develop your own patterns, get your own copyrights and then sell what you make. It's so much more fun that way, too! All of this is, of course, built on the supposition that the very instant you try to copy, sell or donate something knit from a copyrighted pattern that someone is going to jump out of the woodwork and slap you with an order to appear in court. YOU have to decide how likely this is and act accordingly in such a manner that you can live with your own conscience.

You will notice I did NOT talk about copying patterns to share with friends/relatives/complete strangers/knitting group members or your sister's best-friend's veterinarian's secretary's mother-in-law's church group. That's a whole 'nother ball of yarn and IMHO...we all have to decide if we can live with this one for ourselves. We know it's wrong, end of discussion. 0;)

I WILL recommend you NEVER, EVER copy and then SELL OPPs! (OtherPeople'sPatterns)

*names have been changed to protect the (notso) innocent ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I have been knitting like crazy lately and want to show off not only my knitting but that I have learned how to add photos to my blog so here we go. I've fallen in love with these fingerless mittens things. The most prevelant name I've seen for them is "wristers" I hate that name. :)

So after knitting up a bunch of assorted patterns for these critters and not being totally happy with any of them, I've developed my own pattern and I call them "Mittlets". So there! :P
I do them in 4 sizes and the 3 smaller sizes are named after my friend's lovely girls who are more than willing to be spoiled by me with fun hand knit goodies. They have been spoiling me in return, Emma finger knit me the coolest scarf in shades of ocean blues and greens! I just love it!

From left to right above, "Maddie's Mittlets" are adult medium size, "Emma's Mittlets" are large child size and "Erin's Mittlets" will fit a wee one. Aren't they cute? The girls' hands, silly...I *know* the Mittlets are cute! >g<
I have to tell this story...

The first meeting my knitting group held after Christmas was a ton of fun. Everyone brought all the knitting goodies they had been gifted and we had show and tell. One of our group had a terrific knitting calendar and of course, the rest of us coveted it madly. Noone in the area had any left so the hunt was on...

My DarlingHusband spent the two weeks following Christmas driving with me all over the state to every book store and calendar place in the mall we could find looking for this thing. My mission was two-fold: buy as many as I could find for the knitting group AND get them at 1/2 price. I know, I know...everyone had it online and I could have gotten 30,014 of them but they were all still selling at full price when all the calendar places had gone to half price so this frugal Yankee was on a mission...a mission from the discount gods.

At the end of a gallant but fruitless two week search DH and I hit the LAST Barnes & Noble we could find in NH and they were out of them, too. He decided to visit the Little DHs Room before we headed home and as I wandered around a corner nowhere near the HUGE calendar display...THERE THEY WERE! Two of them. Sitting all alone on a bottom shelf hiding under the Crochet calendar just waiting for me! Shyly wearing 50% off stickers like proud badges of honor! YAAAAAAYYYY!!!! (My abject apologies to everyone who was in that B&N but sometimes a girl's gotta yell) I snatched them up and RAN for the checkout. I must have looked like a madwoman...mothers were snatching their children out of my way in alarm, fathers were diving over stacks of books...I think security was called but they must have decided I was harmless after all because they didn't actually approach me they just hovered in the background. >lashflutter<

(The girl at the checkout said to me, "Oh! I saw this calendar! I'm going to get one of these for myself...I just learned how to knit." To which I replied, "Good luck! I think I just got the last two." I hope she was able to get one...she held up the lines admiring my newly knit mittlets and talking knitting with me for at least 20

I found DH perusing the motorcycle magazines, showed him my coup (he was proud) and off we went for the 2 hour drive home. When we got home I pulled one of the calendars out of the bag and handed it to my MotherInLaw, who knits with me but doesn't often make it to knitting group and said, "Look! It took two weeks and 8000 miles on the truck but I finally found it! I got two and I only paid half price!" She looked at the calendar, looked at me, put her hands up on her head and gazed into the distance for a minute, looked back at me, held up one finger in a "wait a minute" gesture and went off into the other room. We heard sounds of mad rummage and she returned bearing >GASP<>

take the psi-q psychic test yourself

I took this Psi Q test. It was interesting I guess but I'm not sure now if I should run out and open a physic readings place, start lighting black candles or just continue as before. I think I'll just continue. If you click on the graph thingy you can take the test, too. Just don't be asking me what it all means, ok?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Moving along...

OK. I have managed to learn how to edit the links so you'll see a couple over there that might interest you. I'll add more later today like a couple of my favorite yarn stores and maybe a fun knitting site or two. I haven't tackled the pics thing yet so be patient, I'll get to that soon. I did have some issues with what my actual address is so I could invite criticism from those who know me but I seem to have conquered that, too. Nothing like a new 'net concept to make one feel like a neophyte on a 'puter. On with the knitting!

I've been knitting for more than 40 years. My mother taught me when I was about 7 and I've seldom been without a project or twelve since. I'm a "public knitter". I'm the lady you see in the doctor's office knitting a baby blanket or at the high school basketball game knitting a sweater. I'm the lady you see walking around the mall with needles in hand and yarn stranding out of the felted belt bag at her waist as a tiny baby sock grows like magic off of the sticks. It's the magic that holds me. A couple of sticks, a piece of string and abracadabra! a sock! Or a sweater or a blanket or a bag shaped like a fish! Isn't it just amazing? Such simple materials and such complex end results! I've been casually teaching knitting for the last few years and my favorite students are children. They SEE the magic right away and just want to be a part of that. They are so eager and they are unafraid. They take the sticks, add the string and KNOW they can do it. We overthink everything as adults and it gets in the way, don't you think? Teaching children to knit has made me more accepting, more tolerant and easier in my own life. More comfortable. With myself and others. "Just do it" isn't just a cute catchphrase for the Nike's the battle cry of knitting teachers everywhere and kids GET that concept. They don't think about it and try to make sense out of it...they just do it ...and it works!

I must knit every day. My hands need the sticks, my soul needs the magic. I spent most of December teaching finger-knitting. Not the typical crochet-like chain most know as finger-knitting but rather a needle-free finger technique you employ which results in a 4 stitch wide panel. (which a bunch of moms and dads here in my small town can expect to receive as a scarf for Christmas or Hannukah gifts this season...SURPRISE!) As much joy as I got out of this, by the end of the sessions I found my hands positively itching for the feel of the needles!

Deciding a couple of weeks ago to knit Shirley Paden's Cabled Shrug from the Fall 2005 Interweave Knits was a boon! Like the wood we chop, stack and then burn for heat here in NH our knitting also warms us three ways. We are warmed by the excitement of choosing a pattern and the yarns to make it, we are warmed by the actual item growing off our needles to cover our laps and we are warmed by wearing the item when complete. Even gifting or selling the item has warmth, at least for me. I get a rosy glow inside when I see someone fall in love with something I have made that is just right for them!

As soon as I figure out the magic picture posting thing I'll show you some of the scarves *I* received as gifts. (Thank you SO much to Tucker and Emma!!) I'll also show you what I'm working on that Cabled Shrug.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Well, here we are. Welcome! I'm Jo and this is my blog. The "about me" portion of this blog is in the profile thing so go there if you're remotely curious "about me". Or just read on. In my blog I will talk about my knitting and my art and probably other things as well. I tend to ramble so either click off and go someplace else where the blogger is more thought-gathered than I am or sit back and enjoy. Your choice. I love choices, don't you?

My art explorations are vast and unlimited and consist of many things. "Sticks and Strings" refers to my knitting which I am a little obsessed with. I knit all the time, I knit everywhere. I have a bazillion and four projects going and I actually finish them! Mostly. Someday I'm planning to knit on the back of my DH's motorcycle. As soon as he decides to get one with one of those armchair-like seats on the back for me, you'll see me happily knitting away as he plays at being one of The Wild Bunch. Currently we are very happy with me snuggled up behind him on his new Harley not knitting, we'll see what the future brings. (Safety Chat Alert: I'm not planning to knit on my own bike cuz I need both hands to drive it and knitting while driving just isn't safe. Knitting while riding in a car is mostly ok, there could be airbag issues, but again not while driving. End of Safety Chat.) So right now I bring my knitting everywhere in the hope that I'll have an extra minute or 60 so I can knit a row/round/sock while I wait in line, wait for food, wait for the practice or game to be over, wait to be "next, please" or anything of the like. Having mastered the enviable technique Knitting While Walking I can be seen knitting while strolling the mall, wandering around at the beach or walking the fairgrounds during a fair or festival. (More Safety Chat: knitting while ogling men in kilts can be harmful to your health...or rather the health of your knitting >>holding up "extra-long sock-with-no-heel" as example<< face="trebuchet ms">
"Other Things" are exactly that and can range from painted bowls, furniture and home dec items to altered books to memory pages for scrapbooks to handmade books to altered boxes (an alternative to memory pages and scrapbooks) to cards and tags to painted murals to trompe l'oeil and faux finishes to tattoos to...well, you get the idea. My family warns that if it's round or half round it is in grave danger of being painted like a watermelon and should beware. "It" being any object within reach of my paintbrush. They only exaggerate a little because I have been known to give attention to other fruit on occasion. If it doesn't get painted it may well be in grave danger of having things glued to it. "Things" being any item that will willingly be glued. I'm firmly against gluing things that don't wish to be glued. A good policy that I encourage everyone to practice. Your children and your pets will thank you. I'm also exploring the world of tattoo flash. Yes, I have tattoos. No, you can't see them. Maybe later, if you're good. Why? Because I said so. Currently I'm working on a koi and on some things for my nephew who is learning how to tattoo. So basically, as you can probably tell, I have the attention span of a gnat and if I'm not immersed in a gagillion and five different things I get bored! A bored Gemini is an unhappy Gemini. An unhappy Gemini makes others around her miserable. Because she can.

Have you guessed yet that I don't know a THING about making a blog? I've read some blogs online and in a book my daughter loaned me. (The book was rather risque so we won't talk about "those" kinds of blogs here. >wink<) I get the basic blog idea (I think) and I'm excited to see how I can build mine. I plan to have cool links. I like to run amok around the 'net (with scissors of course) and see what I can find and I'm happy to share. I already have some ideas I'm just not sure exactly how to do it yet. I plan to post pictures. No, not of me, I'm horribly photo-allergic and tend to break out in hives no matter what side of the camera I'm on. I'll post pics of my art and my knitting and probably my photogenic pets who are camera hogs and love to show off. I'll absolutely post pics of the motorcycle. It too is a camera hog and loves to show off. Show me a Harley that doesn't. As soon as I master links and pics, you'll know. Look forward to them, it will make your day more exciting and it's good for your blood pressure. Anyone I've invited in, have at it! Anyone who just finds their way here and thinks they may know me, I deny everything! Feel free to contact me and offer suggestions, criticisms or recipes for your favorite cookies. I don't bake cookies but I know people who do.

So we're off to the races! Or something like that...