Pattern piracy

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Laura 'Purl Princess' Parkinson takes to the high seas of knitting copyright to tackle her conscience over pattern piracy


I log into Ravelry, looking to search for a new project and instantly spot that I have a new message in my inbox. How exciting! I hope it’s a long lost knitting friend looking to reconnect or someone commenting on a finished project. But no, it is a stranger asking if I could scan and send them a pattern for a jumper I knitted years ago. My initial reaction is ‘Why, yes; of course I’ll send it to you’ but a split second later I’m stopped in my tracks by another voice inside of me that firmly says ‘No’.  

PAT Nov 13Laura 'Purl Princess' Parkinson, about to catch some pirates!


This situation has a happened to me a couple of times recently and has really had me questioning my morals on the subject. I know it may seem ridiculous, many of us would think nothing of taking a copy and sending it off, but let me explain. My conflicting feelings mainly come from my sympathy for the designer. She or he would have slaved over a pattern for weeks or months and when they sell on that pattern it is a source of their income. I love the idea of supporting those that strive to live an entirely knitted existence, writing patterns and getting paid for it, but if we simply give their work away for free how can they achieve this? They deserve to be paid for their original thinking, design talent and skill.

However, if a friend asked me to borrow a knitting book and they used a pattern from it, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, which means that I’m going against my morals of striving to make sure designers are paid for their work. The conflict is that to me, passing a book onto a friend doesn’t feel the same as emailing a scan to a stranger. That to me feels the same as illegally downloading music or a film, like piracy.    

So I have decided to do some proper research into the matter. This is the kind of thing that will keep me up at night otherwise! has a great article called A Matter Of Principle written by an intellectual property attorney about copyright on knitting patterns. It really sums it all up in one question and answer: “Can I make a copy of a pattern for a friend? No. This would specifically be infringement [of copyright] because you are copying the work to deprive the author of a sale. You should have your friend buy a copy of the pattern for him/herself.” And there it is, in black and white. If you copy a pattern, whether it be for a friend or a stranger, you are effectively breaking copyright law.   

Now it is another matter if anyone would actually take you to court over such a thing, although stranger things have happened. I can’t say that I won’t be letting my friends borrow a knitting book ever again but I now have something to say to the strangers when they request a copy of a pattern; buy a copy from the designer and help pay their wages.


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