Remember the wrap? (If not, it's a project I got about 1/3 done, took off the needles, and threw away). It's making me twitchy to not have anything to knit on while I've got all this finishing work staring me in the face (shoulders of the Tax Sweater STILL NOT SEWN UP), so I'm going back to working on that. I'm going to put button holes down the sides, so that it can be transformed into different articles of clothing, like Convertible. I'd come up with about half that idea on my own - the concept of somehow buttoning the sides of a wrap together in different ways, but I was thinking about frogs, not simple holes and button cuff-links. So I'm using the cuff-link idea on my own wrap design. When I see a good idea, I use it. But I do try to give credit where it's due. And I never would have come up with the button cuff-link idea myself.
There have been some intelligent and thought-provoking discussions of copyright law over on Go Knit In Your Hat and The Girl From Auntie, and I've been reading them with interest. As a writer I've got a better understanding of how copyright applies to the written word, than fashion, but it turns out they're not so different. In my viewpoint, nearly all of it can be summed up as good manners. (If you were trying to make a living selling a pattern, and some shlep posted it on the internet, how would you feel? Most of it's pretty obvious.) There are a few gray zones, however, where The Right Thing To Do is kind of unclear.
Case in point? Stuff that's out of print.
Let's say I want to knit an Alice Starmore pattern from her Tudor Roses book. (Henry V looks pretty fookin' cool, I've gotta say.) My understanding is, her web site only sells YARN PACKS for Henry, not the pattern. The pattern is in a book that is out of print. So. I've got two choices here. Either buy an out of print copy of the book (currently listing at $104 US on Amazon.com), or, in a nutshell, steal a copy (make a photocopy from the book, out of a library or a friend's collection). Stealing a copy of the pattern goes against my morals. HOWEVER. If I were to win the lottery and buy a copy of the out-of-print book, STARMORE STILL WOULDN'T GET ANY MONEY. That's right. When you sell a used book, the author doesn't get a dime, whether it's sold for pennies or a hundred and four bucks. Whether I buy the pattern, or steal it, Starmore doesn't see a dime. So... how bad is it to steal the pattern? If the designer's not making money at it, either way, is it really theft? Should I just send Starmore five bucks and a thank-you note? (Judging from the amount of litigation Starmore has produced over the years, I imagine that yes, she wants the five bucks, the thank you note, and a notarized document stating you'll knit it exactly like she tells you to.)
Please keep in mind, THIS ONLY APPLIES TO THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF PRINT. If the book's avaiable, get your butt out there and buy it.
There are a lot of VERY cool knitting patterns that are out of print, and I'm always in this sort of position when it comes to aquiring them. I never know what to do. Still don't. But now I've presented my gray area so all of YOU can worry about it too. That's me, Ms. Helpful.