You have heard me before wax rhapsodic about the beauty of the Internet. Where else would you find such a treasure trove of free information on such a range of topics? And knitters, in particular, seem to be both plugged in to the 'net, and willing to share their hard-earned information with others. You can find all sorts of instructional sites, tips and tricks, and of course, a bonanza of free patterns.
Ah! The free patterns.
If you've been following any of my blog posts on copyright, you may recall reading that someone who creates a pattern owns the copyright on it, even if it's posted on the internet. You write it, you own it. A pattern may appear on Knitty or Magknits or Knancy Knitter's blog, just a few clicks away from your search engine, and you may print it out for free, and make your own version of the garment for free, but that doesn't mean that the creator of the pattern has given away her copyright rights or her copyright protection. And more to the point, it doesn't mean YOU can freely distribute or sell that pattern, in any form, without the permission of the copyright holder, i.e., the designer. It may be free for the taking (for your own personal knitting use), but it ain't free for the reselling.
Jenna, of the excellent Girl from Auntie website (it's more than just a blog), learned of a seller on Ebay who is selling -- for a pretty nominal sum -- "ebooks." Ebooks is a fancy name for PDF files. I've got nothing against PDF files; in fact, I think they are the wave of the future where knitting patterns are concerned. But I've got a lot against someone who sells ebooks full of stolen knitting patterns.
Yes, that's right, I used the word "stolen." Dictionary.com defines "steal" as "to take (the property of another) without right or permission." That's exactly what happened to Jenna, and many other knitting and crochet designers. Patterns which they designed and posted on the internet were downloaded and turned into PDF files, with the copyright notices conveniently deleted, and in some cases, alterations made (a Crystal Palace pattern was changed to require a generic type of yarn rather than their specific yarn). The patterns are being bundled and sold as ebooks, so that the designers -- who did not authorize or license their patterns to be used in this way -- aren't receiving any of the money made from the sale of these ebooks. That is theft of intellectual property.
You can read on Jenna's website the correspondence between her and the ebay seller. He claimed to have some kind of "resell rights," meaning, I think, that he bought the ebook content from others and since he bought it, he owns it. What a load of crap. You can't sell something you don't own. Consider this: If I walk over to your house, stand in front of it and pretend it's mine, and then accept $100,000 from the next passer-by for your house, can the passer-by claim that he owns your house now? He paid money for it, didn't he?
Of course not. And this ebay seller shouldn't hide behind his stupidity or his (alleged) ignorance of copyright law or probably more to the point, his intentional disregard of copyright law.
The knitting community benefits tremendously from the wealth of free patterns and other information that knitters load onto the web, most often for free, out of the goodness of their hearts. Let's not abuse their kindness by failing to respect copyright law.