Thursday, April 12, 2012

Copyrights: Attitude is everything!

I've been doing some thinking about the issue of copyrighted material.

I ran across this article on a Blog that I frequent and it expresses my own opinion on this topic.

I've run across the issue of someone "stealing" one of the techniques that I teach and selling the results, and I have always thought that it was a good thing. I was happy that someone took an idea of mine (that I may or may not have gotten from another source) and made it there own enough to sell it and make some money for themselves off of it.

There is a woman in town who was giving tatting classes. I originally taught this woman how to tat when I was working at Erickson's in the last century. She apologized to me for teaching Tatting as if it were taking away from something I was doing. I had moved on so I didn't mind, but even if there had been strong feelings involved, I would have to ask myself, what right would I have to corner the market on tatting lessons? I didn't invent tatting and nothing really innovative has happened with tatting in the last 100 years. It was practically a lost art, so if she was able to master the technique through practice and became proficient enough that she could teach it to others then maybe this art will not totally be lost. I say teach it to as many people as are interested and keep encouraging them to teach it to others as well so that maybe in time there will be some more innovations and the younger generation will find the joys of tatting and keep teaching to more of the generations to come. Once the last person who knows something dies they take that knowledge with them to the grave and then it will take hundreds of years to get it back through the normal progression of experimentation, practice and innovation.

The world of quilting is different from other forms of creative expression in that quilters are natural sharers and nurturers. That is the trait that got us in trouble in the first place and led to debacles like the Schlep bag controversy where we all grabbed a hold of a fairly easy technique and didn't bother to go buy the pattern. It has now passed from quilter to quilter so many times that most of us don't even know that it was a printed pattern to begin with let alone who the original designer was.

This is the worst case scenario on the topic of copyright, and yes, it is wrong. This is why the board of Rumpled Quilts-Kin quilting guild has deemed it necessary to stress the importance of not copying patterns for our friends.

But this does not apply to things that are taught. It states in the article that if you teach a technique that you have innovated, you then must accept that your students are going to use that knowledge to their own benefit if they can. You have no right to claim benefits from what your students do with that knowledge. I designed a bag that I call the "Wild Log Cabin bag" and eventually I will have the pattern ready to sell. I've given it to my students in the free-mo classes that I've taught and it's come back to me several times that my students have made these bags and started selling them at local bazaars and craft shows. That's great! Maybe someone who buys one of their bags for $30 will eventually see the pattern on sale for $8.00 and buy it so they can make their own. Or it could end up being another Schlep bag, because it's so easy that you don't really need a pattern for it, and that would be good too because it would give me bragging rights. Eventually I could go anywhere in the country and say, "You know that Crazy Log Cabin bag? I designed that." It would add to my expertise. I'm not going to get stuck on that one item and keep fighting with the idea that I need to be compensated from every person who ever made one. Life is too short. I give my skills to the Universe and the Universe blesses me with more new ideas.

This attitude of sharing ideas and innovations is the whole reason that quilting has had such a resurgence in the past 40 years. I have always maintained that quilters are the best people on the planet because we know the secret to life. To learn and create as much as we can and to share what we know with other like minded people so they can also learn and create and in this way we love each other with our creativity. This is what makes us happy and full of life. This is what makes us quilters.

I applaud Leah Day and her wisdom, her ideas, and her creativity. I applaud that she has the strength of purpose and the giving nature that allows her to give her creativity so freely. She too has been triply blessed by the Universe (read deity if you must) because she has even more to share as she grows in her craft.

Keep in mind that the copyright laws were written to protect the publishing industry, not to curtail creativity. Most quilt designers know this and truly wish to share their techniques with others. As a quilter I say, give the designers their due. As a designer I say, go forth and create!

See Leah’s post on this subject at:

Cindy Koch-Krol
Quilting Teacher at Interquilten
Quilt designer
Artist and Author