Not too long ago, one of the many dedicated posters on our Cross Stitch Community posted this message regarding one of their favourite design companies, who cited pirated designs as a key reason for her stepping down from the business:










The relationship between craft patterns and those sharing them without permission (sometimes for their own profit) has been reported at some length over the last decade. In today's copyright fight with film/music companies however, the knock-on effect into needlecraft has still been largely overlooked, even though the consequences are quite clear to see. As a slightly different, more serious topic for today's Past Impressions blog, we're going to explore how cross stitching has become involved with piracy, what's the damage been so far and what can be done about it.

How's It Done?

It's astonishing to think how much traditional craft-forms have befitted from the internet. As an online needlecraft store, we certainly can vouch for how it has helped those who design embroidery and more to sell their stuff, meet fellow hobbyists and even inspire themselves like never before. But as you probably know, every tool cuts both ways, and in our case the open air of the internet carries with it something foul.

In cross stitch, it's the pattern charts; the actual blueprints of threaded imagination, that are what's put up for cashless sale. Even before scanners could fit into the average home, many were making the odd Xerox/photo copies of their favourite designs to share with trusted fabric fellows. It may have been illegal, but the effect was negligible enough so that no one really suffered, but now, that small circle has now expanded into a great gang of unknowns.

Released alongside kits, published in magazines or bundled into craft books, in the earlier days once charts got into the grasp of certain nefarious sharers, they were scanned and handed out on various communities dedicated to share without shelling out.

Designers actually had to recruit friends and fans to snoop out where their patterns were being shared to, prompting the offending groups to re-organize and find ways of vouching for their own members. Evidently each side fighting this war on Aida will constantly try and one-up the other, but of course its a losing battle for both.

In the twenty ten's, less-than-legal, free cross stitch patterns are now mostly posted on blog pages and image sharing sites. As much as we like Pinterest, it is one of the biggest hotbeds for wrongly shared charts. Other places include social media groups and circles, and strange Chinese based forums and stores where you'll quickly find knock-off, inferior versions of popular patterns by the big name suppliers.

What's The Harm?

As demonstrated by AMAP's departure, the thought of your patterns being shared around for free (or in some cases, even charged for) without your permission is potentially enough to deter you from continuing. Often the arguments against these poor sales relate to decreased interest in needlework and the rising cost of kits as a result. Pointing out what's wrong is hardly an excuse to make the problem worse though, and whilst big changes in the way cross stitch kits and charts are sold (i.e. through tablets or online samples) are starting to re-shape the industry for the better, there's no reason for you to declare the ship as sinking just so you can drive it down quicker.

Right now there hasn't been a recent examination into the extent piracy has damaged the trade of cross stitch designers so far, with those numbers being something we'd very much like to see. In the meantime, we recommend having a read of this essay by the user 'Raven' on titled 'An Honest Look At The Size Of The Copyright Problem'. It contains some fairly well constructed math that demonstrates the potential loss that can be suffered in the needlework industry through just one individual.

What Can Be Done?

Like with film & TV, unless the industry were to radically change overnight in a way that unfathomably benefits the consumer, sadly piracy will always be a problem. Indeed the only real way to stop charts being pirated is to stop making charts...the inevitable end point if crafters don't start taking action as part of a potentially powerful community. Here's our personal top ways you can help the situation out:

#1 Educate yourself and others about Copyright 


It may be the case that you've unknowingly shared a chart without even knowing it was illegal. It's easier to do than you can think, and all the time we see the same questions cropping up. "If I bought the chart doesn't that mean I can do what I want with it?" "Can I stitch multiple patterns with the same design?" "What if I'm making no money on the pattern?" Some of these rules have such subtle lines that's it's worth reading the explanations from experts. There's three links below that should be a great help (they may relate more to US copyright law, but they'll be a great rule of thumb regardless):

#2 Always Ask Permission Where Possible

Whether it's an original piece of artwork, someone else's design or even a well known Disney character, before creating your own chart or working freehand onto Aida, it's always recommended you ask for permission. Even if you don't really intend to post the piece on social media or your website/blog when completed, it sets a nice precedent and shows ethical consumerism at its best. Just beware for impersonators, and always double (nay, triple check!) the person on the other end is genuine.

#3 Bring Pirating Sites to the Attention of Designers

Most suppliers and designer companies don't have staff with a full time responsibility of combing the internet for anyone who might be profiting off of their work. Therefore it's a huge favour to them if you just happen to come across one and pass it their way. Whilst it's nearly impossible to get such sites or groups shut down, it's easy enough for the original creators of the pieces to get their work stricken the offending sites, and from then on that site is now in their watched list.

#4 Protect Your Work

If you are a designer, there's numerous ways you can weather the blow when certain individuals want to share your creations for copying. Some recommend you forgo selling charts electronically, and instead sell only kits based around your designs (with no DMC or Anchor numbers visible on the documentation). It may even be worth investing in copyright protection, a subject far to big to go into here, but well worth your own investigation.

Speaking of research, here's a couple more useful links if you're interested in learning/reading/writing more on this touchy topic:

Is Stitch Online a Crime? - LA Times Article
A Crisis of Content - TIME article (requires subscription)
The Girl From Auntie: Copyright for Crafters

We know you must have something to add on this issue. Whether it's a story about how yours or a friend's work has been hit by copyright violation, an informed opinion or even a disagreement with something we've said, let us know in the comments. Don't forget you can also share your views by stopping by our Facebook page, on Twitter or through Google+, where you can also find the Cross Stitch Community that started us down this rabbit hole!

Post By Graham Ashton