ETA: Seems I didn't express my point clearly here. I've clarified in a new post.
I'm one of those people who thinks current copyright laws are ridiculous. I don't think it's reasonable that the US laws grant monopoly rights to creators for 70 years past their death. Copyright exists to strike a balance between the interests of creators and society, and my experiences being published digitally and in print have not changed my opinion that the balance is off – in favour of creators and against the interests of society.
Especially in a field like crochet, the less fear people have about finding inspiration, and the more innovation they're exposed to, the better it is for all of us both as creators and as consumers. And that doesn't have to make it difficult for creators to make a living. Occasionally, creators complain that they can't make a living because of copyright infringements they can't afford to litigate (ETA: In this case, I'm referring to consumers copying and distributing copyrighted works without permission, not to designers ripping each other off. There's way more grey area in the latter, and it's another issue entirely). To that I have this answer: Accept that you can't fight it, and spend your time and energy innovating. Improve your products, experiment with new distribution channels, team up with other creators, and in all other ways focus your energy on your business, not on no-win battles. If you want to let your business go under because you won't adapt and innovate, so be it.
I'll let it all hang out. Overall, there's a lot of room for improvement in professional crochet: in pattern writing, in presentation, in web site design, and in overall written communication — let alone the enormous amount of room for innovation in design.
There is a lot of concern among crochet professionals (and among professionals in many other creative fields) about the proposed Orphan Works Act of 2006 in the US. In copyright terms, a work is considered orphaned if the owner of the rights can't be found after a reasonable search. Since, as of thirty years ago, it's no longer necessary for a creator to register or mark his/her copyrighted works, an astonishing number of works are orphaned. The Orphan Works Act lessens penalties for infringers who try unsuccessfully to find copyright owners and go ahead and use the works anyway. To me, this makes a whole lot of sense, and helps to bring back a tiny bit of balance to the scene.
Contrary to arguments I've heard, this law will not give carte blanche to copyright infringers. It will not make all works up for grabs any more than they already are. Again, it's up to creatives to label their works, to keep their contact information fairly easy to find, and to choose how to spend their time and energy.
Want to read more? I've been keeping a list of bookmarks on del.icio.us. I know Vera was right in her comment to my last post when she said the topic of copyright can bring out … strong opinions. Bring it.
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