The legalities surrounding use of creative works are both necessary and controversial. Contrary to some people's impressions, the rules are not clear cut; contrary to those of others, the rules exist for good reason. Because laws of copyright and trademark are complex and full of subtle nuances, it's nearly impossible to sum them up in a sentence or two, and I, personally, support some rules and challenge others.
For example, I think that fair use rules are important and should be respected - being free to quote a work for purposes of critique or education is necessary to foster learning, debate, and innovation. I think setting the length of copyright at decades past the death of the creator is ridiculous, and neglects society's hunger for innovation.
As I said, there's nothing but grey area when it comes to intellectual property rights. And within that grey area, for me personally, there is a factor of industry size that blurs the lines of my logic. Illegally downloading a song is akin to illegally copying a book, and I think it's wrong. However, I also think, for example, that the music industry's crusade against file downloaders and the software that enables it (while also enabling many valuable and perfectly legal uses) is overkill and unfair. When a massive industry is involved, I find I criticize the industry for refusing to adapt to new technologies and to consumer preferences more than I criticize the individual music downloader. It's hypocritical, but it's what I think. Copyright policy is not a moral issue, and was never intended to be. Its purpose is to balance the need for creators to support themselves financially with the need of the common society to benefit from their works and to foster innovation. CD sales slumped for a bit, probably due to online file sharing, and now online for-profit music stores are making a killing and internet distribution has opened up opportunities for countless indie musicians who are finding ways beyond notoriously brutal big label music contracts to gain air time and fan bases on their own.
There's a shocking amount of illegal crochet pattern distribution online, though, and it can't be solved by industry innovation. It doesn't take place on Napster-esque platforms, and our industry doesn't yet have a plan of attack to curb it. Illegal pattern sharing happens over email, through Yahoo! groups, on message boards, and on eBay. The scale of the stealing does have the potential to significantly affect the income of the designers and publishers who put out the patterns.
I'm babbling. I started writing this to draw your attention to a site I just found a while back [via Robyn - thanks for the link]: The Counterfeit Crochet Project. San Francisco visual artist Stephanie Syjuco started the project, and I recommend reading her FAQ. She's an excellent writer, and the factors that came together to inspire her to start the project are interesting and thought-provoking. Her summary on her portfolio page is briefer, if you're in a rush.
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