Thursday, February 21, 2013

A question about embroidery patterns

I'm confused about cross stitch and embroidery patterns people sell online.  As far as I can tell, someone puts up a lovely, high-res image (well, line drawing) on Etsy, looking perhaps like this cheerful clock from Shutterstock, and you're on your honor to pay them to send you a digital copy of the image rather than just printing out the image from their shop yourself for free.  Is it really all on the honor system?  (Kits I understand. I buy kits. But digital image files?)

Cross stitch is similar - it's a bit harder to back-form a chart and pick out your own thread colors, but (especially with one-color designs) it's still basically "here's a grid with the squares in the picture filled in with red thread - you can see it easily in the photo, but please pay me to send it to you rather than just doing it yourself."  Indeed, for out-of-print kits, it's fairly common to find an old photo online and work it out yourself, since you can't get the kit anymore (the old small pictures of English Heritage sites are good examples here).  So is buying the digital pattern just done because it's the right thing to do and you want to support the artist?  (Not that there's anything wrong with that.). Or is there something I'm missing?

(Embroidery patterns count as art for copyright purposes, I believe; so would a cross-stitch image, most likely.  Knitting does not - I mean, the words of the pattern are copyright as written material, but the technique is not copyrightable and the finished object would likely be a useful good rather than art, legally speaking.  That's why you're not going to have much luck suing someone who looked at a photo of your baby sweater and worked out the pattern on their own.  It's also a lot more work to do that than to right-click and download a photo instead of paying someone to email it to you.  Just like with quilt patterns, generally a combination of public domain patterns (if they're even copyrightable in the first place), but you pay for them to keep from having to work out all the math yourself.)

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