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Copyright and Parching

October 20, 2010

There were several recent copyright infringement issues that came to the forefront in the parching world recently. While I won’t go into specifics here, I thought this would be a really good time to talk about copyright and international agreements, particularly after one person queried if copyright law was standard between all countries. Well, the simplest answer to that is no, not really, but there are some protections.

While each country has their own set of copyright laws, countries are also parties to international agreements and treaties dealing with copyright. However, not all countries are party to the same agreements and treaties. I realize that this will not be of interest for a lot of parchers, but I hope this post will contain a lot of useful information for any parcher that is a designer, a parcher that may intend to become a designer, or a parcher that has any information on the web.

Let me back up for a second or two. I have to admit that when I hear a discussion on copyright laws, I immediately think of US Copyright laws, being from the US. However, being that the parching community is world-wide, US Copyright laws are not always going to be the set of laws that will take precedent. I do have to remind myself of this constantly. It’s also a little difficult to discuss copyright issues on a world-wide scale without a little history. So, let’s take a step back in time for a moment.

Interestingly, the history of copyright goes back to the 15-16th centuries, when the church and governments were trying to control and regulate printing once the printing press was invented. While discussions of these regulations were largely political in nature, I couldn’t help point this time frame out, because parchment art dates back to the same time and is believed to have been popularized at the time the printing press came into use. I won’t bore you with the political details here, but I do want to point out some of the developments of copyright laws. The first actual copyright law comes from England, called the Statute of Anne, passed in 1707 and came into force in 1710. The Statute of Anne is considered to be the basis of copyright law for many other nations. For many years copyright laws, particularly those based on the Statute of Anne, were largely economic in nature rather than based on the “right of the author” (for example French copyright laws). For those of us in the US, I would like to point out that the creation of copyright laws can be found in the US Constitution — Article 1 section 8.

Let’s take a few steps forward to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, otherwise known as the Berne Convention. The Berne Convention is an international agreement, and prior to it, copyright would only be in force for the country in which a work was produced. Here is an example  provided by wikipedia:

Before the Berne Convention, national copyright laws usually only applied for works created within each country. Consequently, a work published in United Kingdom (UK) by a British national would be covered by copyright there, but could be copied and sold by anyone in France. Likewise, a work published in France by a French national could be copyrighted there, but could be copied and sold by anyone in the UK.

Basically, publishers did not like that their works could be taken to another country and copied and distributed (here are those economic reasons!) without any protections, thus the Berne Convention was created. There are other agreements and treaties, such as the Paris Convention, and then a lot of mergers.

Like the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention set up a bureau to handle administrative tasks. In 1893, these two small bureaux merged and became the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (best known by its French acronym BIRPI), situated in Berne. In 1960, BIRPI moved to Geneva, to be closer to the United Nations and other international organizations in that city. In 1967, it became the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and in 1974 became an organization within the United Nations.

The Berne Convention was revised in Paris in 1896 and in Berlin in 1908, completed in Berne in 1914, revised in Rome in 1928, in Brussels in 1948, in Stockholm in 1967 and in Paris in 1971, and was amended in 1979. The UK signed in 1887 but did not implement large parts of it until 100 years later with the passage of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

If you are interested in which countries are parties to which treaties and agreements, Wikipedia has a nifty table, here. As you can see, if you followed that link, not all countries may subscribe to the same agreements/treaties. Which, as you can imagine, can make things very confusing.

As the parching community is world-wide, I need to point this out once again why these agreements and treaties are so important. Clearly stated in the Copyright Basics circular, published by the US Copyright Office, is this section on “International Copyright Protection,” (emphasis mine)

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that
will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout
the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a
particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of
that country. However, most countries do offer protection to
foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions
have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties
and conventions.

Simply put, knowing your national laws and being aware of the Berne Convention is a very important aspect for designers and more importantly publishers in the parching community.

This becomes very important when patterns are shared. Now, lets all be completely honest here, I imagine a lot of you have shared a particular pattern with a friend. While this is generally done rather discretely, it does ultimately harm the creator of that pattern, financially, based on copyright laws. Simply put, it is considered theft.

So, how long does copyright protection last? Here in the US, a piece of work is automatically copyrighted at the time the creation becomes tangible and will last for the lifetime of the creator/author PLUS 70 years after the date of the author’s death. In the UK, copyright duration is roughly the same, as far as I can tell at this point.

I realize that I focused mostly on US and UK laws. If I were to research the copyright laws of every country of the good folks that visit this blog, I would be doing research for the next 5 years, and this post would never have gotten written, and would be completely bording boring! The bottom line of this post is to be aware of copyright laws in your country. Keep your work safe.

  1. October 20, 2010 5:41 pm

    OUTSTANDING article, Chiara!! I am a recent ‘victim’ of copyright infringement as content from my own blog has been stolen and when it happens it leaves one with the same feelings as when someone breaks into your home and helps themselves to whatever they want to take. It is not a fun place to be, so what Chiara says is exceptionally good advise……watch over your work and guard it carefully. Make sure wherever your work is posted online, it is clearly copyrighted for everyone to see. Thieves are always going to be one step ahead….it’s what they do for their living….but we can at least make things VERY difficult for them whenever they cross our path!!!!!!!

  2. October 20, 2010 7:37 pm

    Hey girls, chiming in here. I am a paper crafter as well as a parcher. I am not a designer in parchment craft; however, I am a designer in the paper craft industry and have worked with several craft companies. I have been a victim over and over again and I do watermark my work. But the plain truth is, if someone wants your work and you’ve published on the internet, there’s little you can do to stop them from taking it. Most will take and not even both to try to remove your watermark. You can contact their domain host and with proof that the work is indeed yours, the domain host will contact them and ask that the work be removed. If the party will not remove the work, the domain host will shut them down. I’ve done this twice and it was very effective. The problem is, most times you won’t know your work has been stolen unless someone notifies you who recognizes your work, which is what happened with me. I publish tutorials on my blog and I cannot tell you how many of my viewers write me and tell me they’ve printed them out . .. . arrgghhh . . . . . I’ve just learned that it’s a fact that it’s going to happen and I have to let it go.

    • October 20, 2010 7:51 pm

      Jerri, I really appreciate your input. I totally agree that if someone really wants something they will find a way to get it. But I also feel that each of us that deal with copyright infringement must find the point when theft of our work crosses the line and should be dealt with legally. On that note, I’ve had to file a couple of DMCA Notices myself.

      I did not delve into internet laws, feeling that what I posted might be better off as the first part of a series, depending on what the reaction is to this piece. Internet laws muddy the copyright waters even more, and it might be too much to soak in all at once?

  3. October 21, 2010 2:59 am

    Well, I am a little shocked by reading this – (obviously my naivity of human nature, that I always think good of people unless they prove otherwise) I didn’t know that theft was going on in a grand scale; of course it makes perfect sense that if someone can get something for nothing… I did catch someone selling my patterns on Ebay and when I contacted her she told me she had bought them at an exhibition (which I couldn’t prove or deny) and that she was having to give up parchment due to ill health. I gave her the benefit of the doubt; but it still lingers.

    Jerri is right, we can only know if someone is stealing if it is pointed out to us because as busy folk we don’t have the time to go trawling through websites to see who is doing what – I certainly don’t. I know there are a number of parchers who have Picasa (Google) albums and some of my students and customers have told me about my patterns (and those of many other designers) are shown, but further investigation shows in the majority of cases, that it is only the front cover page which is shown. However one did state “if you want a copy of any of the patterns here please ask”. I reported it as abuse and asked for this to be removed. It is worth all designers to Google their name under images and see what appears. REMEMBER though that the images that do come up aren’t necessarily on websites currently as they do seem to capture the image and hold them and when you click on the link to go to the website it goes no further.

    • October 21, 2010 7:46 am

      Karen, I believe that there is a very fine line while watching for your designs being posted on the internet and trying to keep your copyrighted work safe before it takes over your life. Like I said above to Jerri, I did not include Internet Laws, in this post. Partly because it would be so much more information to soak in, and partly because it is really so new and there is even less of a standardization found between countries. Although some of the Conventions do include some protections on digital copyright.
      And, you are very correct — search engines like Google, crawl the web, and store your pages and images, and those can be found years down the road.
      I’m pretty sure most designers realize that there will be sharing going on — and of course, each country does have exceptions (UK is Fair Dealing, while the US is Fair Use in this instance, a tutor using someones pattern to teach a class/individual student actually falls into this category). Like you noted, the open sharing of patterns via the internet on Picasa is a over the top.

  4. Sue permalink
    October 21, 2010 6:35 am

    Hi Chiara,
    Thanks for this article, I found it really interesting.
    I am not a designer and never will be so have not given this issue any thought until now.
    I am guilty of sharing and copying patterns also downloading stuff off the internet which to me has been “free”. I have rarely/never given any thought to where it originated. I know there are many others world wide who do the same.
    It is ignorant and thoughtless on our part, that is not meant as an excuse.
    The real problem on the internet lies with the person making it available to the likes of me. It will be nigh on impossible to stop someone wanting and taking something that is available on the internet for “free” to them! People who would never dream of doing such a thing in their everyday lives.
    Laws, (and not just in this area) need to be seen to be implemented and appropriate punishments given out for all to see.
    Internet copyright laws need to be tightened and apply worldwide.
    This will be an upright struggle, however you have educated me and for my small part I apologise.

    • October 21, 2010 7:59 am

      Sue, when doing a search on the internet for images to use in parchment, you should always include the word(s) “free” or “royalty free”. There are a lot of images that are not/or no longer are covered by copyright. Those, and a designers Free Pattern offers are completely legitimate to print out, or save on your computer.
      A good example of copyright infringement is what Karen describes above, on a Picasa album. Showing a designers pattern pack with a statement of an intent to openly share these patterns, is a blatant violation of copyright infringement. To get a better understanding on that I would say that particular situation is similar to the Peer-2-Peer sites where music is openly shared (of course, not on that scale, the parching community just isn’t that big).

      • Sue permalink
        October 21, 2010 9:18 am

        Thanks Chiara,
        I must admit to being a bit worried when I posted but you have cleared things up considerably. I have used Picasa albums but only when a link has been supplied, usually by the owner.
        I only visit a few blogs so have not yet come across any that appear to have copied stuff on them. It must be so frustrating for you and others.

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