Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Choose where to spend your hard earned cash carefully.

We've been seeing and having a lot of discussions about illegal shops on Ebay and Etsy lately. You see these ALL the time. Not necessarily selling scans or copies, but selling unlicensed artwork, like Disney, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones or Dr. Who to name just a few examples, but it extends to thousands of independent artists as well. Many stitching groups are now making it policy not to allow members to even post pictures of their WIPs or finishes if they've used an unlicensed chart or haven't gotten the proper permissions to create their own charts. Why is this such a big problem?
Well partly because it deprives the original artist of deserved income. Legitimate designers will either buy a license or work out a royalty arrangement with artists and copyright holders to be allowed to reproduce their intellectual property in cross stitch. These shops in question do nothing of the sort. They find a picture they like on the internet and run it through a pattern program, save it as a pdf and sell it without any regards to who actually owns the picture. 

The reason these sell so much is because they're cheap. When you're not paying to use the picture legally, you don't have to charge as much. And the difference in time spent is enormous. Legitimate designers spend hours and hours on each chart. These guys spend a few minutes on it.
It's not a small problem either. These shops are selling hundreds and hundreds of these unlicensed charts. See the example attached. One is a legitimate shop selling original or licensed works and has been in business on Etsy for about 15 months. The other is an example of an illegal shop on Etsy, selling ripped off artwork from Disney and others, which has been in business about a year - their sales are more than double. And there are hundreds if not thousands of these shops all over the net. 

Much as we'd like to have them all shut down, the copyright owner is the only one who can do this. 
I spend a couple hours a week sending notifications out to various legal departments, artists and designers about these. Inevitably though, within a day or so of one of these shops getting shut down, they just start up again somewhere else or under a different name. 

This extends to free stuff too. There are lots of sites out there that like to make up freebies of game, cartoon, movie or television characters and give them away free. Just because no money is changing hands doesn't make it legal. That also means it extends to personal use. If you find a picture you want to use for cross stitch and it isn't already a chart, you should always get permission from the artist or copyright holder. Without permission you are risking legal action, it doesn't matter whether any money has changed hands. Many groups have gone so far as to disallow posting of self-made charts as well for this reason. 

The best thing you can do as a stitcher? Buy from legitimate sources - reputable designers or shops - and if you see something that seems suspicious, don't keep quiet about it. I know all the copyright discussions can get really tedious, believe me, I have at least one every single day, but sometimes a little education on the matter can go a long way. 

And if you're uncomfortable speaking up yourself, we're only a message away.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A rant from the husband of a *needlework designer"

Look out!
The Copyright Police are in town!

(foreword: I am not explaining laws and rules etc here, merely pointing out a few things that I feel are important for all in this Uploading/Downloading/Designing tornado of crap flying around, just addressing some of the points that I have read/heard)

For a long time now I have read, witnessed and listened to complaints about the copyright police, for those of you not familiar with this, it's a widely used term for people who rattle on for hours about copyright. These guys (you know who you are) spend hours every week, sifting through page upon page of uploaded charts, looking to see how many have been downloaded and then spend more time telling how the "Copyright laws" work and how they are being infringed etc.

Do you find this annoying?

They float from page to page, look here, post there, pick people out and name them or ban them, based on the "Proof" they have.
They like to use words like "Infringer", "downloader", "Uploader".... and so on.... personally I don't like these terms, these names given to those they point at.
The problem is, these designers and friends spend an awful lot of time designing a chart, picking colours, fabric etc, then charting it, then stitching it, then recharting it with amendments and then writing out instructions , then compiling it, then printing it, then sorting and packaging it and finally boxing it up and mailing it out.

It's funny how you can compress hundreds of hours of work into one paragraph isn't it.

Once this is all accomplished, the charts sell, now we take into account the cost of the materials for the model, the cost of paper, ink, packaging, boxing, mailing.... then remove the distributors fees and the retail shops cut.... suddenly that $20 chart just earned you maybe $3-$5... so you sell 100 of them (and for many designers this is a high number in the first few months of release), and lets put the higher price of $5, so that's $500 profit... for approximately 200-400 hours sometimes more ... of work, lets go with the lower.... 200 hours for a $500 return..... wait... isn't that like $2.50 per hour?... wow, that's pretty harsh, so it evens out when they have sold more right?.... so providing the chart continues to sell (which often drops off by huge amounts as time goes on), over the course of time, lets say they sell 400 charts, well now we're talking, that's $2000, not bad.... so that hourly rate is $10... wait, isn't that a little lower than the average Canadian MacDonalds worker.
Yet these guys are talented, talented enough to sell their artwork, to have it handed around the internet... the problem is when they are desperately trying to sell those 400 charts, it usually only reaches a quarter of that before it drops off and goes cold... why does it go cold?... well a chart comes out and sells 50 in the first week... 50 in the second week (these numbers are very high for most)... then it gets uploaded to a sharing site or pintrest or similar... once it's out there for free... it stops selling.

The amount of time and effort put into creating these works of art is huge, it's not something you can seriously attempt as a business and still hold a normal job, we are talking about 12-18 hour days, 6-7 days per week... EVERY week... and when it's uploaded, it's heartbreaking, and not only that but it's seriously detrimental to their income and more over, their ability to continue supplying the public with the products they crave. This leads to the supporting husband needing to work more hours to cover off the lack of income so the bills can be paid, oh I'm sure they have lots of money though and their bills are high because they have big houses and ferrari's... right?... could not BE more wrong, how about a POS 15 year old car and a 900sq foot house?... rented, get by paying the bills and eating and once per year maybe buying something nice, like a TV or microwave or sofa... THIS is the reality for many needlework designers, they are just like you and I, trying to make enough money to pay the bills from week to week, the only difference is they are brave enough to follow a very unstable source of income, but if nobody did this, we would have no art, no books, no music. It would be a sad world would it not?

Then there's the good old argument of what is legal and what is not, many of you think you know the laws as far as copyright, I'm not going into detail because you've already been told... but I will outline a couple of things that may sink into some thick skulls out there.
If you buy a DVD movie.... you own the disc, the case and any booklets etc that may come with it.... you DO NOT own the movie, you are paying for the right to watch the movie repeatedly. If you owned the movie, you would be entitled to a share of the profits it made.
When you buy a Music CD... again, you own the disc, the case and any paper materials... but do you own the songs?... Of course not.
When you buy software... you own the disc, the case and the manual... you do NOT own the software,  
you just own a license
  to use it as laid out in the small print.

If you dispute this, I suggest you talk to a lawyer and contact some companies legal departments, like Disney, Virgin and Microsoft.

Then you will argue that if it's on the internet then it's legal, or not illegal.

You all know it's illegal to upload and download and copy movies and music and software right?... come on, you all know when you download the latest photoshop that you have to crack it or find a serial key bypass etc... if you were allowed to get it free then why do you need these things?... surely it would just install and open?
No, you have to crack it because you have obtained it through unofficial sources... and you know it. 

What on Earth makes you think a chart is any different? ... it's been compared to shoplifting... and that comparison often leads to outcry's about how it's not.
Well lets break this down...
You obtained a product that is currently for sale, from a company that sells it... but you obtained it for free, when the company is most certainly not giving it away. You obtained it through unorthodox methods and you obtained it without the companies knowledge and really do not want the companies knowing you have it... why?
You spin word salad and plead this and that when you know damn well that you have obtained it by circumventing the need for paying for the product... now if you apply this to a shop and obtained a product they are selling from someone who "Has it free" when you know full well they have copied it from an original they bought, then you have received stolen goods from a shoplifter... please explain the difference... is it because one is physical and one is digital?... well yeah... so in that case, you should be ok with sneaking into a theatre to see the latest movie without paying, after all you're not getting anything physical are you... so I'm assuming many of you "Downloaders" do this no?... didn't think so.

Now the argument of "Well I didn't upload it", that's true in some cases, but by downloading it you are supporting the the uploaders, with no downloaders, the uploaders wouldn't bother, in the same way that 
if you don't buy stolen goods, then there would be no thieves. 

If you are uploading it, you are breaching a host of copyright laws that cross borders across the globe, you buy it and race to upload it because you want to be the one to upload it first.... yay, you're awesome!...   ...   ... 
What you are doing is the exact same thing as buying a DVD, copying it and uploading it... while you likely do this... you know that is wrong and you KNOW you are breaking the law... why do you insist charts are any different at all?
What is hilariously ironic is you uploaders actually get mad at someone who reuploads your upload and claims they upload it... all the time bitching about these designers who are bitching about you taking their 200 hours of works and giving it away while claiming some sort of credit... am I really the only person that thinks that borders on delusion?

What many of you don't seem to understand is pages like Pintrest/facebook are constantly breaching copyright, you seem to think that because you can upload and share charts... that's it's ok, it's not, it simply boils down to these websites not being able to keep up with what people post... that's why there's a "Report" button. Don't believe me?... ask them, or better still, copy a movie and put it on Youtube... you will quickly find out you are not allowed to take a work of art or product and share it online without permission and agreements from the owner of said artwork

Then I see the "My pintrest/facebook account was hacked!" ... Oh my god you are so full of shit, I'm a PC/Internet/Network technician, these accounts actually being hacked is very rare, hacking in North America and most of Europe is classed as terrorism and carries a very heavy sentence, the term hacking does NOT cover you leaving your account logged in on someone elses computer... would your car insurance pay up if you told them you left your car unlocked when it was stolen?.. No! why?.. because it was your own bloody fault!... If someone actually hacked your account, then they would have had to hack the password system of these sites, in which case it's an attack on the site itself and this is not easy to do, the only other way is by searching your account, linking through information on it and hijacking your email, again, pretty tricky and on the whole, very rare... but you stitcher downloaders and uploaders seem to be running into this problem often, but then there's the psychology of it...
why in the name of all that is green would anyone bother to hack an account to upload or download a stitching chart?...
if you have enough knowledge to do this then you have more than enough knowledge to just obtain the files or share the files anyway... or is it to make you look bad?... why?... what did you do to these people to make them risk heavy fines and prison sentences that makes them so mad they get back at you by... sharing needlework charts.
How freaking lame is that?

What really happens?... you get caught and try to blame it on a virtual mythical excuse of your account being hacked.... does it happen?... yeah sure... how often?... about 1 in every 2 million... kind of eliminates most of the stitching world, and yet you guys are always being hacked, scary huh... once again, your eyes are turning brown as you fill with yet more bullshit.

I also hear "I can't afford them though, I'm poor".... wait right there, I'll go get the worlds smallest violin and play you a sad song... I'm poor, I really really really want a Mustang, can't afford one... do I have the right to obtain one in a similar manner to the way you obtain charts?... really?

So uploaders and downloaders... both as bad as each other and cannot survive doing this without each other.

Then there's the great comment I see/hear often... "This sharing is forcing designers to quit because they can't afford to do it"
The response is often .. "Oh well, one designer quits, another one will come along.

This is where the line has not only been crossed, but been crossed with such flippancy it angers me.
The above statement about "one quits and another comes along"... if you've ever said, posted or thought anything close to that then you are a piece of garbage, you are the lowest of the human race in the civilized world, you have no care that what you are doing is directly causing financial and psychological issues for these guys who pour their heart and soul into making something you clearly think is beautiful, and then you just take it and say you don't care if that person that created something that brought you happiness loses their business and watch you pouring their dreams down the drain... you are scum, you are not worthy of the title of "Human Being"...

At the start of this word block I mentioned I don't like the term "Downloader", "Uploader" or "Infringer" or the like... I would like to briefly explain why I don't like them, the reason is very very simple and very short and to the point, while you can gloss it up to being an "Infringer", much the same way we gloss up a "Sanitation technician" and want to just say "You're a Janitor FFS!"... the term "Infringer:" and the like are just a glossed up way of describing what you really are.... you are nothing more than a dirty, common thief.

Have some compassion for these guys who are simply trying to make a living and the husbands and supporters who are picking up the slack, these families are just trying to survive in this world the same as you and your family, they offer you a product that makes you happy, for a nominal fee,  
they bring you a small piece of happiness... in return you offer them deceit, lies, theft and heartache. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Since it's not our artwork or our copyright, why do we care

“Unlicensed charts on Etsy/Ebay. .. since it's not our artwork or our copyright, why do we care if these people are breaking the law?”
The reason we care is that it takes business away from legitimate companies, the ones who do pay big bucks for licensing. The ones who work very hard on artwork reproductions to produce high quality charts rather than just 2 minute completely computer generated knock offs. The ones who are legally trying to make a living rather than skirting all the laws to make a quick buck. The ones who care about artists work and artists making a living as well.
Imagine you're an artist or a photographer, whose living is made from your creativity. You work very hard on your artwork, putting in many hours, sometimes weeks or months, to get it perfect. You are really proud of it and put it on your website or Facebook page to show of the work you're so proud of, and try to make some money from all your work. Someone asks you if they can chart it for cross stitch, and pay you a royalty each time it sells. They painstakingly recreate your art in cross stitch, trying to remain as faithful as possible and showing you their progress all the way along. They give you full credit for the work, and give links to your website and they sell 3 of them and you're pretty stoked because your artwork is making money. Someone else saves the picture and creates a cross stitch chart of it to sell. They don't ask you, they just do it. Because they don't have to pay a license or royalty to you, they charge half the price and sell ten of them. They don't take a whole lot of time to make sure the reproduction is faithful, they just open it in a cross stitch program, convert and save it so nobody know what it will look like stitched. They don't give you credit for the artwork, they don't give you any money for the work and they don't even tell you they've done it. How would you feel?
Oh I know, you're not very creative, you couldn't draw to save your life, right? So it's pretty hard to imagine. So how about this? Imagine you'd taken a beautiful photo of your kids in front of a fantastic sunset and posted it on your Facebook page. Someone decides they like that photo and saves it to their computer and then goes on to create a cross stitch chart of it and puts it up for sale. They didn't take the photo. It's not their kids in the photo. They don't give you any credit for taking the photo, let alone give you any money for using your photo, yet they sell ten of them. How would you feel? Cheated? Angry? Violated?