Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Sad Commentary

I was very saddened last week when Kirsten Edwards announced that she will cease publication of The Gift of Stitching e-zine. I was also very saddened by the fact that Martina Dey will cease sales of pdf charts and SALs because of the same problem - copyright infringement. I'm sure you've read many designer blogs of late commiserating these losses to the needlework world, and I know you're probably sighing and shaking your head and saying "here we go again, another lecture on copyright." That is not my intention today. In reading a lot of the comments on various different message boards, yahoo groups and facebook groups, I keep coming across a disturbing misconception that seems to be shared by many - that we're over-exaggerting the problem, and that most of the people who downloaded it would never have purchased it anyway. My intention is to give you a bit of data to show you how big this problem really is and a peek into the kinds of things we see every day.

Let me just get this out of the way first. It does not matter if you download a chart that you would never have purchased. The law doesn't care how many people MIGHT have bought it, theft is theft. It's like saying just because you wouldn't buy a television set in a store, it's okay to steal it - the shop wouldn't have made the sale to you anyway. See my point? Downloading a chart online illegally is no different than walking into a store and shoplifting it. In both instances you got something you didn't pay for by illegal means, whether or not you use it is immaterial. When lawyers, judges and law enforcement agencies calculate damages and criminal penalties, it is based on how many times it was downloaded, not by how many of those downloaders might have actually purchased it. 

Also on that note, there are many people downloading who WOULD have purchased things. How do I know? I follow the illegal sites and have infiltrated different private groups (some thankfully now shut down) and have watched the following conversations happen time and time again. This comment in particular comes up frequently in these private groups:

"Does anyone have this chart before I buy it?"

There's also this inevitable conversation every time Heaven and Earth Designs has a sale:

"I'm going to buy these charts in the sale and will send them to you as soon as I've got them. What's everyone else getting?" 

It's a co-ordinated effort to make sure that no two people buy the same design... and in many of these cases, the files quickly make their way from these smaller private groups to the larger download sites within a few minutes of purchase. You can always tell when there is a sale because the number of HAED designs being illegally uploaded multiplies during that time.

Another point that people are constantly throwing out there that while partly true, may not be as true as people think. The point being that stitching has declined in popularity due to the economy and lack of interest. While that IS true, the numbers aren't as substantial as people believe. YES it has contributed to a downturn in sales, but when you see membership numbers on illegal websites that are in the tens of thousands (one such site had at it's peak over a million) it makes you wonder just how many have quit stitching and how many have just stopped paying for designs. Membership numbers are climbing and new sites and sharing methods are cropping up every single day. It's not just a couple of Chinese and Russian sites, it's happening on every platform everywhere where files can be uploaded, from Facebook to blogs, photo hosting sites to web servers, p2p networks to Yahoo groups and everywhere in between.

Now on to the point of us making a big deal out of nothing. Here is some data I've collected that might make this a bit more understandable to you, and help you realize just what a big deal it is.

I'm not going to name the sites this data comes from for obvious reasons, but they are not Chinese or Russian, and the person in question is not Chinese or Russian, but American. What she's done is amass a large collection of illegal files from various membership only sites and made them available publicly via several well known file-sharing networks, some legal, some not so legal. On one network alone, she's made available to date over 10,000 different designs over a 3 year period (and I'm not even done cataloging yet), which have resulted in over (are you ready for this??) 5 million designs downloaded illegally, or approximately 500 downloads per design. Some are much higher, some are much lower, but you get the idea. The estimated losses are staggering, and I can't even give you an accurate number because many of the designs are out of print, or designers gone out of business, so I can't find out accurate dollar values on those. I actually gave up on dollar amounts after I passed ten million dollars and I wasn't even halfway through the list. However, to give you some further idea on losses, there were about 650 designs from Heaven and Earth designs alone - at approximately $15 each, each one downloaded over 500 times, well you can do the math. And those weren't included in my calculations mentioned above. This is on ONE website. She's made the same available through several other sites as well, though most of those we've been able to have removed through the co-operation of the site hosts. However, consider that the numbers on those sites, while not as high, still add to the overall figures and we're talking about a lot of money.

Still think we're over-exaggerating? This is one individual. Consider the fact that there are thousands upon thousands partaking in this same type of activity on a massive number of different kinds of sites. Heck, doing a Google search for a design sometimes brings up illegal links ahead of legal ones, which I discovered recently. What does that mean? Well Google ranks the results not only by the search criteria, but also based on the popularity of each link. When that happens it means more people are clicking on that illegal link than on the legitimate sources. So yeah, not every person who downloaded it would have bought it, but even if one in a hundred did it still adds up to a massive amount of lost revenue.

Most popular designers can expect a short lived grace period between the release of a new design and finding it on one of the popular download sites. Magazines and books can be expected on the sites as soon as they start appearing on store shelves, digital files can show up within a few short minutes of release. With books and magazines, some of these aren't even purchased before being scanned and uploaded - we've seen cases where the library stamp is visible in the scan. The more popular a design is initially, the more quickly it will appear and once it does appear and begin to propagate from site to site, sales begin to slow almost immediately. It's not just the designers who are hurt by this, but artists who would normally receive a royalty from each sale, distributors whose sales are steadily declining, and shops who are closing at an alarming pace and it is proportionate - while this is happening the membership numbers on these sites are steadily climbing as the sales are steadily dropping. The point is, once it has been uploaded even once, it WILL make it's way around the net in a matter of days.

What I can tell you is that I'm sick of seeing the excuses and justification these people use. One being that they can't afford the designs. There are lots of things I can't afford, I simply don't buy them or wait until I CAN afford them. What they can't afford is the thousands of illegal charts on their hard drive. If they actually purchased what they planned to stitch, the question of affordability becomes a little more reasonable. What makes this excuse laughable is that in one breath, a user is complaining about the cost of charts, and in another post on the same site contemplating the purchase of a $400 floor stand. Really? You can afford the $400 floor stand, but you're complaining about a $20 chart? Being able to afford it has little to do with it. On one of the sites, the administrator inadvertently made public a logfile of the people who had donated money to the site - and there were a couple listed who were donating upwards $50 a month. So they can afford $50 a month to participate in illegal downloading, but not $20 to actually buy a chart. Interesting. 

Another I often see is that they participate in sites like this because they can't get the designs where they live. Of course we all know that isn't true. There are countless businesses online who ship worldwide, so not being able to find it in a local shop on the other side of the globe isn't exactly what you'd call a problem. What they really mean is that they don't want to pay for the design and the shipping to their country. That doesn't make it alright to steal it, and it never will. If they're technically savvy enough to find that chart illegally, surely they are technically savvy enough to find and purchase it legally?

Yet another is that it's okay if charts are out of print. First, out of print does not mean out of copyright. The reason behind a chart going out of print is generally because of the cost of printing when a designer uses professional printing services. The more charts they print per batch, the less expensive it is per copy. When a chart is selling well, they will continue to get additional batches printed. When sales slow, printing an additional batch of say, 1000 charts, becomes cost prohibitive because it's unlikely they'll ever sell that many more. Printing an additional batch of say 100 charts makes the printing costs jump much higher per chart, so is also cost prohibitive in that it actually costs the designer money instead of making them a profit. Another reason is because a designer retires or quits the business. One of the reasons for a slowing of sales and designers going out of business is copyright infringement, so by participating in this activity people are actually making charts go out of print and designers go out of business more quickly than they would have otherwise. And when a designer does go out of business, the people on these sites lament that there will be no more new designs from them. Case in point, last weeks announcement from Kirsten sparked a conversation on a Chinese site about how everyone will miss the magazine, yet this same Chinese site was almost always the first place it was uploaded minutes of release. I frequently see the suggestion that designers should continue selling in pdf format to avoid the out of print issue, however this rapid "deployment" of pdf charts is the reason why most don't do that.

And finally, and probably the best one of all, that we as designers should appreciate all the free advertising we get from sites like these because they wouldn't have even known about us otherwise. Really? We should appreciate that ONE person bought our design and then gave it away to 500 other people. What is so difficult about buying it, then posting a link to where they bought it instead of "sharing" the actual chart, so that those other people could have bought it too instead of enabling them to steal it? That's what the rest of us all do and we manage to learn about new designs and designers just as easily. There are LOTS of legal sites where people can post pictures of things they're working on and tell people about them without participating in theft rings.

In all honesty, tracking and cataloging and forwarding information to the authorities is in itself a full time job - we as designers haven't got the time to keep up with it all. We watch each other's backs and do the best we can to report and report and report. We keep each other informed of developments that we come across, but it is a time consuming, overwhelming and depressing process. Sometimes the efforts pay off, sometimes they don't. But it all adds up and it takes a toll emotionally, which can really kill the creative process.

Here are some figures to help you better understand why this is crippling the industry. Let's use as an example one of my charts that retails for $20, Antique Lace. After the shop and distributor take their profit for sales, my cut is $7. The cost for me to print with my new printer is about 5 cents per page and it is around 25 pages. So now I'm at $5.75 per copy sold. Then figure in the cost to ship it to the distributor which will run me say 50 cents per copy. Now I'm at $5.25. Since it's release I have sold 45 copies of this design if I don't include those sold on consignment that I have not yet been paid for. So I've made $236.25 from this design. The floss cost me about $35, the fabric $35, and the beads $18, plus the shipping on all three, so let's round that to $100. So after materials I've made $136.25. I'm not factoring in the cost of hydro to run the computer or printer here, or the cost of getting the design framed (which I haven't because I can't afford to). Between sketches, studying lace patterns, and actually putting it into the design software, I'd estimate about 100 hours to come up with the final printed charts. I'd estimate it took me a further 300 hours to stitch the model. So 400 hours of actual work which equates to 34 cents an hour to date on this design. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I did it, and I enjoyed it immensely, but how many people could live on that kind of money? To make minimum wage here in Ontario I'd have to sell approximately 780 charts - a far cry from the number I've actually sold. To make a liveable wage and be able to pay all my bills, that number would have to be even higher. So you can understand why I have a full time day job on top of designing. Obviously there are fluctuations here between different designers based on sales, printing methods, shipping costs, distribution methods, materials costs, model stitching, etc, but that puts things into perspective a little and maybe makes it a little easier to understand why we're freaking out so much about piracy. We have bills to pay just like everyone else, and when this behaviour begins to affect our ability to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, we get a little ticked off.

I know I will probably take some abuse for voicing all of this but I really am tired of hearing how we're making a big deal out of nothing. We're not talking about a small percentage of people who partake in these activities, the number is HUGE and growing at an alarming pace. 

In closing, I wish to express my sympathies to Kirsten and Martina. I know these decisions can't have been easy. 


  1. Nicole - you posted an interesting commentary. I like the comparison to stealing a TV (or you could have used any number of examples, such as a book that is never read, or an apple that never gets eaten and simply goes to waste). I also appreciate the dollar figures tied to real sales. I certainly would not work at your dollar per hour rate! (I could not afford all my charts! Which yes, I actually buy.) :-)

    Good luck in the future and don't lose heart.

  2. A wonderful, reasoned analysis of the real situation. May it have an effect.

  3. Nicole...I was thoroughly riveted in reading your post and plan to share it along with Ellen Chester's post regarding this issue on my blog. This is a very nasty habit that needs to be curtailed...

    I think that a list of these sites should be posted and each of us who follow the letter of the law can go onto those sites and post our outrage at their practices...maybe if we inundate them with negative comments, it will deter some from using their illegal services. They, buyer and seller alike, should be ashamed of what they are doing...but, their in lies the crux of the problem...they aren't and see NO PROBLEM with what they are doing...it is truly despicable!!

    Hang in there...those of us who prefer to own a design the decent way support all designers and shop owners in their fight with copyright infringement.

    1. Terri, I read your blog post, and all I can say is thank you. :) It was excellent!

  4. It is an awful practice. Thank you for the figures.

    I'm someone who has a limited local supply because of where I live. I love the internet because it gives me access to stores where I can PURCHASE the designs, materials and tools I want/need. It's also given me access to new forms of embroidery I had not seen before. Yet I feel in a quandary sometimes about that practice because it means I'm not supporting my local stores as much as I otherwise might.

    And then you get people who blatantly steal! They should be ashamed of themselves!

    1. Irene, I like supporting locally as well, heck I work for the local butcher, who buys only from local farmers, and all of my produce comes from local farms and greenhouses. But like you I have the problem that stores local to me just don't carry the things I use. There are a few that are a 2 hour drive each way and are VERY expensive, but more often than not, don't have the fabrics or threads I need and I end up wasting half a day just to find that out. And to special order from these shops costs me more in shipping than it does buying from the online places I frequent, so for example a fat quarter of linen ends up costing me over $50 to order from them where I can get the same piece from one of my favourite online shops for $30 (including shipping) usually with less waiting. So I do tend to do most of my shopping from stores online these days. My old LNS who closed down was great in this regard as she'd order anything I needed and was a lot more reasonable in price. I miss her shop. I think in cases like ours, if the shop won't order what we want or charges too much for it, then they can't really complain when we find other ways to purchase it. If it weren't for the internet, I probably wouldn't be stitching today as I found I got bored very quickly of the selection of patterns and materials available to me here.

  5. Thank you for this post and all the homework you did to get these figures. Mind blowing. As a designer too, I fear the worst for our industry and what the future holds for us as designers. So sad.
    Threadwork Primitives Designs

  6. Thank you ladies for reading this rather long commentary. I know it's a really sensitive subject that a lot of people are sick of hearing about, which is why I tried to approach it a little differently.

    Oh and a big thank you to the infringer who read this and decided that my email address should be subscribed to several porographic sites. Thank goodness for email blocking. ;)

  7. Nicole, people may be tired of hearing about it, BUT you put valid info with the topic. Facts generally trump emotions when you are trying to get your point across. Your post puts it into perspective that many people may have never considered.

  8. Here, here! Thanks for putting this so factually! It is really a shame that people don't think what they're doing is wrong! And thanks for designing in spite of this!

    Melissa J.

  9. Great post, well-written and the research is amazing, just what we need to tell people who say it doesn't matter.
    The only point I'd argue with is the "stealing a TV" analogy. File-sharing isn't like stealing a physical object. Stealing a TV means the shop can't actually sell that physical TV anymore. Stealing a pdf means the designer has lost a potential sale but they can still sell the original design. This is the argument the thieves use to justify their actions.
    A better, more accurate analogy would be sneaking into a music concert without paying, or piggybacking onto a neighbour's Wifi or satellite dish. You get the item/experience without paying but the original item still exists in a saleable format.
    One of the inherent problems with pdfs is their lack of a physical prescence makes them seem worth less than a paper object. It is also hard to explain to new stitching friends why I am happy to lend them my copy of Cross Stitcher mag but not my copy of Gift of Stitching. Why I can give them a used Mirabilia chart but not a used HAED. This post really helps make it clearer why not.
    I do my bit by reporting any sites I find, we got a Chinese one operating out of the UK closed last year but not until a friend had bought several knock-off kits from them unknowingly. I will also be directing people here to read your post first hand.
    On a happier note, I'm so pleased you've got some model stitchers! I thought about it but have alot on my list for other people already plus the international post would be an extra expense for you. Plus I'm always worried about posting stitching around the World!!

  10. Thank you for posting this information. Very well written. I don't stitch as much anymore, but have been doing machine embroidery more. The same thing is happening there also. People are posting design files for the embroidery/sewing machines. It is so sad that this is going on in all areas of crafts. I am sad to say that I have never seen your designs before and your first design for your mom is beautiful. I loved it.

  11. Nicole, thank you for your well-written and eye-opening post. I've shared it with 2 of my stitching groups on Yahoo. I've done model stitching for many designers over the years. I've been repeatedly asked why I don't make a copy of the chart ad restitch the design for myself when it is one that I would like. My answer is always 'because that's just wrong!' I know what kind of work goes into designing and how little actual monetary compensation you get. Model stitching is the same way. If a designer pays cash, it's usually a penny a stitch and 5 cents an inch for backstitching. For an 8 page model with hundreds of beads (like the one I'm currently working on), that amount doesn't come close to compensating me for the time and work that I put into stitching the model. I don't do it to get rich, I do it because I love to. Stealing the design for myself would put a taint on that love and I won't do it!

    1. Berly is the best model stitcher I've ever used; her work is gorgeous, and she is fast and honest.

      Thank you for your stand, Berly!

  12. Loved the article! I don't stitch but I do work with beads and other mediums...just a quick question...is there any way of knowing which sites are illegally offering free patterns or charts so that they can be avoided or are all free patterns being stolen from someone...Thanks

    1. Michelle, there ARE tons of legitimately free patterns out there. Many designers make them available through their websites, newsletters, blogs or other social media. If you find what someone deems a "free" design on sites like rapidshare or flickr? It's probably NOT free but an illegally scanned or forwarded copy. Another good way to tell is that when someone is mentioning a freebie from a designer, they'll give the link to the designers' page where you can get it. That's legal. If it's direct download that takes you nowhere near a designer's site, then it's probably not legal.

  13. Great job, Nicole. You've presented the problem well with both thoughtfulness and facts. I wish the solution was as clear as your writing. It is amazing what people will do to justify their behavior.

  14. Fantastic article Nicole, I can think right away of a few places I need to share this post, if that's okay. I "follow" some of these sites myself (as a "good guy", assuming my ISP shows up somewhere and people think I'm being a hypocrite!), and have even downloaded, and then immediately deleted, a few items, just to see for myself how easy it is to access these "free" charts.

    I've actually had conversations with Michele Sayetta (HAED), Joan Elliott & Kirsten Edwards herself on the same subject - in fact the night before Kirsten announced her decision to stop publishing, I had emailed her to warn her of uploaded issues from 2011 & 2012 that I had come across on a certain chinese site, my heart dropped to get her announcement the next day. I had just become one of her CSI recruits, and was loving my first foray into writing, another love of mine.

    I, like the other ladies commenting above, will continue to purchase the charts I want & like, even if I do have to live to 500 to stitch them all, lol. In fact I'm off to my LNS in Edmonton today, to buy some Kreinik to send to a fellow stitcher in Sweden, and it would be rude not to browse for myself!.

    Happy stitching all, Steff

  15. As a designer/instructor, I thoroughly agree with Nicole. I wish everyone that has copied or downloaded an illegal chart would read this. It is a good thing we designers love what we do or we would quit designing altogether. Although, like Nicole, I would love to design and teach full-time, I could not support myself. Again, it is my love of needlework that keeps me designing and teaching.

  16. Great article Nicole! I have seen pirated work on ebay and reported it to the designer, and also on other sites. We, as consumers, need to watch out for pirating and speak out when we see it. I do have to say though, that it's really discouraging to me as a wanna-be designer! I have published freebies on my blog and am working on several ideas for publication in the future. My freebies are in pdf format, but I am re-thinking how I will handle my future published work. Do you have any idea which type of publication is the least likely to be easily pirated? I know that's an impossible question because if it was that easy, every designer would do it, but any advise would be appreciated! Thankfully my stitching friends are in agreement with me on the illegality of copying patterns to share, and my online groups are also aware of the issue and support the designers. It is sad that people who steal patterns put themselves above the law AND the Golden Rule!

  17. Great post. You have voiced the facts for us who are not so good with words.

    Imagine a world with no copyright infringements... hundreds, thousands of full-time cross stitch designers designing their beautiful work in greater volume and maybe even being able to sell their designs a bit cheaper because they'd get paid for every copy, not just every hundreth or so.

    Only thing that keeps me going is that I love doing this (designing), but I'd love it even more if I could get paid for every single copy of my design out there and maybe even make a honest living with it.

  18. Thank you Nicole, and for doing the numbers research.

    Also speaking as a designer, like Dawn I wish that all the infringers would read this, but I also wish that they would take it to heart. So many of them are quick to tell us that "we're just lying money-grubbing sneak thieves" (hmmm. interesting choice of words there.) Or that we have a god-given talent that we should be willing to give away for free...

    Thank you to everyone who buys our designs and supports us by not giving them away to 10,000 of their closest friends. :)

  19. Well said, Nicole! I came to this site via a link on Facebook and have now signed up as a follower. I also intend to share your site link with the members of the OneOverOners Yahoo Group, where I am a moderator. We are very sensitive to the issue of copyright abuse! Theresa

  20. I think possibly buying a counterfit dvd that has been recorded on a phone at a cinema, or illegal downloading of music also comes to mind as comparable. It was a very interesting read and I shall certainly be sharing. I love Joan Elliott's designs and would only ever buy them.

    If there is a design or kit that I am keen on but its too expensive at the time I wait until I have the funds to pay for it. As it is I have so many charts and I am sure not enough hours to stitch them all.

    People are just greedy and lazy of thought, and more to the point think they are getting one over "the man" if they can get something for nothing, forgetting that "the man" is actually a person who is trying to make a living, albeit a small one.

    I wish you luck and hope that things improve, but the movie and music industries have thrown millions at this problem and dont appear to be any further forward. Hopefully this will wake some people up to what they are doing and they will stop.


  21. This was a very interesting article thank you. I am a regular stitcher who until I went on a few facebook groups didn't actually know about copyrights on designs (yes I am that thick). I did have a couple of designs someone had passed on to me in file format for a designer I liked (I missed the magazines they were in). I have since found a legal source and purchased them all after being made aware of the copyrights. I had also passed on designs before not realising, I no longer do that. So the point of this post is the message does get through to some and I also preach it now xx

  22. Well done, well said!! In the hispanic market "sharing" is a common practice and refusing to participated in sharing illegal copies of the charts that I own has gave my very hard time in my blog, not mentioning when I have wrote about copyrights!

    Fixing and stopping this is very hard BUT all of us can work together, speaking out about this problem, refuse to be part of it and reporting any infringement when we see it.

    Martina and Kristen are my friends and feel very sad for their decisions, but completely understand. In their case I'll do the same!

  23. Nicole,

    Very well said! I am going to share the link to this with members of my Yahoo Group, 2muchXS. They are all aware of how I feel about the issue of illegal copying of charts. It's a very sad day in the stitching world when designers stop what they love doing all because of a few rotten people who don't feel that what they're doing is wrong.


  24. this is gonna be different. I did designing last year and put it out there for free trying to get a following. I did over 50,000. But I was also thinking about putting on my paper patterns that if the person who bought it know a stitcher who has lost her job, home or in some other situation where they cannot afford to buy anything to stitch, for the purchaser to make a copy of my pattern and hopefully buy the thread for her and give it as a gift. So many have faced loss from no fau;lt of their own, I was also thinking of the tornados, I know I would appreciate someone thinking of me if I was in their place. Stitching brings peace and sometimes it is being able to stitch that gets us thru. I realize this is not the same as copyrite infringement, but it was a thought to help others. In case anyone else was interested.

    1. I understand where you're coming from and it IS a nice thought, but I think you'll find that as many people will abuse your intentions as not. Even charts that have been sold with the proceeds going to charities are infringed and uploaded. It makes me really sad to see a chart that was designed for Unicef, with all the proceeds going to that charity, get shared just as quickly as any other.

      There are lots of us who like to help out a stitcher in need, because we know that stitching brings peace of mind, and many of us do just that. And there is nothing wrong with lending or giving them a pattern to stitch. But it should STILL never be a copy, always an original.

  25. I think about my typing ... only creative to me and that being fast and accurate meant that I could give a client something for less money. However, the minute I mentioned my hourly rate, they frowned.

    Meanwhile, if I went to their office or the business of their wife/husband, they didn't think twice about charging me for their services.

    Maybe I'm off the beaten track, but - if a designer takes the time to chart something and I like it, it is important that I pay the charge for the pattern and do NOT pass that pattern around to my friends.

    If friends want the pattern, they can pay for it and have their own copy.

    I am more than appreciative if a designer is kind enough to share their work. I don't abuse their kindness.

    Seems I'm not being clear.

    Please think three times before you share a copyrighted pattern ... just as you or your husband aren't going to give your services for free.

    Marny CA

    1. Well said! These people would be outraged if WE came into their workplace and demanded their time and services for free, or used their services and never paid the bill.

      Excellent analogy, thank you!

    2. Potential client was recommended to me for typing that she needed.

      She asked my charge; I told her $10 per hr. She felt that was outrageous! (I was earning more at my fulltime job!)

      I asked her what she usually paid; she paid $2.50 per page double spaced.

      I told her that I would keep track of my time to type her 20 pages - and she could pay me whichever finished amount she wanted.

      She paid me my $10. MUCH less than than $2.50 she had been paying.

      Designers! Stand firm! Ask magazines to publish at least twice a year about copyright infringements!!! And/or write To the Editor and have your say that way.

      Marny CA (who cannot get AIM to recognize me so 'anonymous' is shown) -- which is why I type my name.

  26. I want to take a second before I run off to work to thank everyone who has taken a few minutes to read through this, and everyone who has commented.

    Education and research on copyright and infringement is, to be honest, mind numbingly dull, even from my perspective. I'd much rather spend my free time stitching and designing! But if we can change some minds by the research we do then it makes it worth the effort.

    To those who report things they find, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We truly can't keep up with everything so every report DOES help. Don't know who to report things you find to? Here is a link that shows some of our supporters: http://needleworkcopyright.blogspot.ca/p/who-we-are.html and you can send a report to any of these people - they will make sure that the right designer gets the notification. Or, you can report to this email address: needleworkdesigners@gmail.com and they will make sure it gets addressed also.

  27. Thanks you so much for such a well-written discussion. I am linking it to a forum I post to in a discussion we have going on copyright infringement and piracy, as I believe it supports OUR position that one should NEVER download copies of charts unless they are sure they are legitimate. Thank you for your hard work as a sleuth, as well as your wonderful designs!

  28. My only answer to you is going to be this:
    The Copyright Math --> http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/rob_reid_the_8_billion_ipod.html

    And more explanations about the numbers used the Copyright Math by Rob Reid:

    Even if the video is funny, the numbers explained are VERY serious.

    How is that relevant regarding the "Stitching Industry"? The same logic or "Copyright Math" is applied for both. And it really saddens me to see this...

    I am not a copyright infringement supporter, I don't even do it, BUT I'm starting to really get tired of the same old discourse applied to old immutable "industries"...
    People have changed, the market has changed, the consumers habits have changed, maybe its time to refresh the view and accept that it's time for some change...
    If we've been able to do this change of thought for some of us in the computer science "industry" then WHY is it so difficult for most of the "stitching industry" to do it? Thanks to "us" you have all these wonderful tools that you call the internet and email and even blogs... But no...

    Maybe that one of the problems of the "stitching world" is that it became an "industry"... When you have an "industry" things change, it becomes more "impressive" and needs to make a lasting "impression" on others... The interests change too, more in terms of revenue and much less in terms of emotion... And the bigger the industry, the less emotional it gets and the more difficult it is to change and adapt...

    So yes... It is really sad, on that I totally agree with you...

    1. Laurylyan, I agree that copyright infringement numbers can be used wrong, or used to make the situation -- or rather the actual losses -- seem worse than they are. (Mind you, I don't think Nicole was using them in that way, as she herself points out that not all people who illegally download a chart would have bought it). I also agree with the person who said it is more like illegally getting into a concert than like stealing a physical object; perhaps illegally copying software comes closest.

      But to some extent, it doesn't matter whether the losses are big or small, nor does it matter whether the "original" is still available to sell -- whatever the consequences or lack of consequences, downloading a chart that is not a freebie and for which you have not paid is theft. It's as simple as that.

      I'm a relatively new designer who has so far (as far as I know, at least) escaped piracy, even though I sell my designs in PDF format. I have obviously been lucky enough to have had only committed stitchers with a conscience as customers, for which I am truly grateful. Like Nicole and many others I design for the love of it, and I would be designing (and sttitching the designs) whether I sold them or not. To that extent Anonymous (below) is correct in that nobody is forcing us to design. Likewise, no-one is forcing you to like the designs, or to stitch them. All we ask is that if you do like them, and do want to stitch them, that you acquire them legally. That means buy them. And if you can't afford them, ask them for your birthday, or wait for a lottery win, whatever. But don't steal them and then pretend it's really quite all right and designers shouldn't make a fuss.

      *end of rant* sorry, I got rather carried away...

      One last thing -- @ Petra, who says "So now we the paying customers need to feel pity for you. Congrats." The trouble with any posting like this is that it wil be read mostly by people who already agree. And as you say, the die-hard copyright infringers aren't going to lose any sleep over posts like these. However, some of the people reading this may be "ignorant infringers" in that they simply never thought about what it means to download these copies. And those people may just say, "Good heavens, I never knew that -- from now on I'll buy my charts", and that, surely, would be a good thing?
      I don't think the designers who are losing out through copyright infringements and post about it particularly need you to feel sorry for them; they might, however, appreciate it if you, who are a legitimate paying customer yourself (and much valued for that), could say a word if you find others (for example on forums of which you are a member, or at your needlework group or among your friends) who are not being as conscientious as you are.

    2. "Carried away"... Well... If you say so...
      Just a question when you say "you" here "All we ask is that if you do like them, and do want to stitch them, that you acquire them legally. That means buy them. And if you can't afford them, ask them for your birthday, or wait for a lottery win, whatever. But don't steal them and then pretend it's really quite all right and designers shouldn't make a fuss." do you mean "me, Laurylyan" or "you, all of you"?
      I'm asking because, well... All my charts have been legally purchased or kindly offered, by other stitchers or by designers, as a thank you for my kind-hearted help in translations, proof-reading, freely offered. Just saying...

      When you say "But to some extent, it doesn't matter whether the losses are big or small, nor does it matter whether the "original" is still available to sell -- whatever the consequences or lack of consequences, downloading a chart that is not a freebie and for which you have not paid is theft. It's as simple as that." I'm quite sure that it is your judeo-christian background from an occidental background talking, but the problem, as you don't seem to be willing to consider another point of view than yours and luckily enough (for the sake of difference, alternative) this is NOT the point of view that is spread world-wide! And even if some countries signed, thanks to the OMC, some kind of copyright exchange agreement, the people are still living under other traditions. like in India, like in South Asia, like in many African countries, like in China, etc.
      I'm NOT saying this is good or bad, I'm simply saying that the tradition (and thus the LAW) is different, and to be unwilling to acknowledge that fact and still believe that YOU are right and the others are wrong is simply going on and on into the dead-end.
      This is how it is. The world is like that and whatever you say about the law in your part of the world is not going to change that. Nevertheless: Good luck to you if you want to try. ;)
      And now the Industries are trying to make that nombrilistic view of the "Law" universal and to enforce it through ACTA, but the fact is F*** ACTA!

      WHen I see designers using hundreds of years old motifs rearrange them and dare to call it "creativity" and put the stamp "copyright" on it, I'm laughing! Are you paying your copyright fee when you are using a Kloster or any other speciality Hardanger stitch to make a new design? Nope! You're just a technique. Are you seeing the 70 yo ladies stitchers from Portugal, Spain, Marocco, Greece, Crete, Bulgaria, Ukraine applying the "Copyright" stampel on their table clothes, skirts, etc. ? Nope! Because it is their TRADITION! It's part of their history, it has a meaning! Each motif has a global sense and tells a story.
      Like you could know in Alsace (France) from this kind of color and that type of motif and this stitch used here and there on their clothes which village they were coming from, even what their job was. Is that copyrighted? Can you copyright THAT?
      Nope you can't! But how many "designers" using "creativity" copy all that and dare to say "It is original"! It's mine!..."
      A very long time ago I asked one question on a Forum "How do you define Creativity?" and I'm still waiting for a good answer...

      Oups... Sorry, I got carried away. "end of rant" :)

    3. Laurylyan, my apologies for not making myself clear -- when I said "you" I meant the Anonymous writer whom I was addressing in the previous sentence and people with the same opinion; I did not mean "you, Laurylyan" at all, but I should have been more explicit about that.

      Could you tell my "judeo-christian background" from my views on what is and what isn't theft? How interesting! I hadn't realised (which may be naive of me, but not, I hope, "nombrilistic" -- had to look that one up) that there are cultures in which taking something that isn't yours without in some way paying for it was considered a legitimate course of action. That of course makes international agreement rather difficult, although I do believe that (unless human rights are being infringed, and yes, I know that's a minefield too!) one should respect the law of the country from which it originates. However, I sense that you may disagree with me there :-).

      As for what makes an "original design" and what is nor more than "rearranging", I quite agree that there is no black and white there. On the whole the consensus seems to be (I'm putting this in the mildest of terms) that there are what you might call "building blocks" such as the cross stitch, the Kloster block and so on, and that these are free for people to use. I myself would never dream of trying to copyright a stitch, even though I have used stitches which I think are at least my own variation/combination but possibly my very own invention -- those stitches, like all the other combinations that people have invented over the centuries will become part of the building blocks. However, saying that the arrangement of these building blocks is therefore no more than a technique and not eligible for copyright is, to my mind, a non sequitur.

      Take the following two situations. Language has building blocks such as words, and larger blocks such as expressions. An expression like "you can talk until the cows come home" was once an original putting together of words. People liked it, started using it themselves, and in time it became one of the building blocks of English. But a story which contains such expressions is still an original story (or can be). In the same way, my Hardanger designs contain Kloster blocks and Rhodes stitches and so on, but put together in a way that has not been done before. And yes, I think your Portuguese, Moroccan, Greek, Bulgarian and other stitchers could very well claim that their particular arrangement of the elements is copyrighted, should they ever wish to chart and sell them.
      A second example is music. There are notes, which are building blocks, and there are some combinations of, say, four or five notes which have become quite popular and which you may come across in several songs/symphonies/operas/hymns; or a rhythm, for example. Some songs or instrumental pieces even quote from earlier works. Even so, the new song that uses those notes and that rhythm can still be recognisably a "new song", and therefore eligible for copyright.

      So there you have it, my views on copyright and on respecting other people's laws/customs. If non-judeo-christian people feel that whatever is out there is a free for all, then I will not feel so bad if other people copy their designs, although I will still not do it myself. But if a designer is working within a culture/country where there is such a thing as copyright, I think it should be respected.

      I hope that's cleared up any misunderstandings?

  29. Great post. I am an avid HAED stitcher and sometimes the numbers I hear just from infringement of HAED charts are staggering. I can't imagine the industry-wide numbers.

    Just think...if everyone paid for their charts, designers could probably sell them for half of what they are now and still make a profit. And there would be little complaining of not being able to afford charts.

  30. So you are screaming about needlwork theft. What's the difference in the designers stealing our credit card numbers (HAED) and using them for their own benefit? I know of at least 25 people that this has happened to. All the credit cards were found to be stolen from HAED. AWWWW that's a little different isn't it. Get a life. I bought the chart so it is mine to do with what I want. Money is money after all.

    1. And with an attitude like that, it's no surprise that you've posted this comment anonymously.

    2. U know if you want to stop designing just stop. Nobody is holding a pencil to your hand and demanding you put out your crap. I am just tired of you all crying. As for remaining annoymous, that is for me know not you. Like I said GET A LIFE and a real job then you won't be crying about your money situation. Also I am sure most stitchers have a life-time supply of charts so you leaving isn't going to matter much.

    3. Excuse-me, Anonymous, maybe I know you from another board, maybe not.
      You have the absolute right to disagree, but you also have the absolute right to remain civil...

    4. How absolutely untrue Anonymous! We have never done such a thing. We had a problem where some credit card numbers were hacked off our site and we shut it down immediately and went to a very secure server and the problem has ceased. Our customers speak for us and we went to the lengths of working with their bank and ours to track down the hacker and they were found to be in China. $4000.00 out of our pocket later we purchased a private server and moved everything. Absolutely untrue!

    5. I suspect that Anonymous is Brenda and a known problem causer....

    6. This is a great post, and as I read along I thought of you often. So glad you are on here and replied to anonymous. I don't get why it is so hard for people to understand stealing is stealing.

    7. Hugs Melinda and our customers can always vouch for everything we do in both doing the right thing as well as the whole copyright issue. We have struggled with this for years and I stand by my fellow designers and friends in the industry on all levels.

  31. As I stated, I'm not claiming that what is being downloaded/shared equates to actual losses. It's probably more like 1% of what is downloaded, again, stated above. That still translates to huge amount being lost given the sheer number of participants in relation to the size of the industry.

    I posted on Martina's site how we can best calculate actual losses. To really see how much is being lost, one would have to compare sales on a chart which has not been infringed to those on a chart which has. This is also very dependent on how soon after release a chart is uploaded. If it is uploaded quickly, it will affect sales more than a chart that gets uploaded months or years after release. However, for a lot of designers this is very difficult to do since almost each and every one of their charts has been infringed. It's no longer a matter of "if" a design will be infringed, but a matter of "when".

    As far as changes in the industry, I've had the discussion with several people. I'm a nerd, geek, techie, what have you. I worked in IT for over 20 years, heck I was in the test market group for high speed internet in Canada so it's not like I'm a "noob". I can see the potential for market changes and strategies - as well as the potential to abuse them - though that is a post for another day perhaps. How does that address the problem of copyright infringement? It doesn't. Your solution is to change the industry and ignore the problem.

    As to your last point about the stitching world being an industry - of course it is. While it is driven by an artistic passion to create, it is also a source of income and livelihood for many people, from the designers to the workers in factories producing threads and linens to the salespeople in shops. This is a job like any other. We do this because we love it, but that doesn't mean we don't have bills to pay like everyone else does. Why shouldn't we be concerned about revenue? You insinuate that we should just design and not worry so much about income. To that I ask, are you not concerned with how much you earn? Do you not worry about whether your job pays you enough to live on? Why should that not be a concern for us? Is what we do any less of a career?

    Okay back down off my soapbox now. Long and busy day at work and I'm a bit cranky.

    1. Nicole :-)

      I've replied to you, but on my blog - http://wp.me/p13G9X-6j - as it would have been way too long for a "reply" here :-)

      If you'd like to continue this conversation in a more private way (skype, email, etc.) you are more than welcome.
      Of course it can remain public too :)

      I am always open to discussion.

  32. I am one of TGOSM loyal subscribers and I am very sad we have lost it. All you say is so true stealing is stealing. I live in Saudi Arabia and cross stitch charts are limited. Our postal system is not wonderful and a digital magazine was ideal for me. It could not get lost in the post. I hate the way designers are being put out of business. I hope you can continue

  33. Like Denise, I too was a loyal and honest TGOSM subscriber. Thank you, Nicole for telling it like it is. I do hope I don't know Anonymous under her real name, not someone with whom I would like to spend time.

  34. As a model stitcher for a few designers, i know a little more than the normal stitcher what can go into creating the sellable version of your vision. The designers I stitch for pay in store site credit, not per stitch, and this is fine with me. I will probably never use the majority of the credit I earn, but enjoy the process and assisting the designer. The thrill of seeing my name on a pattern as the model stitcher, or seeing the project in a magazine is reward enough. I recieve so much enjoyment from my stitching that I feel paid evwen if I never use the credit. This is a way for me to give to an industry that creates a product that I love, and we have lost too many designers already to the scourge of piracy. I reported a person to a cross stitch program programer, as she was selling downloads with a special "licence" so that someone could cheap out on getting the program. They were fortunatly able to get her stopped, but the more educated the public is, perhaps the better chance that our designers could reciieve the proper payment for their work.

  35. I thank you for this post; it needs to be repeated and repeated often. Perhaps the ones who "complain" about another copyright discussion are ones who are more than a "little" guilty themselves. Until this problem is eliminated, keeping in the forefront of our thoughts and our decisions about our needlework, we need to be reminded frequently.

    For me, it will be a very sad day when the needlework design industry no longer exists - and it doesn't matter that I currently have more than enough to stitch in this lifetime! I love the creativity of all designers and what they "bring out" of my own meager creativity.

    Thank you Nicole!

  36. Thanks for the enlightenment. I always purchase my designs because I know it helps designers and I want designers to stay in business. I wonder if those stealing would really care? Even amongst my friends, we often all buy the same charts instead of sharing because again, we know it helps the designers and we want you to stay in business (although my stash is way larger than I could stitch in my lifetime).

  37. Hi Nicole,I saw the link for your blog on the Victoria Sampler Yahoo group. Although I was aware copyright infringement was a problem, I had no idea it was so bad! Years ago, someone who discovered I was an avid stitcher offered to give me some of her old patterns because she no longer stitched. When she brought them to me, I saw that they were all photocopies of patterns that she had collected in a notebook. My conscience wouldn't let me stitch them and I eventually threw them away. This was probably 20 years ago and I had never heard of copyright infringement--I just knew it was wrong. Reading your post makes me want to go buy a chart I was just admiring this morning as a matter of principle! Thank you for such an enlightening post!
    Robin L.

  38. Maybe I should start venting to my customers what's wrong in my industry. Oh yeah that won't go over very well. I'm a paying customer of cross stitch charts. I'm sure I have enough duplicates to store another closet in someones house. I'm sure 99% of those your directing your post to are like myself. But the 1% that violates your copyrights most likely don't give a crap about your plight. So now we the paying customers need to feel pity for you. Congrats.

  39. Nicole,
    What an outstanding post and article! I was amazed at the potential costs to the industry - I had no idea this issue was so pervasive. I enjoy searching through the internet to find where to purchase charts once I've come across a beautiful design that catches my eye. I'm quite confident I will never have the time to complete all the charts I've now collected but frankly, I enjoy dreaming that I will!
    While the $loss of illegal downloading and copyright infringement is staggering, what hasn't really been said much and should be highlighted as well is the artistic loss to the entire stitching community. I could never in a million years create the beautiful designs that I see come from so many of you designers. The industry needs to be kept vibrant and alive to ensure we do not lose this wonderful art medium. [Stephanie]

  40. I got to this post as a result of Anita's 2muchXS group. I've reported to Michele Sayetta four times that her charts are being pirated, and gone out of my way to pay for charts I was given that I now suspect were pirated. I'm a buyer, and copyright infringement concerns me. I reported several people on eBay for it as well, and the offending items were all taken down. It's very sad that these people don't see what they are doing to the industry. Who will be left standing when they finally realize they're only hurting themselves? A former friend tried to give me an HAED once, and I'm afraid I lectured her on copyright. I hoped she had learned her lesson, but I don't know for sure. She has the savvy to find the illegal sites, so I just let the friendship lapse. I guess I'm too cynical. I'm wondering how many people who have spoken up here today are just the people you're talking about.

    1. Yes well said, but I guess I am a little soft and would hate to think anyone replying to this thread is actively going out and downloading illegally?

  41. Nicole, thank you so much for taking the time to write this original essay and to continue to respond to comments. I am often asked for a pattern by my fellow stitchers and knitters and I always respectfully say no and explain why. Sometimes people understand, but often they get very huffy and defensive (a sure sign, in my mind, that deep down they are well aware that what they are asking for is wrong). If I am not articulate enough to get through to them, I can now point them to this article and hope that after reading it they will understand how damaging this practice is to any creative industry, be it writing, movies/TV, fiber arts, or what have you. I have seen WIPs of Antique Lace on a couple of blogs, and I really hope I have not been admiring the work of thieves.

  42. I really was amazed at this article. Thank you for all your thoughts and efforts that went into posting it. I hope loads of folks see this.

    I few years back I had a chart here in the shop, yes I have an LNS, it was missing a page in it. I contacted the designer and applauded her on idea for combating copyright infringements. She used security paper to print her charts on. like this kind (link: http://www.protectedpaper.com/product_p/obxuc.htm ) It is expensive paper, but is it as costly as the theft that is so rampant?? I don't know the answers to this very complicated problem. I just know that this industry is struggling, and many in it are not making their due.
    Just a thought.

  43. Frankly, anyone who can add up AND knows the cost of charts can calculate the loss for themselves (not saying that your article wasn't very informative and well-written) and can't claim in good conscience that it's a minor loss we're talking about or justify that loss by whatever reasons those people will find to give. To give an example: I came across a compilation of HAED charts in an ebook for free download a few weeks ago (and forwarded the link to Michelle). It had hundreds and hundreds of HAED charts in it, sorted by name and author. If someone downloaded it of course noone would want to add up the cost for all those charts and claim that to be loss to HAED, because noone downloading that ebook would stitch them all. But if each person who will download said ebook would stitch three charts out of almost 800 in there, that's three charts not sold by HAED. The usual price for a chart is $19 on the site. Let's pretend that person would have bought them during one of the 50% off sales. That would still be $ 28,50 not going to HAED. Now, if just 100 such people download that ebook in a month we are at $ 2850...you do the math yourself from here on. Frankly, the fact that one person could find over 800 charts to compile in an ebook makes me shudder as I don't believe that even one chart in there was bought by that person.
    As to "I bought it I can do with it what I want" - Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, but the law says otherwise. And no matter the ethical or religious background of a society there's one thing 99% of them have in commom: You CAN'T do what you want, not even with your own property, IF you are infringing the rights and/or risking the safety of others by your actions and all those societies have their laws made accordingly.


  44. excellent piece well written, such a shame that this terrible practice is rife!! i really hope something can be done about it, we have already lost too many amazing designers!

  45. Hi Nicole,
    I've read your article AND the 66 comments and wanted to add my little bit by saying how infuriated it makes me not only to learn the huge numbers of illegal downloading going on but also to read the bad attitude on one particular anonymous person who seems to think that because she pays for one chart, she can do what she wants with it. I know designers world-wide are having to face this assault on copyright infringement. My favourite designers: Joan Elliott, Margeret Sherry, Jardin Privé, Isabelle Vautier . . . the list goes on. TGOSM was the highlight of my month and now Kirsten has had to stop publication . . . it's just so frustrating for the honest stitchers to not be able to put a stop to the dishonest goings on.
    For me, the internet was the most amazing thing when it happened. To be able to visit sites, discover new designers and order at the click of a button was a god-send. Why oh why has it made some people dishonest? I'm sure that those who download illegally would not walk into their local book store and just slip a book in their bag without paying. So why do they feel it's okay to download a copyright chart without paying?

  46. Thank you for this informative essay. I really had no idea how rampant pattern theft is. I have never knowingly downloaded a pattern that was available without the permission of the creator; but now I will make the extra effort to ensure that any "free" pattern is being offered with permission of the owner.

  47. Thanks for this post. I am a member of a few cross-stitch groups on Facebook, and there was a huge debate the other day regarding this exact topic.

    I am happy to say that I have always purchased my designs properly and legally. I have purchased e-charts from HAED and have never shared them with anyone. If there's a pattern that I really want from another country or overseas, I ask my local store to see if they can get it for me. If they can't get it, I order directly from the online retailer whether it be in the US and as far as the UK.

    A little more honesty in the world would do serve everyone better.

  48. Thank you for posting this, Nicole. I did not realize how pervasive and costly this has become.

    As one who is contemplating publishing my designs, this is downright scary. I'm not certain I want to put myself through this aggravation. No one is "forcing a pencil into my hand." But, if my favorite designers don't put that pencil in their hands because they can't afford to do so after all the theft, then it will be a sad and colorless world without their artistic genius. Genius that I will happily pay for.

    So, to all those copyright infringers around the world, I say "Thanks a lot for ruining things for the rest of us, you amoral cockroaches! "

  49. Let me first start by saying I have purchased every design I own and used. Having said that, just out of curiosity, what is the difference between borrowing a friends book to read it and borrowing a chart to use it? I can see that it is wrong to go to the various less than legal websights to download one and/or all, but borrow a chart? Again, I would venture to say all of us borrowed or lent friends books we have read. What is the difference?

    1. There is nothing illegal about borrowing a chart - so long as it is an original chart. They can't make you a copy and keep the original or vice versa. But yes, that is perfectly legal.

  50. I purchase every design that I own or that I use. If I cannot find it through my most favorite store - Tomorrow's Heirlooms in Glen Ellyn Illinois, then I know it isn't available. I live in Canada, and Tomorrow's Heirlooms will ship anything to me that they have in their store or will order patterns for me. I go to Michael's or local craft stores to purchase mine. I did not realize the enormity of the problem Nicole. I understand completely that this is not a small issue and I support all designers and sellers of the patterns in not sharing my patterns. I will tell somewhere where I purchased it. I have come across websites that sell patterns that are no longer available anywhere else and that makes me wary, so I do not buy from them. I will make sure to be more cautious but my first stop is always T.H. They are amazing and if they can't get it, then I know it can't be found.

  51. I've just found this post - excellent stuff. I hope you don't mind but I've linked to it on my website. I'm a new designer and I've been collecting links for a page called copyright help on my website.