Last fall, my daughter and her friends spent a semester studying at Oxford. Apart from infecting me with the paternal compulsion to shamelessly insert that detail into every conversation (I’m sure I’ve become unbearable), her experience allowed her to become further entangled in a burgeoning artistic culture of knitting. Since returning, Dorothy has funnelled this newfound enthusiasm into a summer research project on Victorian embroidery, a blog called the Arts and Cats Movement that combines her creative and scholarly passions with the internet’s most contagious obsession (pictures of kittens), and an assortment of half-finished scarves and orphaned socks that now litter adorn every surface of our home.
And what relevance do her endeavors bear in relation to your business or wealth-planning concerns?
If you didn’t read the post, the facts are essentially this:
1) The laws in the United Kingdom/European Union preclude any claims against copyright infringement when the item copyrighted is offered for free.
2) Renowned knitting designer Kate Davies released a pattern
that she designed for free download publicly.
3) The design began to reappear in commercial retail venues in multiple countries without her consent and with no financial benefit to her.
4) The design was removed for free download and reoffered by Ms. Davies as a pay-for download.
5) Chaos has ensued, with the knitting community lashing out against said retailers, casting them as corporate bullies exploiting the efforts of an independent small businessperson who relies on such designs as primary income.
As you can see, the issue of creative license and intellectual property rights is one of concern to business of any size dealing in design and creativity, whether artistic or otherwise.
Note that the laws protecting such businesses and innovators as they apply to Ms. Davies in the United Kingdom differ from those affording peace of mind and financial security to her American equivalents. However, if my daughter created her own designs and were then copied without her consent, you can be sure that the law would present options for her seek out justice here in the states. (She believes that as regards Ms. Davies’ situation, the infringement is indicative of a wider problem.)
We’ll talk more about how to protect your creativity in future posts. We’ll also talk about how technology has turned business on its ear in many aspects by practically destroying certain barriers to entry.
As for my daughter, before she starts any designs of her own I just hope she’ll finish some of her current projects. There are only so many half-knitted sleeves and marked-up thesis pages one can sift through to unearth the TV remote or the yowling cat before losing hope. Or a finger.
One of my legal assistants, Evan Roe, helps with the research on these posts. At my direction, he contacted Ms. Davies to seek approval to reproduce the art in this blog. (It would not look good for a copyright/trademark attorney to create a copyright infringement issue, right?) Her reply below indicates the weight of public opinion may be a very heavy boot, indeed.
(T)hanks for your interest in this, and for your courtesy in asking about the use of my images. Please do go ahead and use any of my photographs in your post. The issue was picked up this morning by You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice, and according to the advice I’ve taken, I’ve a strong enough case to bring before the UK Intellectual Property Office under Design Right legislation. We will see how things pan out.
In the meantime, I’m so grateful to all the wonderful knitters and bloggers out there who have written to Debenhams, and helped to publicise the issue via social media.
All the very best from a damp and rainy Edinburgh,
As of this update, it appears Ms. Davies and Debenhams have settled their differences. Consequently, a considerable donation will be made to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland on the behalf of the retailer. For finding a solution that benefits such a worthy cause, I tip my hat to both parties (though I incline it a bit more steeply to Ms. Davies, who was put to much trouble and managed to eke some good out of a horrid situation).
If you enjoyed this post, look into my Bastille Day post Storming the Bastille: A
French Revolution in the Small Business World and my post on Intellectual Property Rights, both of which draw on Ms. Davies’ business and the Debenhams scandal.
As always, good luck and good hunting.
If you have any questions about protecting your creative products, you can find out how to reach us at our website: TheFisherLawOffice.com. You can also reach us at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice. If you have questions about kittens, knitting, or feminism, you can consult the experts at the Arts and Cats Movement or needled.