Sunday, 21 November 2010

A little more on the vexed question of

For my sins I happen to hold the not so exalted position of "librarian" for our knitting guild. I am not sure how this happened and I frequently wish it never had happened. If you belong to an organisation however I believe you should contribute as well as gain from it. It is also clear that I do know considerably more about books and libraries than most of the members. After all, I have worked in libraries and I developed a specialist cataloguing system for toy libraries which converts quite nicely to another small, specialist library.
The problem however is that, before I took over the task, people were used to breaching copyright left, right and centre. The guild had even bought a small photocopier for the specific purpose of copying things. When I explained that many people were breaking the law they looked at me in sheer amazement. How could they be doing that? The books belong to the guild. They have bought them. They have, for goodness' sake, paid for them. They are now theirs to do as they like with.
These are library books. You may copy some things but you may not copy more than is "fair dealing". "Fair dealing" does not mean the entire book. It may mean one pattern from the book - but only if you actually intend to use the pattern. You may not take a copy just "because (I) might want it one day". There are knitting books which also specifically allow people to make a photocopy of a chart or graph so that they can enlarge it or mark it as they work. These are "working copies" and they come under "fair dealing" - but they have to be for your personal use and the item you are making cannot be sold unless the person who owns the copyright gives you specific permission.

You can obtain permission. Years ago there was a conference being held in Holland. Sasha Kagan had a rather nice "Dutch" design in her first book. I wrote to her and asked if I could use the chart to make a fundraiser for the conference. I said that, if permission was granted, I would of course acknowledge her work. Not a problem! She was pleased. It was publicity for her and it was a fundraiser for a charitable organisation. Most knitters are very generous in this way.

But the restrictions still cause consternation and argument. I am often unpopular. I know full well that people borrow books and then photocopy swathes of them elsewhere. There is little I can do about this but I can try to stop it at meetings. I would like to be rid of the photocopier altogether - it does not do enlargements.

What puzzles me though is that the members are otherwise a particularly honest crowd of people. They would not dream of stealing anything from one another. I have had people 'phone me because they are worried that they will not get to a meeting to return a library book on time.

Despite that they still seem to believe that copying as much as they like is fine. I think part of the problem might be the remoteness of the author. They do not know the authors personally.
They have no idea how much work goes into writing, editing and publishing. I am not sure that even a public education programme will help with this.


Anonymous said...


This could have been written by me ... just change 'knitting' to 'quilting' .... and in other words I have written someting very similar.

Judy B

catdownunder said...

I have a feeling it might have been written in different words by a number of people I know Judy - but, no harm in reinforcing the point?

Donna Hosie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frances said...

Cat: doesn't the problem lie in that vague term "fair dealing"? Obviously, to your members, it is fair dealing that having bought the book, albeit as a group, they have a right as individuals to photocopy it.
I have found it difficult to find precise information about what "fair dealing" is. And I find it difficult to understand an ethical difference, in the instance you cited, between copying the item with a photocopier or pen, and copying it in yarn.

catdownunder said...

Frances - it is usually considered to be 10% of a book for personal use.
The difference between copying the pattern and knitting the pattern is that like the symbol system I was talking about in the copyright day post the pattern is intended to be used to produce something but you cannot, without permission, sell what you make - just as the Canadians should not have tried to make a profit. It is the intention behind the publication that is important here. You pay the person in order to use the pattern. If you make a copy without paying then you are stealing from the person who made the pattern because you have not paid them.