I am an avid knitter who has been knitting for 50 years and an active member of the local knitting community. I had heard rumors about the Fiberista Club yarn shop in recent weeks but was nevertheless astonished and appalled to read your July 26 article “A Tangled Mess.”
Yarn shop owners and knitwear designers do not go into the business to make their fortunes. Crazy-obsessed knitters will knit in 95-degree weather and will purchase yarn even when their project queues are backlogged for a decade and their closets overflowing.
That notwithstanding, margins are tight and sales are cyclical. A $600 theft, for example, could have a huge impact on a designer’s bottom line. How could the owners of the Fiberista Club yarn shop, with a clear conscience, steal from designers, who are kindred souls in the knitting community, also trying to make a buck in a tough industry? Hunter Couto, one of Fiberista’s owners, calls a knitting pattern “instructions for assembling a design” and therefore not subject to copyright laws. What utter sophistry!
I’ve purchased at least 50 patterns off the internet and nearly every one has a copyright notice. I’ve used many free patterns, kindly made available by generous designers who also sell their patterns. Even the free patterns frequently are copyrighted and generally have some restrictions as to distribution or usage.
Over 50 years of knitting, I’ve shopped in dozens of shops from here to Seattle. I’ve never met a shop owner who didn’t understand the concept of copyright. Until now, apparently. Fine yarn is expensive, frequently at $25-$30 a ball. Any knitter who can afford $200-$300 to purchase yarn for a project, can well afford to spend $5-$7 for the pattern.
While I appreciate a free pattern, I don’t begrudge the artists who create the designs their due and gladly pay the bill. I will happily spread the word about a great pattern among my knitting friends, but I don’t photocopy or give it away. My friends wouldn’t dream of asking me to do so.
Knitwear designers are special people. A well-crafted pattern featuring an imaginative design is both an artistic vision and a building specification. A good designer is both artist and engineer. Most designers cannot make a living solely from their patterns but also have day jobs, in a related field if they are lucky.
The penalties for copyright infringement can range from $200 to $150,000 per work, plus actual amount of the loss, court costs, and attorneys’ fees — the hit to Fiberista’s reputation, incalculable.
It seems like a bad business decision to me.