I was all set to post Skirt #4 tonight but thought I'd interrupt the series to throw something out to you. Two reasons for this. One, it's cathartic for me because it's been at the back of my mind the last couple of days and I'd like to exorcise it. Two, I have a feeling this (in some form) has probably happened to some of you and I'd love to hear/read what you think about it. Touchy issue. Therefore lots to discuss!
Well, here's the story - recently one of my projects was featured in someone else's blog. This is usually a compliment and although the person didn't write beforehand to ask if she could use the photo, she did link back to my blog and she was nice enough to leave me a comment to say so. So off I went to check it out (because I am narcissistic).
A short paragraph of kind words in her post, and then wham! this sentence: I'll bet these would sell like hotcakes if you were to make up a few and put them into your customer waiting area*.
Hmm. I almost missed it, actually. But that word "sell", you know, it jumped out at me and I went back to re-read it. And then the wheels in my head began turning and I spent the next hour or so mulling it over while changing diapers and performing my other Mother tasks around the house.
Eventually I sorted my thoughts out and decided I was uncomfortable with it for several reasons. I'm going to tell you all what I think first (since you are my poor captive audience anyway) and then open the floor to you.
First, this particular project that got featured is not one of my original creations. I don't even know where it originated because I first discovered it more than 10 years ago. But I know that it still exists in various forms, manufactured by several different organizations today. All that said, the tutorial is all mine. I don't know of any other tutorials online for it but that is probably because I have shockingly poor skills at googling, to be honest. Therefore I feel bad for me and for the original creators of this product, that this person should be encouraging her readers to sell them.
Second, I am well aware that the copyright notices we all uncomfortably put in our sidebars are sadly ignored by more readers than we'd like to think about. I knew that when I started this blog. I knew that when I was first sewing for business 15 years ago. So I am not surprised that, thanks to the internet, people all over the known universe are reading online tutorials, making things with the instructions, and selling them at craft fairs, shops and to anyone who will buy them. These are hard economic times - I don't want to judge anyone. And even if these things weren't made from other people's tutorial instructions, there is a finite number of saleable craft items in the world, and chances are, if you genuinely originally thought of a reversible-skirt-cum-parachute-cum-fabric-flower-cum-earth-friendly-grocery-tote, someone else in a different longitude probably did too, just as genuinely originally. I can't tell you the number of times I've read a post on some creative wonder's blog and said, "Darn it, that idea was at the tip of my brain and now here it is, all conceptualized by someone else and I can't now claim to have it be completely, originally, all mine! Oh I wish I hadn't read this post! But by gum, she did such a fantastic job with it, I am glad I did." Ever had that happen to you? There is so much amazing talent out there.
So back to the issue at hand - I feel bad that people might be making stuff from my instructions to sell, even though I begged them in my copyright notice not to. But I can live with that. That's why I continue to post my tutorials, silly! I also know that I can't stop them selling - and I'm OK with that. The thing that was really making me uncomfortable was this person blatantly encouraging her readers to make stuff from other people's tutorials to sell. I have to be honest - the more I mulled over it, the more I knew that for my own sanity, I had to speak up. So I wrote an email to this person to thank her for linking to me but that I preferred if she didn't encourage her readers to make this item to sell. No reply. Not unexpected, so I left a comment on that post in her blog to say I left her an email (just in case she doesn't check her email). It's been more than two days and she's put up two new posts but I haven't heard from her yet. And that sentence in her post is still there. Sigh.
Here's my stand: Life is too important to grind to a halt for something like this. It's not trivial and yet it is. It's annoying and I'm a little sad that it happened but a part of me feels very proud that I tried to be assertive and say my peace. I've lived here in the US almost 4 years now but I'm still trying to learn the cultural ropes - and folks here are waaaaaay more outspoken than we are in Singapore! It's more crucial to me that I did something about it than that the problem actually got solved, you know? Solve this one, and tomorrow, four hundred and nineteen other bloggers might spring some new form of plagiarism on me. C'est la vie.
So there you are, lovely readers and loyal fans. I'd love to hear what you think. Doesn't have to be about this particular blogger's daftness (and no, I will not be revealing her identity) - it could be about copyright in general, or selling, or craft fairs or just the general ethics of protecting ideas. Way back when I was in business, I struggled with this idea-protection issue and I'm still not quite sure what to do with it, short of patents. Which is why none of the bags that I sewed to sell have appeared on this blog yet, although you've seen some of the wallets. Hideous selection of 1990s fabric is one reason (I am so ashamed), but mostly am not quite ready to have the bags scrutinized and copied.
Am sleepy again! How midnight does creep up on a person. Thank you all for letting me air some innards here tonight. Summer skirt posting will resume tomorrow, small children permitting.
*Yes, I used this sentence from her post without her permission. I must now be nailed to a cross.