This is a follow-up post to my little blow-up last week. I need to write this post. I have been struggling for more than a week to find the right words to say what is floating around in my mind. I still don’t think I have a cohesive message here, but perhaps if you read it you will get the gist of it. I don’t really expect to change any opinions or sway any minds, but I do hope to add food for thought on knitting designs and giving credit where it is due no matter what the medium involved.
I want to make two things clear up front. Two things that I truly hope you’ll be able to keep in mind as you read the rest of the words here.
1) I know that I am a tiny, little speck on the face of the planet, on the face of the planet which is a tiny little speck on in the universe. And on that planet, in the worldwide knitting community, I am still a tiny little speck. Most people who knit will probably never know my name. I’ll follow up on that part in just a bit, but I want to make it clear that although I’m about to reference some people with much bigger names, I am not claiming to be anywhere near their league in notoriety or significance.
2) I am, as always, extremely grateful to my readers, to the people who write comments, to the people who have knit any of my designs, and to the people who have in other ways reached out to me through this blog. I write this for myself, but very much with my readers in mind as well. Thank you for being here. And I’m sorry that I am not so great at following up on comments and responding to e-mails and even commenting on others’ blogs as much as I would like. Still, thanks for being here. You make me happy.
Okay, let’s move on to one clarification about the situation I described last week. I learned about the class from a post on Ravelry by someone who has signed up to take it at the store in Michigan. He seemed, from his words in the post, to be under the impression that the person teaching the class was the one who designed it. That, and the reactions of both the store owner and the class’ teacher, were the sources of my anger. I have to admit that I have never been in this store, I have never received their newsletter. I’m not sure exactly how they’ve promoted the class (aside from the fact that they do or did have a blanket on display that looks remarkably like mine). I have drawn conclusions from what the guy on Ravelry said. If one customer was led to believe that the designer was teaching the class, and I found out about it, well…where does one’s mind lead one?
Moving on to some other background information.
There are and have been all kinds of arguments and discussions about copyright issues among knitters and others all over the internet. Look in pretty much any community of knitters and you’ll find one. I’ve read more than my share of these, and I know by now that I can’t copyright my blanket. At most, I could (and have done) copyright the words and pictures I use to describe how I made it. And I could probably trademark the name blankie in reference to blankets like mine, but then I would have to protect that trademark by tracking down anyone attempting to use the name and fighting them legally. I can’t do that. I don’t have the resources. But my point here is to note that I am not accusing either the store or the teacher of doing anything *legally* wrong. Just want to make that clear.
Okay, and it’s kind of hard to explain why this other thing has been rattling around in my mind as I think about this issue, but I will try. Terry Gross’ 2001 interview with Paul McCartney on Fresh Air was a good listen – you can still hear it if you follow the link. In the interview, McCartney describe how he and John Lennon co-wrote many songs during their years together in the Beatles, how they agreed to have dual attribution on all of the songs no matter which one had done most of the work on any given song. Even if the song was written pretty much or even entirely by one or the other.
One example was the song “Yesterday,” which was written and performed entirely by McCartney. For whatever reason, Lennon’s name was always listed first for all the songs, and McCartney has never, even in later anthologies, been able to convince publishers to simply even put his name first for the songs he wrote. So in this modern age with computers and limited space for author names, McCartney’s name is getting cut off so that he gets no credit for his amazing work. Really, go listen to the interview – you’ll understand much better from the way he described it.
Obviously, I am no Paul McCartney. But it’s a great example of how history works. These men were friends who agreed to share credit for their work, and yet the end result seems unfair. How much more unfair is it if someone with whom I never agreed to share credit should end up being thought of as the mother of the Blankie? Even though McCartney’s voice is recognized world-wide and my blankie is a flashing speck in the moment of a tiny community, the principle is the same.
McCartney also mentioned in his interview that some people have asked him “what’s the big deal?” Even just having to fight a fight like this muddies one’s name. Annie Modesitt has been talking quite a bit about copyright and her designs, and fair compensation. It’s a slightly different angle to the issue, but it is the same issue, and she has also noted that idea about how it can hurt one’s popularity (and thereby one’s business) when they stand up to complain about these issues. Which is why it’s all the more hurtful when someone creates a situation where we have to.
Moving on to another point for which I have less documentation, but which I think most of you will understand. As connected as many of us are through the online knitting community – blogs, Ravelry, Yahoo groups, etc. – we are a tiny minority of knitters. It is so easy to forget that! My name, even within the online community of knitters, is not very well known. Yes, if you’re reading here you know me. But I bet even most of the Yarn Harlot’s readers wouldn’t remember my name (but maybe they would the blankie if they saw it). That’s just one sphere of influence. In real life, I think if you polled local knitters in the Twin Cities, probably less than
a quarter 10 percent of them would recognize my name – fewer than that if you count those who are not active in the guild or regulars at their LYSs.
Now look nationwide – or say – look at some place like Michigan. How many of the knitters who randomly walk into a LYS there would recognize the blankie? How many of those would remember my name in connection with it? Not many. Almost none. So if the project and the class description don’t include my name at least in an “inspired by” credit, they will never hear my name. Because even if the teacher does mention me in her class, a heck of a lot more people will float through the store or read their newsletter in the mean time.
Now multiply that times however many teachers teach however many classes in however many stores. That’s a lot of people potentially thinking that someone else designed that blanket first.
Okay, moving on to another point. A point that is personal to me. As much as I would like to travel and teach classes elsewhere, and as much as I’m up for it as my schedule allows, I know that if every store in the country, or just one in each major market, or even down to as few as 10 different stores asked me to come teach, it would be a long time before we could make that work in my schedule. Because I love my family. I have small kids who need me, and who I need to be with. I have a great husband who gives me time off when I need it, but it would be incredibly stressful to all of us if I were away overnight even one weekend every month. Actually, it would be great for me, stressful for them. The coming back and dealing with the aftermath would be stressful for me.
I am not suggesting that nobody else should ever be allowed to teach a class on mitered squares or even on my blankie. I think I would even welcome it in most circumstances.
And here is the point of the whole post. For gods’ sakes, give me some damned credit. Just mention in the class description that your blanket is inspired by Shelly Kang’s blankie. If you’re going to display a blanket like mine in your store, label it as inspired by mine. I do that in my patterns when I use a stitch pattern from a Barbara Walker book, or base some mittens on a pair of mittens I saw in Marcia Lewandowski’s book. It doesn’t take that much effort. It’s the conscientious, ethical thing to do. This whole mess could have been avoided with that simple step.
Okay, and of all the hate mail that I’ve gotten in the last week, the bit that just kills me almost more than anything is when one anonymous person pointed out for the umpteenth time that I got all the materials for my project “for free”. Um, hello? Do you see any ads on my site? No? Well, I put a lot of effort and some money into this blog. I get enough hits that I can’t use the free blog hosting services, even if I wanted to. Not complaining, just pointing out. I followed through on my part of the bargain – I promised to post pictures of and thank the senders publicly for every package I received. Done and done. I promised to either use every scrap of yarn received *or find a good home for it if I couldn’t use it myself* Done. And done well, I might add. I passed on
tons pounds of yarn to charity knitters. I passed on pounds of yarn to blankie knitters. Not just across the country but in Canada and England as well. I paid for all that postage out of my pocket and did it gladly. I often included other little gifts as well. So get over the “free” yarn bit. They were gifts, given freely, and I dare say I earned them.
That’s it. We don’t need to discuss this further. Moving on, I’ve finished the Sunrise Circle (mostly) and we took pictures yesterday. Pictures after bedtime tonight, hopefully. Thanks again for your support, friends!