Sunday, March 28, 2004

Is Ignorance Bliss?

In the battle against copyright abuse, I so often hear the excuse “I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong” that I have to wonder which sandbox people have been hiding their head in. Sometimes, there are small victories, like a wonderful letter from a Russian site saying that they are going to add reminders to their rules so that people don’t post copyright materials. I know that they cannot moderate everything, but they were very prompt at shutting down the sites that were reported. When an ISP is cooperative like this, it helps make it at least a tiny bit tedious for the infringer, leaves a link that people may be sharing in groups as a dead end and acts as a wake-up call for people who really didn’t know any better.

Take auctions on Ebay as another example. Far to often, thanks to the miracles of modern technology such as charting programs and scanners, people just put an image of a cartoon, illustration or drawing that they like and create a chart to stitch from. Any random search can let you find lots of Disney and other cartoon characters or even wonderful Fantasy artwork scanned in without the permission of the copyright holder being sold in auctions. This week there was even one seller who tried to explain to a designer asking questions that “she just sold the stuff” and that the person she was selling for was the one who was producing the charts, some of which she had permission for but which ones, the seller wasn’t really sure. Hmmmmmm.

One of the first things I decided when I first started to design was that I would always make up my own verses or text so that I didn’t have to worry about tracking down who might hold the copyrights to quotes I liked. I also firmly believe that each designer has to find his or her unique voice to share with the world rather than copying a style or theme which might be trendy at the time.

Yes, you can “make money” by producing a chart from an image that you didn’t have to create. Yes, you don’t have to worry about actually stitching up a model of the piece because there is always someone out there who is looking for a Winnie the Pooh chart or unicorn etc. and they probably won’t really care how easy to read the chart really is. There is always FAST money to be made in this world and fools to part it from... but that doesn’t make it right.

Maybe it is harder to keep your eyes open.. to ask questions if something seems to good to be true... to save up for something you like instead of finding someone to just “make one copy for you”

Ignorance may be bliss.... but it does not make what a copyright infringer is doing any less illegal.

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