Just when you thought it was safe to come back . . . it's more copyright stuff! You can blame Andrew Borloz of Urban Paper Arts for this one. He sent me a very thoughtful comment about the ins and outs of the origami world. &rew (as he cleverly styles himself on his blog) is deeply involved in many aspects of the arts & crafts world, especially origami, and added some interesting copyright facts in his note to me:
I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but for the origami designs that are non-traditional - they're subjected to copyright laws! Traditional models include cranes, lilies, and some boxes, but there are more non-traditional models (such as insects and dragons to name a few) than traditional ones. I could not teach any of the origami models (non-traditional ones) unless I specifically contacted the creator (origami world's term for "inventor" - different from "folder") for permission to teach. "Creator" and "folder" can be either the same person or two different people. When I exhibit any origami models (like for example at the Donnell Library), I had to put the labels to identify both the creator and the folder of each model. Also, note that there are different permissions involved: 1. permission to teach; 2. permission to publish or copy for distribution; 3. permission to use for commercial purposes.
Origami has become a very widely practiced and sophisticated art form, sometimes designed by computer, and used to teach geometry and the mathematics of complex forms. You wouldn't think just folding a piece of paper in public or posting pictures or videos of you doing so could be a copyright violation, but apparently it can (PDF). As I complained to &rew, the combination of American litigiousness and complete disregard for ownership of creative work is a terrible combination. All it does it lock up creativity.
Book and paper arts aren't the only arts and craft areas where copyright is an issue. I ran across two posts on Deborah Robson's knitting blog, The Independent Stitch. Robson is also the owner/publisher of Nomad Press, which publishes knitting books containing both patterns and instructions by artists that Robson has invited to publish with her imprint. Yes, patterns and instructions are copyrightable too, even if, as in some cases in Robson's list, you're resurrecting old patterns. Your recreation of them, as long as you're not repeating previously copyrighted instructions word for word, is protected under copyright, the same way my notes from the CBA seminar are protected under copyright. I wrote them up: they're mine. You write up instructions for knitting a particular pattern, they're yours to copyright. Recently, Robson discovered one of the books she published had been scanned and posted on the web without her permission. Posting about it set off an interesting discussion about international unavailability and the march of technology, as though either of these factors were legitimate excuses for appropriating other people's work without permission or payment. It's worth reading Robson's explanation of why this is so damaging to both small publishers and to writers.
The ready availability of information over the Intertubez has given people the false idea (that they never seemed to have with libraries) that they are (a) entitled to have access to everything ever printed anywhere in the world (I blame this on Google's ambitions), and (b) that it shouldn't cost anything more than they pay for their ISP each month. One of the comments on Robson's post was this:
Anyone who expects a business to be protected against website publishing is probably around retirement age.
WTF? This is exactly the infringement the original copyright and Digital Millennium Copyright Acts protect against. Sorry, peeps. The reality is that people who provide that information for your entitled butt still have to eat. Stop acting like disgustingly spoiled brats. If you'd like that information to keep coming, you have to feed the authors—or do the work of researching, writing, and publishing yourself. There is a handy phrase you should memorize—tape it to your monitor, in fact: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Not tloo long ago, the New York Times published an editorial by musician Billy Bragg decrying the lack of royalties from sites like MySpace and Bebo.com which use music by unsigned musicians to draw subscribers and advertisers. Essentially, Bragg points out that the "free advertising" argument doesn't fly. Radio stations not only publicize music, but pay the musicians for the privilege. Since Bebo.com just sold to AOL for $850 million, the "but we're a poor start-up with no capital" argument doesn't fly as an excuse either. I think Bragg makes a good point about this too. It's time artists of every stripe stopped letting the Intertubez ride on their work for free.