Thursday, December 15, 2011

Copyright for the 21st Century

Readers of my blog know that I occasionally poke fun, or wickedly sharp needles, at some of the actions taken in the name copyright and trademark. For example, I went to purchase a circular knitting needle a few weeks ago, and noticed that underneath the KnitPicks logo, was the following statement:

The color purple is a trademark of Crafts Americana Group, Inc.

I sent this information off to TechDirt, inquiring how anyone could trademark a color, especially a color as ambiguous as "purple." A lively discussion ensued. A week or so later, someone else pointed out that Cadbury has also trademarked the color purple. Another lively discussion ensued. It doesn't matter whether the companies involved in this silliness were granted trademarks or even applied for them (no and yes), the point is, trademarking colors can be considered a form of restraint of trade, even if it only applies to a candy wrapper, which is apparently how the British Courts ruled for Cadbury.

As far as I know, there are only, what, six main colors, generally known as red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet. Let's throw black and white in there and make it eight colors. That means, if candy Company A trademarks red, and Company B trademarks orange, and so on, then Company I has no color they can make their candy wrapper. What do they do? Sell the stuff in a transparent wrapper? Then sure as I am typing here, someone will trademark see-through candy bar wrappers, and then Company J will have to sell their candy naked. Or spend millions of dollars and years in court arguing that Peach isn't Orange.


I could go on and on about the actual color, as KnitPicks needle cables are technically red-violet, not purple. Suppose I want to market knitting needles with lavender cables? Is this purple or pale violet? KnitPicks didn't limit their color trademark to knitting needles either, the way Cadbury did for candy bars. So purple yarn is a trademark violation? Is Barney the Purple Dinosaur going to present a legal hassle for his owner?

And if KnitPicks trademarked the color purple, should Alice Walker, the author of the book, The Color Purple, take legal action? Book titles cannot be copyrighted--there are only so many ways you can say Introduction to Biochemistry, and that's been through the courts. But what if she wants to take out a trademark on, say, purple toothpicks with that slogan engraved on them?

In sum, the entire grabby mentality that pervades business these days is disheartening, not to mention stifling. This is not to say that you shouldn't take appropriate measures to protect your intellectual property, but it seems that companies are spending most of their time and money litigating instead of innovating. And we all know what happens when laws become too stringent--people just ignore them. Or they stage a revolt.

So, when I turned my attention to the front matter of my book, having tired of investigating the spinability of cow hair, I took some volumes off the shelf and looked at their copyright pages. No, no, and more no. I am not going to wander those narrow little roads. Instead, I wrote my own copyright statement, which I hope will provide a broad avenue for everyone who might wish to take a stroll through my book. 


Human Copyright for the 21st Century

With the exception of a few pictures that are in the public domain, almost everything in this book is under copyright. When something is copyrighted, it means that it belongs to someone else. In this instance, unless specifically acknowledged otherwise, all the words and images are under copyright by me, the author. However, it’s my firm belief that information is meant to be shared, not bound by legal stricture. I really resent blanket copyright declarations that forbid the readers from using or reformatting the knowledge in any meaningful way. Thus, I’ve devised my very own copyright permission page that spells out what you, the reader, may do with the contents herein.

You may scan, print, copy, or otherwise convert the contents to other formats in any way you wish, as long as your purpose is entirely personal. You can, for example, make backup copies of the DVD; output the contents to your printer; transfer the DVD to your hard drive; or paint excerpts on the back of your pet gerbil. You need no permission from me to do so. These permissions do not extend to making copies of this work, or any substantial part thereof, for your friends. If you are wondering about the word “substantial,” and how it might apply to what you want to do, please contact me directly and we’ll discuss it.
You may share an excerpt for non-commercial purposes, for example, to help a friend; incorporate into a blog post; or contribute to a private group; without my express permission. Please do assign credit, however. The credit line should read: Photo/text/video courtesy of Susan Stevens, used with permission. In the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange permissions. 

You may not share any part of this book for commercial purposes without permission and remuneration. This does not mean you many not share the information in the book. It does mean that, if you are teaching a class and printing copies of the contents, I expect some form of payment as well as credit, because in these instances, I am the teacher standing behind you as you instruct the class. A Starbuck gift card, an Amazon credit, or a small donation to Paypal is not too much to ask, considering the time that I’ve spent assembling this missive. Again, in the cases where the photos or text are the property of someone else, you will need to contact them directly to arrange terms. 

If you are an ongoing commercial enterprise, for example, a magazine, other arrangements will have to be made. In these cases, I expect fair payment commensurate with your other contributors.  Please pm my Ravelry name, fleegle, or email me at xxx to discuss terms and conditions. 

There are no reserved foreign rights. We are all of one world, thanks to the Internet. 

I have made arrangements for this book to be put into the public domain after my death for use by anyone and everyone under all circumstances. I refuse to sequester the information in the name of copyright when I am no longer around to benefit from it. 

Although this copyright page is copyrighted (see Department of Redundancy Department), I herein give express permission for it to be reused in any format by anyone who shares the same information philosophy I do. If you intend to use this page as an example of How Not to Write a Copyright Statement, the reprint and excerpt fee is One Million US Dollars. And I will pursue you legally if I find out about it.










27 comments:

Yarn Changer said...

I love the last paragraph. I hope you collect!

Mary Joy said...

Certain colors are associated with certain brands, sure, so I can see where Knit Picks can step in and say that purple is the color of their needles. If they indicated "purple" instead of a specific cmyk formula, it's broader and can be open to interpretation. (And for them to issue c&d to other companies who would dare making flexible cords that have the slightest hint of purple.) From what I'm reading, it sounds also that the tm is not limited to interchangeables, so I'm curious to see what else is covered. More than likely it's related to branding Knit Picks, but that move on its own is pretty aggressive.

Anyway, personally I don't like Knit Picks' aggressiveness or their products. Never used them, never will.

holly said...

Do you ever read http://madisonian.net/ ? I am thinking you might like it.

Not a fan of Craft America, a.k.a. Knit Picks, so I cannot be unbiased on the matter. It's right up there with Harley Davidson copyrighting the sound their motorcycles make or Metallica suing over the use of the E and F chords in my opinion, although not as horrid as copyrighting genes.

gayle said...

I'm going to love a book where even the copyright page is fun to read...

I'm off to see if I can get the state of Vermont to trademark fall foliage. Cuz colored leaves is about all we've got going for us up here. Oh, and the sticky stuff that comes out of the trees. And cows. (Can you trademark Holsteins?)

fluffbuff said...

Well said! And if the rest of your book is as entertaining as your copyright notice, you'll make a killing.

BTW, I remember back in the days when I was in design school that an instructor mentioned that Kodak's yellow was copyrighted. I am not sure that's true, but a quick search brought up the term "trade dress" in relation to a color used in packaging and that is commonly recognized by the public as representative of a company and/or product. Either way, it makes no sense to me that anyone should be able to copyright or trademark (I can never remember which applies to what) a color, even with restrictions to a particular field, as in photographic film for instance.
Anyway… I look forward to your book.

aracne said...

Very well said, isn't it amazing that we have to use so many words to just say: please respect my work. We should all know what it is meant by that!
It is always a pleasure to read your posts.

Projektmanagerin: said...

Looking forward to that book already!
and @gayle - you can trademark certain food products, and also the race of animals like Holstein cows - I bet you though that IF they are copyrighted, the people of HOLSTEIN (north of Hamburg, Germany) will probably have arranged for that. So don't you go wake sleeping dogs - they'll call you out on it, cowthieves! (just kidding, obviously. although: maybe not. you never know, these days...)

Dorothy said...

Priceless! I'll buy the book just for the copyright page.

Laura Sue said...

So, CAN you spin cow hair?

moi said...

Brilliant!

Spinfoolish said...

As always, your clever fun makes my day! Thanks so much!,

Kathleen said...

Enjoyable and enlightening as always. I would have thought a color could be trademarked not copyrighted and that the trademark could then be registered to be more legally enforceable. However, registering trademarks require a lot of documentation and have to be pretty specific, like, for colors, one would need to specify Pantone colors or CMYK breakdowns, as well as where and when they would be used. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Craft America has not actually gone through the process of registering a trademark for "purple" but is trying to preempt any other manufacturers' making purple cables (or other knitting/crochet notions) in a somewhat naïve manner.
Lovelovelove your copyright statement!

Jess said...

Love this and most assuredly agree.

Batty said...

Ah, copyright. What a can of worms it is!

cat@catbordhi.com Bordhi said...

Love it. And yes, if your book is anywhere as spirited and true and life-affirming as your copyright page, I am interested in the book.

Rosemary said...

You are so darned CLEVER! I bow....

Rosemary

Susan (and SmokeyBlue in spirit) said...

You go Susan!

susancoyotesfan said...

I did not know that about KnitPicks. I will be shooting them an email to let them know that I will not be buying anything more from them thanks to their stupidity and arrogance.

If anyone can trademark a color it would be Mother Nature, no one else. Idiots.

Kathleen said...

Another big problem with this is that colors and hues are all in the eye of the beholder depending upon their light source spectrum. We all know how different things look in sunlight versus incandescent lighting versus fluorescent lighting. Does that mean you have to indicate the light source as part of your registration? And even if you are using the same light source you still may not see it exactly the same as the person next to you.

Morandia said...

I have a question about copyright - can a pattern designer restrict the sale of items made from their pattern? I know I can't make copies of the pattern and give it out or sell it, but what about the items that I have put my time, blood (when I use pointy needles), sweat and tears into? So many designers say that you can't sell items made from their pattern without their expressed permission but I do not believe they can back this statement up legally. Opinions?

Experimental Knitter said...

Sorry I didn't see this sooner.
There's a certain knitting designer who copyrighted her first name and initials.
Is there a Steven Spielberg movie starring Whoopi Goldberg in trouble with KnitPicks now?

Ferol said...

I love your copyright. Plain and simple, it falls into the 'just play nice' philosophy. Great post!

tamit said...

Thanks to Wendy of "wendyknits" I get to enjoy your tallent and humor. I love the copyright statement. I often feel that we are spending too much time making lawyers rich & hating too many others. As a person that support spindles I can't wait to get my hands on this book.

Bluebird49 said...

The color purple is really relative, isn't it? Sort of? I don't even see Knitpicks cables as being purple--they're somewhere off between cranberry and something else. They have lost their minds, and I won't be buying anymore of their cable needles--although they're the only ones I can really afford. :(

Hope Oprah and Spielberg get into this, too! :) My husband and I NEVER see colors as the same!

Kiwi said...

Your last paragraph looks likes creative commons! http://creativecommons.org/

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

thuRereading Department of Redundancy Department again. Thank you and let me extend my grateful appreciation.

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

Rereading Department of Redundancy Department again. Thank you and let me extend my grateful appreciation.